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Lehigh 2017 Newspaper Image
More than 500 plungers participated in the fifth annual Lehigh Valley Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday, February 18, 2017 at Scott Park in Easton, PA. The event, thanks to our plungers and generous sponsors, raised more than $95,000! PhotoCredit: Sue Beyer for... More
Special Olympics athletes, leaders, and family members converged on Capitol Hill for Special Olympics’ 15th annual “Capitol Hill Day” on February 15, 2017. Throughout the day, Special Olympics athletes from across the nation held more than 250 face-to-face meetings with their... More
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On Saturday, February 4th, our plunge season continued with two plunges: the York County Polar Plunge and the Winter Games Polar Plunge. Sixth Annual Winter Games Polar Plunge The sixth annual Winter Games Polar Plunge was held on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at Canoe Creek... More
A special thank you is extended to all of the athletes, coaches, volunteers, and members of law enforcement who helped make our 40th Annual Winter Games a success despite the intense wintry weather. Thanks, Seven Springs Mountain Resort and the Kirk Nevin Arenafor being... More
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The ninth annual Eastern Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) was held on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at Neshaminy State Park in Bensalem, PA. More than 500 plungers participated in the event which raised over $100,000. Image pictured above is... More
Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) seeks qualified candidates for the position of School and Youth Leadership Coordinator School and Youth Leadership Coordinator Major Function The School and Youth Leadership Coordinator position will play an important role in the... More
Coach of the Year
Congratulations are extended to Coach Tammy Powell from Special Olympics Pennsylvania - Lycoming County who is among thirteen individuals representing the United States, Canada and the Caribbean that were named 2016 Coach of the Year finalists. The finalists represent Special... More
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The 12th annual Capital Area Polar Bear Plunge benefiting Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) was held on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at Gifford Pinchot State Park - Conewago Day Use Area in Wellsville, PA. The Capital Area Polar Plunge is a staple winter event that brought... More
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The 5th Annual Beaver County Polar Plunge benefitting Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA), presented by Aerotek and Geico, featured more than 300 brave souls who jumped into the frigid waters of the Beaver River at Bridgewater Landing Marina and were “freezin’ for a reason”... More

Sports at the Core

Special Olympics sports are transformative experiences that bring out pride, courage and joy in athletes – while inviting families and entire communities to join in the celebration. The Special Olympics sports experience has always been rooted in a radical notion: That every person has the capacity to be an Olympian, and that human greatness is defined more by the spirit than the body.

Sports are at the heart of Special Olympics because they are universal. Sports are understood and celebrated by all people, regardless of race, nationality, gender, economic level, religion and— thanks in large part to Special Olympics—intellectual ability. Athletes with and without intellectual disabilities compete according to the same rules and have the same motivations, the same goals, and reap the same benefits.[i]

Special Olympics is the world’s leading voice in elevating awareness of the needs and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Sports are at the heart, but our ultimate goal is to use stories of athletes’ achievements, skills and challenges to educate, engage and ultimately change attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities.

Measurable Life Enhancement

The Special Olympics experience fills a critical need in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and the demonstration of competence to themselves, their families and the community. The improvements athletes make in social skills and friendships are often dramatic.   Special Olympics athletes learn developmental and life skills as the benefits of participation translate beyond sports, helping them to live more independent and rewarding lives. [ii]

By providing a platform for achievement and a large social network of teammates, coaches, family members and community groups, Special Olympics makes a measurable difference in the lives of athletes. In fact, at least 80% of families in the United States say they have seen improvements in their athletes’ self esteem, self confidence, social skills, friendships and health thanks to their participation in Special Olympics.[iii]

Special Olympics involvement also has positive effects on how family members relate to one another and to their athlete. A majority of parents in the U.S. (70%) report that Special Olympics has a positive effect on time spent as a family, either increasing the amount of time spent together or increasing the types of shared activities. This outlook is shared by siblings as well – 82% of who feel that Special Olympics has a positive impact on their family.[iv]

Anecdotal evidence suggests that volunteering with Special Olympics has a positive effect on all groups that work with the organization. Volunteers report a wide variety of benefits including personal satisfaction, increased tolerance, and re-examination of personal values.

Research indicates that Special Olympics can have a positive effect on members of the general public who have no relationship with the organization other than knowing about it, hearing others talk about it, and seeing its events on television or reading about them in the news. While it is harder to measure its effect on the general public, it is clear that the public in many places around the world is influenced by Special Olympics.Nonetheless, much progress still needs to be made for people with intellectual disabilities to be treated as equals in communities around the world. [v]

There are 381,071[vi] individuals with intellectual disabilities living in the State of Pennsylvania; 5.2% are enrolled in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania program. It is very important for us to continue our mission and to provide opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities whereby they are accepted, respected, and given the chance to become useful and productive citizens.[vii]

[i]Norins Bardon, J., Harada, C. M., Parker, R.C., and Brecklinghaus, S. (2008). Evaluation of the Special OlympicsEurope/Eurasia Unified Football Pilot-Project:Findings from Austria, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. Special Report for Special Olympics International. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston/Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center

[ii] Impact of Special Olympics Families, Special Olympics Toolkit

[iii]Siperstein, G.N., Harada, C.M., Parker, R.C., Hardman, M. L., McGuire, J. (2005) A Comprehensive Study of Special Olympics Programs in the United States. A Special Report for Special Olympics International. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston/Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center

[iv] ibid

[v] Special Olympics, Inc. (2009) Serving Athletes, Families, and the Community, the Universal Impact of Special Olympics: Challenging the Barriers for People with Intellectual Disability.

[vi] World Health Organization

[vii] Special Olympics North America