What do we do?
We create a world of acceptance.
Dignity, acceptance, and a chance to reach one’s potential – these are human rights worth promoting for everyone. Since 1968, Special Olympics has been bringing one message to the world: people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity.
We build communities...
With every new Special Olympics Program that opens, a local community emerges to support the athletes’ courage. This community reaches outward in every direction, beyond the sphere of sports.
Coaches, trainers and volunteers step forward to help the athletes. Family members help to address community needs and concerns. Spectators at events join Unified Sports® teams, where athletes with and without intellectual disabilities compete together. Schools and students engage in our Youth Outreach program and attend Youth Summits, where athletes and young people without disabilities come together to discuss diversity and acceptance. Doctors, nurses and other volunteer clinicians give their time and expertise at basic health screenings through Healthy Athletes®.
By involving such a diverse range of individuals and groups, Special Olympics paves the way for other community-based development — education, health, hunger, nutrition and more. Special Olympics Programs are a catalytic force for communities, promoting volunteerism, civic engagement and inclusion of people who are different in areas where these values are uncommon. This power to connect people and promote acceptance of difference – whether ethnic, religious, tribal or intellectual – is a precondition for security and peace, from Cheyenne to Shanghai.
We foster inclusion...
Special Olympics is humanity’s greatest classroom, where lessons of ability, acceptance and inclusion are taught on the fields of competition by our greatest teachers – the athletes.
When people see the seriousness and sense of purpose evident in each Special Olympics athletic event, a window of understanding opens. In hundreds of competitions a year around the world, people everywhere get the chance to have their eyes opened and their perspectives widened.
We empower athletes through sport...
Confidence, skill and determination are common benefits of involvement with sports.
For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves. Many live lives of neglect and isolation, hidden away or socially excluded from full participation in schools or society. For athletes, Special Olympics sports provide a gateway to empowerment, competence, acceptance and joy.
The lessons learned in Special Olympics also impact their life skills. Sports training enhances focus and gives participants a structure for learning important lessons about perseverance, endurance and setting goals. Many people are surprised to know that more than half (52 percent) of adult Special Olympics athletes in the United States are employed, half of those in competitive employment.
Every athlete who takes part in Special Olympics experiences a sense of accomplishment and a joy of friendship. Special Olympics provides every person with intellectual disabilities a place of welcome, acceptance and the chance to be their best.
We lead research and influence policy...
Justice means being morally right, equitable and fair. Changing lives for the better means giving people services that make a positive impact. Neither is possible without a solid understanding of what’s needed, and a plan for how to provide it. Our local program is part of a world wide program that is a catalyst for societal change, fostering community building around the globe. We are a leader in diversity and tolerance education, bringing young people with and without intellectual disabilities together. Special Olympics is a leader, partnering with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector to develop new ways to include people with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of society. We are the world’s largest public health organization serving people with intellectual disabilities, offering free health screenings to the world’s most neglected populations. And we are the fastest-growing grass-roots volunteer movement on the planet, with the potential to improve the quality of life for 200 million people with intellectual disabilities – 3 percent of the global population.
That's what we do. What can you do to help?
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