About Us

Special Olympics is a global organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 21,000 athletes, 40,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 18 Area programs in all 102 counties of the state.

Special Olympics began in Illinois with the first games at Soldier Field in July 1968 thanks to the efforts of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her peers. There are now more than 4 million athletes in 170 countries. Special Olympics is financially sound with diverse revenue streams, a thorough annual budget process and increasing organizational revenue streams. Special Olympics Illinois does not charge athletes or their families to participate in the program.


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


“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”


  • 21,482 athletes (children and adults) with intellectual disabilities
  • 18,549 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities
  • 40,000 volunteers and coaches
  • 180 competitions each year
  • 19 Olympic-type sports
  • Programs in 18 Areas, each coordinated by an Area Director and a volunteer committee
  • Dynamic sports and corporate partnerships


  • REAL SPORTS: Deliver high-quality training and competition in an inclusive culture that stresses athletic excellence, rewards determination, emphasizes health and celebrates achievement.
  • ATHLETE HEALTH: Promote the overall well-being of people with intellectual disabilities via programs that ensure ongoing access to quality, community-based health care services, highlighted by free health screenings at Special Olympics competitions, games and other venues.
  • TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION: Equip young people and adult influencers with effective tools and training to create sports, classrooms and community actions that produce friendships and acceptance, driving positive attitude and behavioral change.
  • BUILD COMMUNITIES: Marshal resources, implement diverse programming and act as a convening power of stakeholders to drive positive attitudinal and behavioral change toward people with intellectual disabilities in communities statewide, strengthening the fabric of society

Organizational Updates

SONA Unveils New Quick-Reference Coaching Guide

SONA Unveils New Quick-Reference Coaching Guide

Special Olympics North America has recently shared its newly completed Quick-Reference Coaching Guide with state programs. This guide is a very tool, based on the Athlete-Centered Coaching Guide and on expanded information in ...

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Why We Generally Cannot Reschedule Events When We Cancel Them

Why We Generally Cannot Reschedule Events When We Cancel Them

Mother Nature has not been a big fan of competition so far this winter. Unfortunately, we have had to cancel more events recently due to weather than many involved with Special Olympics can ...

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Skating Events Get Their Own Tournament

Skating Events Get Their Own Tournament

The inaugural Skating Championships will be held on Feb. 19-20 in Romeoville at Canlan Ice Sports. The facility has three full sheets of ice, two of which will be utilized for the figure skating ...

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Staff Updates – January 2014

Staff Updates - January 2014

The following people have joined Special Olympics Illinois or received new assignments within the organization: David Shindley has joined Special Olympics Illinois as Director of Sports Training and Competition at the state headquarters in ...

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Special Olympics Illinois Opens Online Store

Special Olympics Illinois Opens Online Store

Special Olympics Illinois proudly opened its first online apparel store in December! Fans of Special Olympics Illinois are now be able to purchase SOILL branded gear online, and in the process, help support ...

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2013 – A Year of Great Inspiration from Our Athletes and 2014 Could Be Even Better!

2013 - A Year of Great Inspiration from Our Athletes and 2014 Could Be Even Better!

By Dave Breen, Special Olympics Illinois President & CEO Our Special Olympics athletes led the way for inspiration in 2013 as we saw many feats of courage and inspiration on the playing field and ...

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Who is eligible to participate?

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics traditional program, one must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction. The Special Olympics Young Athletes program was created for children with intellectual disabilities ages 2-7.


Can individuals with profound disabilities participate in Special Olympics?

Yes, through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP), developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather then competition.


Are there differences between Special Olympics and Paralympics?

Yes, Special Olympics and the Paralympics are two separate and distinct organizations with specific eligibility requirements.

The Need is Great

The need for services is great as we estimate that Special Olympics Illinois is currently serving about 10 percent of those eligible to participate and is always working to increase this reach. Individual donors account for 65 percent of our donations so we rely on people just like you to ensure that we can continue reaching out to more of those in need. You can do your part to transform lives by making an online donation now!

If you have questions not answered here, please email Special Olympics Illinois.

History of Special Olympics Illinois

Board Roster October 2014

Foundation Board Roster September 2014



Annual Reports