The concept of Special Olympics began in the early 1960s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disabilities. From that experience, it was clear that these individuals were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts believed. In 1968, Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. Special Olympics Florida was founded in 1972 and has been growing ever since! Special Olympics Florida is one of the largest volunteer driven athletic organizations in the state. Involving over 23,000 athletes who have intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics Florida is made possible by over 18,000 coaches and volunteers, annually. Special Olympics Florida has 1,144 registered training programs amongst 49 counties in eleven areas. These local programs are accredited by the Special Olympics Florida state office (Clermont, FL) and offer local training and competition. Special Olympics Florida provides 192 county and area competitions and 8 state-level competitions. Through successful sports training and competition, Special Olympics athletes develop physically, socially, and psychologically. The positive experiences that the athletes have in ongoing Special Olympics programs builds confidence and self-image, which carries over into all aspects of their lives.
Impact Summary from the Nonprofit Perhaps most importantly, and consistent with over four decades of driving societal change, Special Olympics has steadily helped shift the general public’s perception of people with intellectual disabilities. It is one thing to change a life; it is quite another to change a mindset. Whether through direct involvement or the subtle evolution of one’s own thinking, everyone has the opportunity to be affected by the work of Special Olympics. Beyond sports, Special Olympics’ greater goal is to demonstrate the relevance of Special Olympics to the greater public. As one of the most trusted, established and respected brands in the world, Special Olympics has been at the forefront of bringing services, awareness and dignity to people with intellectual disabilities and stands uniquely poised to educate, shape public perception and to help empower one of the last and largest disenfranchised populations in the world. Special Olympics is more than an event, it is a movement, with sport as the catalyst for quality healthcare, for dignity, and for meaningful change for all of Florida’s citizens.
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