In Sioux Falls, South Dakota on 31 July 2019 SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) and Special Olympics have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize a partnership that has been in effect for over 50 years. SHAPE America’s mission is to advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance and sport. The relationship began in 1965, when the Kennedy Foundation and American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, now known as SHAPE America, began work on organizing year-round national fitness programs for people with intellectual disabilities. Three years later, the first Special Olympics Games would take place in 1968. Now more than 50 years later, the relationship between SHAPE America and Special Olympics has flourished due to SHAPE America’s network of physical educators. These dedicated educators have emphasized the implementation of inclusive sports and fitness in the US through the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® program. The Unified Champion Schools program is a comprehensive three-component model that combines inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement to create school and community climates of acceptance and inclusion.
“We are excited to continue our five-decade partnership with Special Olympics by taking concrete steps to ensure we can all live in an inclusive world. Special Olympics is the perfect partner as we move forward in accomplishing our goals.”
This MOU will define the work the organizations will do in collaboration, including but not limited to:
- Provide training and supporting resources for SHAPE America members and Special Olympics stakeholders on inclusive physical activity, physical education, and health promotion for students with and without ID in schools;
- Provide content for each other’s communication channels (publications, social media, newsletters) to increase awareness of the partnership, organizational initiatives, and share each other’s appropriate resources available to help educators;
- Support the development of partnerships between SHAPE America State Affiliates and Special Olympics State Programs.
The MOU was signed by Stephanie Morris, CEO of SHAPE America and by Andrea Cahn, Vice President of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools at SHAPE America’s Mind-Body Connection conference.
“SHAPE America was one of the few courageous organizations that endorsed the first Special Olympics Games in 1968. Today, we are honored to build upon this important legacy through our shared goals of expanding inclusive programming and supporting all students on their path to lifelong health and physical literacy.”
Three million young people participate in 6,500 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® across the US with support from the US Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education. These young people make up the Unified Generation. They are taking personal ownership within their schools and communities to ensure that everyone has the right to play, learn and live together through shared leadership opportunities of students with and without intellectual disabilities. To learn more about the Unified Generation, visit: https://www.generationunified.org/