The Special Olympics gives athletes, many of whom have conditions such as Down’s Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in 30 different Olympic-type sports. Training takes place on a year round basis and events are held for both summer and winter sports.
Today, the Special Olympics is the largest organization in the world dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities. There are over 200 such programs taking place in 160 countries around the world. Special Olympics events have been held throughout the United States, as well as in countries such as China, India, Rwanda, Japan, Ireland, and Afghanistan.
Participating in these events offers many benefits. Athletes improve their self-confidence, stay physically fit, and develop stronger motor skills while meeting new friends. For many athletes, having a chance to excel at their chosen sport also provides a sense of accomplishment that remains long after the event has passed. However, the Special Olympics' oath of "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt" helps remind participants that the effort they put forth is just as valuable as the results of the competition.
Since the Special Olympics is a non-profit organization, it relies heavily on the support of volunteers. Each year, over 700,000 individuals contribute their time and talents to ensure the success of this memorable event. Parents, friends, teachers, and siblings of athletes are encouraged to volunteer their time in support of the organization. There are also volunteer opportunities for college students, health care professionals, law enforcement officers, amateur athletes, and members of local civic groups.
The Special Olympics has made it easy to provide financial support for the organization as well. It has set up matching gift relationships with thousands of employers from across the United States, allowing interested individuals to double or triple the value of their tax-deductible donations. The organization also accepts donations of frequent flyer miles to help defray the cost of transportation for athletes and their families.
Although the Special Olympics is sometimes confused with the Paralympics, it should be noted that these organizations serve two entirely different purposes. The Paralympics offers elite competition opportunities in 25 different sports for athletes with physical disabilities.