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Stavros Niarchos Foundation Partners With Special Olympics

On the eve of its 50th Anniversary, Special Olympics announced a landmark collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to support the global social inclusion movement’s goal of forging stronger youth engagement worldwide and to transform educational systems through inclusive sport.

As part of a three-year, US$10 million grant, the SNF and Special Olympics have created a partnership model that will amplify the global impact that Special Olympics is making through its programmatic work in inclusive sports and youth and school engagement. This model aims to increase access and opportunity to school-based inclusive sports and education programming, representing a community that comprises of approximately 3-4% of the global population.

The announcement happened on the occasion of the 7th Annual International Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Conference on Philanthropy at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece. Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Timothy Shriver is slated to provide the keynote speech at the conference on June 23rd. Later today, the SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos and Dr. Shriver will be meeting with the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos in order to announce this significant grant which aims to support increased inclusive development for youth with and without intellectual disabilities as part of a shared commitment to creating a “Unified Generation.”

“The support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is coming at a critical time as we witness and experience a world that is a divided place. Attitudes of mass destruction are tearing communities apart. But we know first-hand how the Special Olympics experience—and our athletes—bring people together in ways that erase the lines of division. When we Play Unified and Learn Unified, we see dramatic transformation of school climates into academic settings of welcome and integration, something the world desperately needs right now,” said Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver. “The Special Olympics movement is incredibly grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for recognizing the power of our athletes’ message, and the vision of a generation truly Unified.”

SNF’s Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos stated, “We are very happy to be collaborating with Special Olympics for this critical program and work jointly to promote global social inclusion on all levels. Whenever we evaluate a proposal, the first thing we ask ourselves is whether it adds value to society and whether the people involved are ethical, efficient and effective. We are confident that our partnership with this exceptional organization, under the leadership of Dr. Timothy Shriver, will wield tangible and immediate positive effects for society-at-large. We are honored to be doing our part, to the best of our abilities, to support Special Olympics in its effort to empower individuals and their families and promote all that unites us rather than what sets us apart.”

In alignment with the SNF and Special Olympics vision of global inclusion, the partnership will create a scalable model to bring Special Olympics Unified Sports and Unified Schools programming to more communities worldwide and to create new and lasting inclusive policies around sports and education. Focus countries for the partnership include Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Serbia, Chinese Taipei and Tanzania.

Throughout the world, the partnership will aim to expand the reach and impact of in-school and inclusive sports programming, resulting in approximately 2,000 new Unified Schools for the movement—schools that have active inclusive sports and advocacy programs for students of all ability levels. In addition, the partnership will train over 20,000 coaches to further develop the Special Olympics Unified Sports model. The partnership will engage over 750,000 athletes over the three-year project.

The Special Olympics Unified Sports and Unified Schools platforms are rooted heavily in the tenets of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD), namely Articles 24 and 30. The UN-CRPD provides the global community with a viable and internationally recognized policy framework from which to expand programming that puts the CRPD into practice.

About Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation [(SNF) (] is one of the world’s leading private, international philanthropic organizations, making grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare. Since 1996, the Foundation has committed more than $2.5 billion, through more than 4,000 grants to nonprofit organizations in 124 nations around the world. The SNF funds organizations and projects, worldwide, that aim to achieve a broad, lasting and positive impact, for society at large, and exhibit strong leadership and sound management. The Foundation also supports projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as an effective means for serving public welfare. Learn more at

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5 million athletes and Unified partners in more than 170 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, United Airlines, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Microsoft, Lions Clubs International, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, Safilo Group, and TOYOTA. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium.


Mark Daley
Special Olympics

Stavros Niarchos Foundation
0030 210 8778300