Prior to Special Olympics, individuals with intellectual disabilities were treated very differently than they are now. While there is still a lot of work to do in order to help empower those who are differently abled, this amazing organization has made great strides in helping increase awareness and empowering individuals.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw that there was a need for fair treatment for individuals with disabilities. One of her concerns surrounded the fact that children with special needs didn’t have a place to play. As a response, she began hosting a summer camp for those with special needs.
In July 1968, the first Special Olympics was held. The games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The event has grown since then. At the June-July 2011 World Summer Games held in Athens, Greece, there were almost 7,000 athletes from 170 countries taking part in the competition.
Getting involved with the Special Olympics can be a very rewarding decision. As with any organization, there is a variety of options for individuals. Here are some of the ways you can get involved.
- Pledge not to use the word “Retarded.” You can take the pledge at R-Word.com.
- You can volunteer as a coach or official. Regular volunteers must undergo background checks and undergo training if they do not have NGB or ISF officials’ certification.
- You can volunteer with Healthy Athletes and work at health screening events at your local branch of Special Olympics.
- You can get involved with planning local events and volunteer work in offices.
- You can petition to help keep venues open for sporting events. Some of the branches of Special Olympics are having difficulty affording the rental usage fees for sports facilities.
- You can work at Special Olympics. While the main branch is located in Washington, D.C., you may find job openings in a branch near you. Current openings are listed on their website.
You can donate to Special Olympics. There are many levels and options for donating. While their donation form starts at $50, you can donate what you can by writing it in the “other” box. Every bit, no matter how small or how great, helps to support this great cause. You can pay tribute to a loved one with a donation or set up a monthly giving account. You can also text FAN to 85944 to donate $10 to the Special Olympics – just be sure that you confirm by replying YES.
- You can donate airline miles to help cover travel for athletes and their coaches.
- You can donate proceeds from eBay auctions.
- You can become a Champion for Special Olympics and start a fundraising campaign.
Whatever level of involvement you choose, supporting this organization is rewarding – both for those who engage in the sports and those who cheer on the sidelines.
–See also the article, “Helping Others to Cross the Finish Line: Getting Involved with Special Olympics” in Equanimity Fall 2011 Edition.