You are about to become part of an exciting training and competition program and will serve an integral role in transforming the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics participation encompasses 18 official sports, fundraising events, event committees, coaching opportunities, Young Athletes sports play programs and community initiatives – truly a spectrum of choices!
Volunteers are the core of the Special Olympics program and we could not exist today without the time, energy, education and commitment of our volunteers. Special Olympics Illinois relies on people of all ages to help in every aspect of the program – both at the local and state level.
Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) has satellite offices in 11 geographic Regions. Each Region is managed by a Region Director who has the responsibility to provide training, competition and fundraising events within the Region. While SOILL offers 18 different sports and various fundraising activities, each Region offers its own unique mix of sports competitions and fundraisers. Region competitions serve as qualifying events for athlete advancement to sectional and state championships. SOILL coordinates over 225 competitions annually. SOILL also coordinates various fundraising events at all levels of the Program.
Both the Region and State levels offer the same volunteer opportunities outlined below. Some opportunities require long-term commitments and specific skills. Other opportunities require limited time commitments and less specific sports skills but are just as important to the overall success of the program. An individual’s involvement level is determined by the individual’s availability and interests. Read below for more information about classifications and roles of volunteers.
How to Get Involved as a Volunteer
There are two easy ways you can sign up to be a volunteer with Special Olympics Illinois!
- If you are interested in volunteering at an event, visit our Calendar of Events and select the event you are interested in supporting. You will find all the event details and a link to our registration site, VolunteerHub. Simply create a VolunteerHub profile and register for the opportunities listed.
- If you are interested in a more specialized volunteer role, or need some guidance to how you can get involved, please reach out to your local region staff and they will help!
- Visit our VolunteerHub page to view all of the currently available opportunities.
Two classifications for volunteers
- Class A Volunteers
- These are individuals with 1-on-1 unsupervised contact with athletes; such as coaches, chaperones, speech coaches, and mentors. They are also individuals who have fundraising responsibilities or authorization to spend SOILL monies, and individuals authorized to speak on behalf of SOILL. This includes but is not limited to coaches, all SOILL staff members, members of the Board of Directors and Foundation Board and Games Committee members. A criminal background check, Concussion Awareness Training and Protective Behaviors Training are part of the registration process for all Class A volunteers. Class A Volunteers must be at least 14 years of age.
- Class B Volunteers
- These are individuals who are day-of-event volunteers with no athlete supervisory responsibilities. SOILL uses volunteers of all ages, however, general volunteers must be at least 10 years of age.
How Volunteers support the mission of Special Olympics Illinois
Volunteers are used at all levels of the organization in a variety of roles. Listed below are some of the more common ways volunteers can help, but if you have a specific talent or skill you think would be helpful, please reach out to your local region staff.
Most common roles
- Region or State Event Volunteer
- Help for a minimum of a four hour shift at a Region or State Special Olympics Sports competition or fundraising event.
- Committee Member
- Help run a local or state event. Committee members are needed at both the Region and State level and require a longer term commitment. Volunteers help organize and conduct sports competitions and fundraisers, knowledge and experience in these fields is a plus but SOILL will provide training. Committee members may work in or on a specific component of an event, i.e. Opening Ceremonies, Awards, Meals & Hospitality, or a Sports Specific venue.
- Officials, Judges and Referees
- Volunteers should be certified by the IHSA or a National Governing Body in their sport and are used at competitions at all levels of the program.
- Work with a group of athletes for several hours a week for a three-four month sport season, requires knowledge in sport with training available through Special Olympics Illinois. Requires background check, Protective Behaviors and Concussion Awareness training. Coaches volunteer directly with participating agencies, therefore there may be additional requirements based on the agency.
- Professional Skills
- Positions include photography, graphic designing, writing, public relations, marketing, fundraising, etc.
- Medical Volunteers
- Lend your skills as an RN, doctor, medical or nursing student, athletic trainer, etc. at a Region or State event. Experience in the medical field is required.
- Office Assistant
- Help in a Special Olympics office. Tasks include data entry, mailings and event preparation.
- The Family Action Network (FANs)
- Opportunities are available to assist with family registration, family hospitality or more ongoing involvement with the development of family support, resources and education. SOILL provides training for all FANs opportunities.
Volunteer Code of Conduct
As a Special Olympics volunteer, it is expected that everyone will play a positive role at Special Olympics events by following this code of conduct:
- Carry out all aspects of your assignment.
- Attend all required meetings and/or trainings.
- Notify the volunteer coordinator if an assignment cannot be completed.
- Refrain from smoking, consuming alcohol, or using profanity.
- Refrain from any inappropriate contact or relationship with athletes or other participants.
- Refrain from dating or having a sexual relationship with athletes. Please refer to the Volunteer/Athlete Dating Policy for complete details regarding this policy.
- Refrain from any form of personal abuse (verbal, physical, emotional, etc.) toward coaches, athletes, unified partners, volunteers, spectators, family members, etc. Such behavior will not be tolerated by Special Olympics.
- Follow the established rules and guidelines of Special Olympics and any agency involved with Special Olympics.
- Support the decisions of referees, judges, and committees, and use proper dissent processes.
- Be respectful during ceremonies and help athletes and partners do the same.
- Praise the athletes and partners for their efforts and encourage them to be happy for the success of other athletes and partners.
- Provide for the general welfare, health and safety of all athletes, partners and volunteers.
- Report any observations, either in the physical environment or an individual’s behavior, which may cause potential harm.
- Look for constructive ways to overcome obstacles.
- Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
- Extend involvement to other roles of leadership and training.
- Delight in the change that your involvement makes in the life of the athletes.
- Out of respect for our athletes, please refrain from using cell phones or texting while working at an event. We need your full attention to your task. Thank you for your consideration.
If you have additional questions on Special Olympics Illinois and volunteering, please click here to locate and contact your local Region office.