Donate Volunteer

Follow Us

In the News

2014 BSR Race Start
More than 4,000 runners and walkers of all ages and abilities took part in the Fifth Annual Paterno Family Beaver Stadium 3 Mile/1 Mile Family Fun Walk to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Presented by the Sheetz family, the Run began in the... More
Loretta and Angela 4-2-14
Pictured: Special Olympics PA - York County athlete and Special Olympics International Board Member, Loretta Claiborne, stands with Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance Executive Director, Angela Liddle. The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) kicked off Child Abuse... More
Photo Credit: Cathy Poston/ Independence Sports Magazine The 4th Annual Special Olympics PA (SOPA) Night with the 76ers held more meaning and emotion than ever before as SOPA and the 76ers honored Christian Massey, a Delaware County athlete murdered over “Beats” head phones... More
brenna spec olympics 007
Toys"R"Us — a Founding Partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and Presenting Sponsor of the first-ever Young Athletes Festival — developed an engaging social media plan and an online experience at where visitors can “meet” Young... More
Congressman Gerlach 2
Pictured from left to right: Special Olympics PA’s (SOPA) VP of Finance and Administration, Jack McCormick; SOPA – Bucks County athlete Melissa Woerner; Congressman Jim Gerlach; SOPA Athlete Leadership Coordinator, Jordan Schubert; and Athlete Representative Mentor, Carol... More
021814 Kevin Grow sixers 600
Kevin Grow, a Special Olympics PA – Bucks County athlete, was signed by the Philadelphia 76ers to a ceremonial two-day contract. As a two-day member of the Sixers, he received a custom jersey and participated in pregame activities prior to the team's home game against the... More
Sephonne and MCW Crop
Delaware County athlete Sephonne Mack stands with NBA point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who is currently spokesperson for SOPA's community partnership with the Philadelphia 76ers. Special Olympics Pennsylvania - Delaware County athlete, Sephonne Mack, participated in the... More
Daily American Opening Image
Winter Games 2014 returned to the Johnstown area for the 13th consecutive year and featured competition in alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, speed skating and figure skating. Approximately 340 athletes and 135 coaches participated in this year’s event. Pictured... More
Sheetz Check Pres
Winter Games 2014 Sheetz Inc. presented Special Olympics Pennsylvania with a check for $264,000 during its Winter Games VIP Reception on Sunday February 9, 2014. Sheetz is a premier statewide sponsor. Pictured from left to right: Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) President... 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