The Impact of Special Olympics
Sport is a universal language that unites people on and off the field of play. Its lessons are relevant to all – governments, medical professionals, families, youth, educators and businesses. With the unifying power of sports at its core, Special Olympics has grown to be a movement not about "them," but about all of "us."
Every day, Special Olympics works toward the goal of empowering each of the 200 million people with intellectual disabilities worldwide. Our goal is to build a more civil society one athlete and one attitude at a time – creating a world of inclusion and mutual respect, without bias or prejudice.
Special Olympics believes in creating more unified communities around the world - places where each person, regardless of ability or disability, is accepted and welcomed, and where every individual contributes to the strength and vibrancy of the whole.
Special Olympics is empowering athletes with intellectual disabilities to be leaders in society by providing them opportunities to learn skills that transcend the playing field. Our athletes hold jobs, go to school and are active members in their communities.
Special Olympics works with world leaders at the highest levels of government, health care, education and business, holding symposia and meetings that focus on the well-being of people with intellectual disabilities. Those contacts, coupled with our research findings, help shape public policy to effect social change.
Special Olympics responded to the extreme health disparities of people with intellectual disabilities by creating the Healthy Athletes program. Thousands of volunteer health care professionals provide free health screenings and education to Special Olympics athletes around the world.
Special Olympics connects people and promotes acceptance of differences – whether ethnic, religious, tribal or intellectual. The common values of Special Olympics reach from Cheyenne to Shanghai, and attract both soccer moms and foreign ministers.
Communities of families have expanded their involvement in Special Olympics by coming together and organizing a Family Support Network. Special Olympics has established over 100 Family Support Networks globally to provide a welcome resource, develop community partner relationships and register thousands of new family members for local Programs.
With nearly 30,000 competitions around the world every year, with trainings taking place every day, and with family leaders, athlete leaders and volunteers taking our message beyond playing fields and stadiums, Special Olympics is not just an event. We are a movement, inviting the world to think, feel and act differently about everything.
Special Olympics promises a different kind of philanthropic or volunteer experience – and a different kind of impact. It is more than philanthropy from a distance. It’s a chance to get involved firsthand, and to make human, emotional connections in a hectic world that too seldom pauses to touch humanity.
“Special Olympics is more than just a program of sports training and competition; ultimately it’s a strong statement of optimism about human life. It says that every human being can learn and grow and contribute to the society we all share.” – William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
“There are times when we become disheartened or discouraged and life may feel like an uphill climb. Those are the times to remember that a rewarding life is filled with challenge; the effort creates fires that temper us and strengthen our spirit. So do not feel pity for me. Give me a chance!” – Thomas Gathu, Special Olympics Kenya athlete and coach