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The NFL and Special Olympics hosted a football skills and drills NFL Draft Clinic followed by a Special Olympics Unified Flag Football game featuring Special Olympics Pennsylvania athletes on Friday, April 28th from 10:30 AM-12:00 PM. Retired Philadelphia Eagles players led... More
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On Friday, April 28, 2017, Special Olympics athletes from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and North Carolina attended the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States held in Philadelphia! Athletes competed in a Special Olympics 100m... More
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The Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run, presented by the Sheetz family, returned to Penn State University on Blue White Weekend for an eighth consecutive year. More than 3,000 runners and walkers of all ages and abilities participated in a 5K run or 2 mile family fun walk on... More
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UNified play. UNconventional Fun. UNforgettable Experience Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) hosted Pittsburgh’s first UNcathlon on Sunday, April 9th at Schenley Park. The UNcathlon offered 11 events, one more than the traditional 10 found in a decathlon, and featured... More
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Congratulations to our Special Olympics USA delegation who competed in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games from March 14 - 25 . Each one of our athletes came home with a medal! Special Olympics Pennsylvania sent 6 athletes and one coach to compete alongside Special... More
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Students with and without intellectual disabilities participated in the Interscholastic Unified Bocce State Championships prior to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Boy’s and Girl’s state basketball championships on Friday, March 24, 2017.... More
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More than 50 athletes joined hundreds of friends, family members and coaches for the annual SOPA Day at the 76ers on Sunday, March 19th. The athletes participated in a basketball clinic on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center prior to the Sixers vs. Celtics match up that... More
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Governor Tom Wolf and Other Leaders Joined Special Olympics PA Athletes for a Reception & Bocce Competitions Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) hosted the first ever Unified Government Sports Challenge in the East Rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, PA... More
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On Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Villanova University Men’s Basketball hosted the first ever Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) Night at Nova Hoops. The evening was highlighted by a halftime Unified Sports exhibition game featuring Villanova students and members of the... 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