Special Olympics is a global organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world. Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 17 sports for more than 23,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support.
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.
- 23,083 athletes (children and adults) with intellectual disabilities
- 19,631 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities
- 48,300 volunteers and coaches
- 201 competitions each year
- 17 Olympic-type sports
- Programs in 11 Regions, each coordinated by a Region 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
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.