Become a Volunteer
Volunteers are essential to Special Olympics Pennsylvania! We could not exist without the dedication of thousands of volunteers. There is a place for everyone in our organization, and your commitment can range from an afternoon to a lifetime.
For more information, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities page.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Special Olympics Pennsylvania has two different classifications of volunteers.
Class A: A Class A volunteer is someone who is or may be in immediate contact with athletes, or someone who may handle confidential/sensitive paperwork. Examples of Class A volunteers are coaches, assistant coaches, chaperones and administrative support. Class A volunteers are required to complete a background check and volunteer trainings prior to starting.
Class B: A Class B volunteer is someone with casual or limited contact with athletes, such as one-day event volunteers. For an event guide for one-day volunteers, follow this link. For a Class B Volunteers Brochure, follow this link.
Please visit our volunteer opportunities page to learn more!
Absolutely! The most important requirements are an open mind and welcoming attitude. People with and without disabilities are more alike than they are different. Here are some tips on working with someone with an intellectual disability:
- Introduce yourself and get to know your team!
- Please refer to our participants as athletes.
- A common misconception is that Special Olympics athletes need to be talked down to or talked to as if they were very young children. While athletes’ reasoning abilities may be delayed, talk with and treat athletes as peers.
- Athletes thrive on receiving encouragement, but let them take the lead as to what type of recognition they are comfortable with: pat on the back, high five, handshake, etc.
- Be yourself! Use your normal voice and give support but try not to over-praise. Athletes will gain the most from being judged fairly and without overstatement.
- Respect the dignity of the athletes that you will meet and work with.
If you are looking to volunteer as a coach, assistant coach or athlete as coach, participation is seasonal for each sport. The commitment, depending on the sport, ranges from 8-10 weeks, 2 hours per week. Some programs train more often, and there are opportunities for competition days.
Volunteers who assist with local program management work year-round with fellow members to develop an execute plans for successful programming. We will work with your schedule to fit volunteering into your lifestyle.
We also have one-time opportunities to assist with events and competitions! Please follow this link to see a list of upcoming events that will need volunteers.
If you volunteered at an event then you already have a user ID for our online portal! Follow this link to log into the portal. Once you are logged in, you can submit our PA Disclosure Statement to initiate the background check process. Class A volunteers are asked to complete our background check process as well as the volunteer trainings.
While knowledge of your sport is certainly helpful and welcome, you do not need coaching experience to volunteer as a coach with SOPA. We offer opportunities for volunteers to attend Sports Skills trainings and Certified Coach trainings. Additionally, Special Olympics offers Sports Essentials guides as an overview to individual sports.
Coaches, assistant coaches and local program management volunteers are needed throughout the state! When you complete a volunteer application, someone from your county/region will be in touch to talk about volunteer needs in your area. If you have a particular sport or role in mind that you would like to help with, you can reach out to your area’s contact to discuss.
As a volunteer with Special Olympics Pennsylvania, you are providing athletes with an opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship. We hope that you are able to get as much out of volunteering as you give!
Volunteers are provided opportunities for enrichment, such as sports training, coach training and other continuing education programs. Class A volunteers receive a SOPA shirt and SOPA memorabilia. We honor and recognize volunteers through awards and years of service recognition. Class B volunteers receive a shirt and SOPA lanyard.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to enhance your resume, make lasting friendships, develop and refine new skills and gain confidence.