Donate Volunteer

Follow Us

In the News

Thank you to the 10 teams that participated in our 2nd Annual Unified Government Bocce Challenge on April 16th at the PA State Capitol! Senators Pat Stefano, Michele Brooks, and Jay Costa, as well as representatives from Governor Tom Wolf’s Office, the PA Department of... More
Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) seeks qualified candidates for the positions of Director of Individual and Major Gifts (Full-Time; Western, PA) and Development Coordinator (Full-Time; Western PA). Special Olympics is the world’s leading voice in elevating awareness of the... More
On April 12th, Wawa celebrated Wawa Day which marked a significant milestone in its history—the day it opened its first convenience store in 1964 and the day it launched The Wawa Foundation in 2014. During Wawa Day, the company also hosted in-store celebrations where The Wawa... More
2018 State Champions, North Penn High School Students with and without intellectual disabilities participated in a Unified Indoor Bocce Championship at the Camp Hill Sports Center in Camp Hill, PA on Friday, March 23, 2018. The competition date was changed from Thursday,... More
DSC 0310
Congratulations to the athletes that competed in our Eastern, Western and Central Bowling Sectionals. Athletes from across the state showed their skills in bowling. WESTERN BOWLING (#SOPABowlingWest) March 17, 2018 Erie, PA Multiple Venues: Eastway Lanes (Erie), Greengarden... More
SO Hill Day 1
Special Olympics athletes, Program leaders, Unified partners, and family members from all 50 states and the District of Columbia converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 13th for Special Olympics’ annual “Capitol Hill Day.” This was the first time in the... More
YMCA Image
Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) and three local Y organizations announced increased fitness and training opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Effective February 1, 2018, the partnership will link athletes to 27 YMCA facilities across the... More
15466 PDE SpecialOlympics DE 047
Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) is pleased to announce that Souderton Area High School has been named a National Banner Unified Champion School! On Thursday, November 30, 2017, Souderton Area High School hosted a special banner presentation in their gymnasium from 9:30... 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