Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance, and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities.
There are about 200 million people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Special Olympics offers a wide range of trainings, competitions, health examinations, and fund-raising events. We also create opportunities for families, community members, local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, celebrities, dignitaries, and others to band together to change attitudes and support athletes.
Special Olympics creates communities of support everywhere it goes. We hold 50,000 competitions a year -- about 136 each day. Our Games and competitions bring together athletes, coaches, volunteers, supporters and leaders of the community.
How It All Began
It all began in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw how unjustly and unfairly people with intellectual disabilities were treated. She also saw that many children with intellectual disabilities didn’t even have a place to play. She decided to take action.
Soon, her vision began to take shape, as she held a summer day camp for young people with intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. The goal was to learn what these children could do in sports and other activities – and not dwell on what they could not do. See a slideshow about the camp
Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver continued her pioneering work -- both as the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy's White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Her vision and drive for justice eventually grew into the Special Olympics movement. Read more about events leading to the founding of Special Olympics.