Throughout the Special Olympics North America Region, Programs are creating opportunities for Special Olympics athletes to find their voices and share their powerful stories. And several Programs throughout the United States offer plenty of chances to do that with speaking opportunities. Here is a list of five.
Special Olympics South Dakota
“Inclusion Infusion,” hosted by Special Olympics South Dakota athlete Derek Smith and staff member Turner Gaines, airs every month. During each episode, the pair talks about what is happening throughout the Program, interview a staff member and share a success story. Their last podcast aired in December 2022, and it reflected on the past year. The Inclusion Infusion podcast is on a break. Due to staff changes, Special Olympics South Dakota hasn’t had enough time to produce episodes, but the goal is to get it back up and running this summer.
“‘Inclusion Infusion’ has done wonders for our community and state,” says Gaines. “I have to give credit to co-host Derek Smith for his idea of starting a podcast. The goal of the podcast is to update listeners on what is happening with our five programs and interview a guest to get a deeper understanding of what our programs provide.”
Brave in the Attempt Talks
Special Olympics Maryland
Each year ahead of the Special Olympics Maryland Polar Bear Plunge athletes take part in a TED Talk–style presentation. It serves as a platform for athletes to share their stories and become positive role models.
"'The Brave in the Attempt Talks' create a rare and focused opportunity for voices of persons with an intellectual and developmental disability to be heard in their voice," said Jason Schriml, vice president, athlete leadership, Special Olympics Maryland.
Special Olympics Illinois
Hosted by Daniel Smrokowski, each "Special Chronicles" podcast episode gives a voice to those with intellectual disabilities. Smrokowski has a unique platform because he has a disability himself, allowing him to connect with athletes on a personal level. On top of hosting his own podcast, he allows other individuals with disabilities to host shows and make guest-host appearances.
“The impact of my podcast, ‘Special Chronicles,’ is that my original content will help our community make impactful and inclusive connections in your life through audio and video podcasts, blogs and other digital media content,” said Smrokowski.
"Inclusion Revolution Radio"
Special Olympics, Inc.
The podcast “Inclusion Revolution Radio” is geared for anyone who is interested in all that the movement does. Novie Craven, a Special Olympics D.C. athlete and Special Olympics International staff member, runs the show with colleague Alex Padalino, who is the producer and communications specialist with Special Olympics, Inc. Streamed on a variety of platforms, they have done four seasons of episodes. Episodes premiere every other Friday at 10 a.m. ET.
“‘Inclusion Revolution Radio’ (IRR) showcases a part of Special Olympics that people don’t typically get to see,” says Craven. “The podcast is incredible because as the host, I get to help tell so many amazing stories about our movement to a global audience. Every time I record an episode, I just want to continue talking to the guests. I have met so many people involved in the movement through IRR.”
Voices of Champions
Special Olympics Maryland
Special Olympics Maryland created an event called the Athlete Speaker Series, which provides opportunities for public speakers to practice their skills, both in written and spoken form. Throughout the month, participants will meet to review speeches, get feedback and insight on how to improve their speeches for live presentations. Because the meetings took place on Zoom, it allowed other states to get involved, including Illinois and Minnesota. A concept that started during the lockdown from the pandemic quickly became an opportunity for athletes to improve their storytelling skills while also connecting with various Programs throughout the North America Region.
"Voices of Champions provides a great opportunity for Special Olympics athletes across Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States to present their unique perspectives on a predetermined theme over Zoom. A chance to meet new people across North America that would never have been possible before," Jason Schriml.