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SOPA SRU Award
Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) held its first annual Western Pennsylvania Unified Youth Summit on November 15th, during which it recognized Slippery Rock University as a “Unified Sports Center of Excellence.” Slippery Rock University graduate students from the Adapted... More
erie plunge
Thank you to the more than 600 plungers that participated in the second annual Erie Polar Bear Plunge benefitting Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA that raised more than $75,000! This year’s guest emcee... More
Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s (SOPA) Fall Festival returned to Villanova University for the 28th consecutive year, November 4-6, 2016, and welcomed approximately 1,200 coaches, athletes and Unified Partners representing 39 Pennsylvania local Programs. Participants competed... More
The newly expanded Unified Fall Festival Torch Run for Special Olympics PA (SOPA), a segmented Marathon distance, non-competitive run (approx 26 miles in total), took place on Friday, Nov. 4th. The Unified Fall Festival Torch Run was led by members of the Philadelphia Police... More
Bucks Flag Football
The Bucks County Believers hosted their 2nd Annual Flag Football Invitational on Saturday, Oct 29th at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Fairless Hills, PA. Teams from Bucks, Delaware and Monroe Counties came to compete, make new friends, and earn medals. Members from the local... More
Villanova Unified3
Special Olympics Unified Sports® creates an opportunity for people without intellectual disabilities to join in the sports experience by playing on a team with athletes with intellectual disabilities. Not only do the players all have fun, but attitude change and... More
AllState Crop
Allstate Insurance partnered with Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) to support its athletes during the Western Fall Sectional held on Sunday at Slippery Rock University. To celebrate this partnership, Allstate presented SOPA with a $5,000 donation to develop programming... More
Female Athlete of the Year
Special Olympics Pennsylvania's (SOPA) 2016 Leadership Conference, which is designed to provide ongoing training and recognition for Special Olympics athletes and volunteers, was held from September 10 -11 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College, PA.... More
Tariq and Justin
MLS WORKS and ESPN hosted a Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star soccer match on Tuesday, July 26th for the third consecutive year featuring Special Olympics All-Stars representing 18 MLS clubs from the U.S. and Canada. Among the participants were Special Olympics... 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