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 22,000 athletes, more than 20,000 Young Athletes, 45,000 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 4.5 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.”


  • 22,003 athletes (children and adults) with intellectual disabilities
  • 20,473 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities
  • 45,000 volunteers and coaches
  • 179 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


Income Tax Check-off

Check the box, change a life! This tax season, do something Special by making a donation when you complete your Illinois Income Tax.  Your contribution helps a current or future Special ...

Read More


Special Olympics Lottery Tickets

The Illinois Lottery and Special Olympics Illinois are proud to announce the 2016 Lottery game to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. This year’s $3 scratch-off ticket will continue to help Special ...

Read More


Feedback Sought on New Programming Concept

Special Olympics Illinois is looking for family member and additional coach feedback on a new programming concept, the Player Development Model, recently introduced at the Area Fall Coaches Meetings. Take online ...

Read More


SOILL Announces New Member to Board of Directors

Special Olympics Illinois announces the election of a new member to its Board of Directors at the board’s October meeting. Frances Ann Hurley of Chicago is currently serving her second term ...

Read More


Athletics: New Throwing Event Option for 2016!

Special Olympics Illinois is excited to announce that it has officially added the mini-javelin as a throwing event option for the 2016 athletics season and beyond!  The mini-javelin was demonstrated ...

Read More


An Example of the Power of Special Olympics to Bring People Together for Good

By Dave Breen, President & CEO Many times I am asked "What makes Special Olympics so special?" The easy answer is the athletes of Special Olympics and their can-do attitude, courage, ...

Read More


SOILL Offers General Orientation Online

In an ongoing attempt to make training and information more accessible, Special Olympics Illinois is now offering the General Orientation Video online. The General Orientation presentation covers the history, structure, ...

Read More

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 June 2015

Foundation Board Roster June 2015



Annual Reports