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Dear Family Members, Friends, and Supporters,

Welcome!!  Special Olympics Pennsylvania is excited to have you involved in the movement. Your energy, enthusiasm, and dedication are crucial to the success and fulfillment of dreams for many Special Olympics athletes across our state. It is our hope that you will feel welcome and become involved as supporters, cheerleaders, volunteers, committee members, coaches, and in all other components of the program.

Our focus is on the athlete, and ensuring that each athlete participates at   a level that is both meaningful and challenging. We know that family members are often the greatest supporters of athletes and are essential  to having a successful program. We welcome you, and our friends and supporters, and encourage you to work closely with Special Olympics Pennsylvania to make a significant difference in the lives of our athletes.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania

Beyond Sports

Special Olympics Pennsylvania touches countless people in countless ways, and its impact reaches far beyond the sphere of sports. Coaches, trainers and volunteers step forward from their communities to help nearly 20,000 athletes. Family members also participate, becoming active members of both an immediate community and a vastly extended one. Spectators at events, students at schools that support Special Olympics and many other community members respond to the message and the energy of Special Olympics.

What Is Special Olympics?

Mission – To provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities or closely related developmental disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of joy, gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

Benefits for the Athlete

  • Physical fitness and motor skills
  • Greater self-confidence
  • Positive self-image
  • Friendships
  • Increased family support

Benefits for the Family

  • Social interaction and support
    networks with other families
  • Opportunities to see your athlete
    excel in a sport and as a person

A Yale University study released in 1995 confirmed these benefits and stated that Special Olympics measurably enhanced the lives of those who participate. According to the study, Special Olympics athletes perform better at school, at work, and at home the longer they participate in the program.

Who Can Participate?

An athlete must be at least 6 years old (8 years old to attend competitions) and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: an intellectual disability, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay.

No Participation Fees

Athletes and families pay no money for any services that Special Olympics provides. Special Olympics receives no government funding and relies solely on the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations and special events.

Safety and Protection of Athletes

  • Athlete Medical Exam Requirements
    The Application for Participation provides important medical information, lists emergency contacts, serves as a photo release, and allows for emergency medical treatment to be provided to a minor in the event that a parent or guardian cannot be reached. The form also makes the athlete eligible for coverage under Special Olympics, Inc. medical insurance as a secondary policy. For the protection of the athletes, a new medical is required every three years or when there is a change in the athlete’s health or medications.
  • Volunteer Criminal Record Checks
    Volunteers who are or may be in regular close physical contact with athletes such as coaches, chaperones, drivers and overnight hosts, as well as volunteers with administrative and fiscal authority, and committee members, are deemed by SOPA to be Class A volunteers and must complete the Criminal Background Check process.
  • 1:4 Coach/Athlete Ratio
    At all Special Olympics trainings, competitions and other activities, a ratio of 1 coach for every 4 athletes is required.