Sport is a universal language that unites people on and off the field of play. Its lessons are relevant to all – governments, medical professionals, families, youth, educators, and businesses. With the unifying power of sports at its core, Special Olympics has grown to be a movement not about ‘them’, but about all of ‘us.’

The strength of Special Olympics is the vitality, courage, and diversity of the millions of athletes, volunteers, and families who participate worldwide. Bridging the divisions caused by social, political, religious, and cultural differences, Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) provides a haven where sports foster friendship and confidence through training and competition.

The number of Special Olympics athletes has been growing steadily over the past 50 years, but there are many potential participants in thousands of communities throughout the world. Special Olympics outreach efforts are on-going strategies to identify, enroll, and retain athletes in the Special Olympics family.

How you can help with outreach:

There is a place in Special Olympics for volunteers of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, interests and schedules. More than 750,000 volunteers are involved with Special Olympics globally right now -- but even twice that number would be welcome and necessary.

Because Special Olympics is a year-round program, your help is valuable at any time. You can volunteer before, during, and after Games or a special event, or you can assist with the important planning and preparation that goes on all year.

There are ways that you can get involved in outreach:

  • Recruit Special Olympics athletes.
  • Become a coach in your favorite sport.
  • Establish a Special Olympics program at your school.
  • If you work with or employ individuals with intellectual disabilities, help establish a Special Olympics program at your workplace.
  • Take part in Special Olympics Games as an event organizer, official, timer, host, or other volunteer position.
  • Publicize Special Olympics in your area.
  • Transport athletes to practice and competition.
  • Help organize fund-raising events.
  • Provide or help obtain in-kind donations of products or services.
  • Create a Partners' Club® in your school.
  • Serve on a Families Committee.
  • Help special education teachers or Special Olympics coaches prepare registration and medical forms or other paperwork.
  • Join a Special Olympics board of directors or management team.
  • Enlist your service club or organization to help sponsor a Special Olympics event in some way.

As part of outreach, Special Olympics will recruit new athletes in the following target areas:

Elementary Schools

  • Encourage schools to offer Special Olympics as an extracurricular activity.
  • Make Special Olympics an extension of physical education curriculum.

Secondary Schools

  • Establish sports teams, coached by high school students, faculty and coaches, for Special Olympics athletes.
  • Create a Partners' Club®, which involve high school students who volunteer on a regular basis, assisting Special Olympics athletes in practice and competition.
  • Promote the Unified Sports® program, to bring together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to practice and compete on the same teams. Unified Sports® can be part of an interscholastic or intramural after-school league at the junior high or high school level.

Parks and Recreation Departments

  • Encourage parks and recreation departments to include Special Olympics training, competition, and coach training schools among the activities they offer.
  • Work with them to gain access to facilities, transportation, publications and events.

Work Settings

  • Establish Special Olympics training programs as employee fitness programs.
  • Have employers enable and encourage employees to participate in local Special Olympics programs.
  • Start Unified Sports® programs to generate interaction between employees with and without intellectual disabilities in integrated workplaces.

Families and Athletes

  • Continue to build the Global Messenger program, in which Special Olympics athletes are selected and trained to become effective public speakers to express the benefits of Special Olympics.
  • Encourage each athlete and family currently participating in Special Olympics to recruit other athletes and families.
  • Establish family committees wherever there is a Special Olympics program.