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Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports program for those with disabilities. This program relies on volunteers to keep their program running at little to no cost.


Special Olympics is a global sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Their mission is to provide the 4.9 million athletes with disabilities an opportunity to “develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship.”

Anyone with an intellectual disability can become a Special Olympics athlete. Intellectual disabilities, as defined by the organization, are “used to describe a person with certain limitations in cognitive functioning and other skills, including communication and self-care.” Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability and can cause a child to develop and learn more slowly or differently. Fragile X, Autism and Down Syndrome are among the most common.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the organization in 1968. Her goal was to improve the lives of those with special needs after she saw how unfairly they were being treated. Held in Chicago, the first International Special Olympic Summer Game hosted about 1,000 athletes. Throughout the years, the Special Olympics movement continued to grow and gain respect. The organization has successfully expanded to offer over 30 sports for their five million athletes today! Additionally, Special Olympics has held over 108,000 events which took place in nearly 170 countries.

How to Volunteer

There are many ways to get involved with Special Olympics, and the organization would not survive without the great volunteers and help they receive.

Become an Official or Coach: With their constant growth, Special Olympics is always looking for more coaches and officials.

Healthcare: If you are a healthcare professional, you can offer your expertise to provide examinations for the athletes.

Youth Programs: If you are a student looking for a volunteer opportunity, Special Olympics is an excellent choice. Many schools already have programs in place that make it very easy to volunteer.

Unified Sports: With more than one million participants, Special Olympics Unified Sports Teams brings together those with and without intellectual disabilities to create a team.

Each Special Olympics office offers various ways to get involved. If you are interested in volunteering, contact your local office today! Special Olympics would not exist today without the time, commitment, energy, and enthusiasm from its volunteers. Volunteering is very rewarding and a great way to help others and the community.

Lisa Landman has a passion for helping others and has worked with special need adults throughout her career. Learn more about her professional work or check out her Twitter!