Donate Volunteer

Follow Us

In the News

Hill Day 1
Special Olympics athletes, leaders, and family members from 39 states converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 10th for Special Olympics’ 14th Annual “Capitol Hill Day.” Throughout the day, Special Olympics athletes from across the nation, including Special... More
SOPA seeks candidates to fill two new part-time (100 hours a month) positions: Corporate and Individual Giving Manager for the Greater Philadelphia Market and Corporate and Individual Giving Manager for the Greater Pittsburgh Market. The Corporate and Individual Giving... More
More than 500 athletes and coaches from throughout Pennsylvania competed in the 2016 Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) Winter Games held in Seven Springs and Johnstown, PA from February 7-9th. This statewide competition, that took place at Seven Springs Mountain Resort as... More
2016 Plunge - PHL17
The eighth annual Eastern Polar Bear Plunge benefitting Special Olympics Pennsylvania took place on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at Neshaminy State Park in Bensalem, PA. This year’s celebrity plungers included WMMR’s Steve Morrison, from the Preston and Steve show, as well as... More
Area M - Speed Skaters
Two speed skating athletes, Tim McConnell and Dan Weatherwalk, and Coach Amanda Kateluzos from Special Olympics PA’s Area M program participated in the Special Olympics 2017 World Winter Pre-Games in Austria from January 10 – 15, 2016. The Pre-Games served as an opportunity... More
2016 1
More than 400 people participated in the 11th annual Capital Area Polar Plunge at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Wellsville, PA on January 16, 2016. This year’s event raised more than 75,000 to benefit local Special Olympics PA’s Area M program. Photo Credit: James... More
Beaver County Plunge 2016
The fourth annual Beaver County Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Beaver County athletes and Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) was held on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at Bridgewater Landings Marina in Beaver, PA. Local Law Enforcement members played a big part in this year’s... More
Pittsburgh Plunge 2015
The 2015 Pittsburgh Polar Plunge weekend benefitting Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) took place on December 11 – 12, 2015, raising more than $375,000. The two-day event featured a Friday Night Splash Party followed by a dip in the Allegheny River on Saturday morning.... More
DSC 0293
The first annual Philadelphia Polar Plunge took place on Friday, December 4, 2015 outside of Drexel University’s Fitness Plaza in Center City Philadelphia. A total of four plunges were held on this day including a Cool Schools Plunge, for high schools participating in Special... More
Erie Plunge Image 2
The first-ever annual Erie Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) was held on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at Presque Isle State Park – Beach #7 in Erie. Mike Ruzzi from WICU-TV 12 and Joe Lang from Bob FM served as plunge co-emcees for the event.... 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