Our Families

Families are the No. 1 fans of our Special Olympics athletes. They give the type of love, support and encouragement that no one else can. Special Olympics is a support network that brings families together in a caring, positive way -- and that makes the cheers for our athletes even louder.

A mom gives a hug to two happy athletes at once

Smiles All Around. A mom gives a hug to two Special Olympics athletes at once.

Among Friends

At Special Olympics competitions and events, family members are among friends – and feel at home. They watch with pride as their child, sibling, cousin, grandchild, aunt or uncle find success and joy.

They are also among people who really understand. Because even family members can be unaware of all that their child or relative with an intellectual disability can do.

A mother in Great Britain says families are part of the team -- working together to make it all happen. "Everyone in the programme accepts each other without question. Everyone works as a team supporting each other." She says her son has made great strides since joining Special Olympics. "I know this has meant a great deal to him and, as a mum, to watch Jamie achieve and believe in himself is just wonderful." 


About Intellectual Disability

Special Olympics is a global movement of people who want to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But what are intellectual disabilities? Learn More

Building Communities

Many family members become spokespeople or volunteers, coaches, fund-raisers and officials – giving them an important voice in Special Olympics.

Families are also an essential link to the community and wider support for our movement. By joining the Family Support Network, becoming a volunteer, and leading the expansion of Young Athletes, Special Olympics family members can really make a difference.

Families build communities by volunteering at athletic trainings, sharing links and information, talking online via a global network and serving in leadership roles. For every family member who gets involved, Special Olympics has a reason to celebrate.


Stories About Our Families


August 06, 2018 | North America: Canada

Ava’s Gold Medal

By Chantelle Reid

Ava’s Birthday Wish was a Medal

Ava Walsh and Megan Hounsell train together regularly in the same Special Olympics' club (Mt. Pearl, NL). Both girls qualified for team NL to compete at national summer games 2018 in Rhythmic Gymnastics. The days were long and the weather hot but the girls persevered...View Story Ava Walsh and Megan Hounsell train together regularly in the same Special Olympics' club (Mt. Pearl, NL). Both girls qualified for team NL to compete at national summer games 2018 in Rhythmic Gymnastics. The days were long and the weather hot but the girls persevered. For Megan this would be her 4th National games. For Ava, at age 15, this would be her first ever national competition. Ava’s birthday wish this year was to earn a national medal. However, despite all her training and an excellent performance Ava did not medal in either of her events. This was a heartbreaking turn of events, her wish was simply not meant to be and she was extremely disappointed. The following day, after the gymnastics medal ceremony, at the airport for the flight back home, Ava showed up wearing the coveted gold medal. Rather then see her teammate come home empty handed Megan gave Ava one of her gold medals to have.

About Chantelle Reid:Mom of three including Special Olympics athlete, Ava Walsh.
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August 06, 2018 | North America: Iowa

My son

By Robin Cushman

We went to the Special Olympics from 2008-2016 with my son, Ethan, in his Middle School and High School years. He participated in the 50 Meter Dash, 100 Meter Dash, 4x100 Meter Dash and Softball Toss. He went to State 5 times out of 8, he went to Fort Dodge, Iowa to try to qualify for State...View Story We went to the Special Olympics from 2008-2016 with my son, Ethan, in his Middle School and High School years. He participated in the 50 Meter Dash, 100 Meter Dash, 4x100 Meter Dash and Softball Toss. He went to State 5 times out of 8, he went to Fort Dodge, Iowa to try to qualify for State down in Ames, Iowa. His Senior Year of High School, he got 1st in both the 100 Meter Dash and Softball, then at State, he got 1st in the 100 and 3rd in Softball. We had so much fun going to watch all the kids in both towns, my daughter even had fun watching the times she went along, I even took her out of school for Ethan's Senior year. I haven't been to one since but am glad that we had the chance to be apart of something special.

About Robin Cushman:I am the stay at home mom of 3, with my middle child, Ethan being Special Needs (Autism and ADHD)
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August 01, 2018 | North America: Northern California

Why I hate the R word

By Stwve

My name is Steve and the reason I hate the r word. Having an older brother with physical a mental disabilities I have been battling the r-word my entire life back in school I used to fight with people who would call my brother the r word or who to call anybody with disabilities the r word. I've growView Story My name is Steve and the reason I hate the r word. Having an older brother with physical a mental disabilities I have been battling the r-word my entire life back in school I used to fight with people who would call my brother the r word or who to call anybody with disabilities the r word. I've grown up now and I've learned to fight my battles in a different way. And it's a battle I continue to fight to this day still even more so I married a wonderful beautiful woman who has physical and mental disabilities also I love her with my heart and my soul and nothing I would change about her. I love her and my brother for who they are not what they are. Being raised around somebody with disabilities and having a mother who worked with children with disabilities has taught me more respect for people in general then I could ever imagine some of my greatest joys of working with my brother has his buddy in the Special Olympics. This is a fight I will fight till r word is gone forever.

About Stwve :
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July 31, 2018 | North America: Illinois

My daughter katheeine (katie) rivera

By Donna Kleitz-Rivera

Her basketball gold medals & trophy

I have a daughter who is in high school; she has a learning disability and is very out going—now. However, when she was little she had a speech problem and would shut herself down whenever she would get frustrated. She joined Special Olympics basketball in her sophomore year and her team was awesome.View Story I have a daughter who is in high school; she has a learning disability and is very out going—now. However, when she was little she had a speech problem and would shut herself down whenever she would get frustrated. She joined Special Olympics basketball in her sophomore year and her team was awesome. They received Golds in their division for the 1st time and our town mayor gave a special meeting where they got a certificate and trophy. The school will also present them with a plaque for the school's name board; this is the 1st time the school had been involved with the Special Olympics. She then joined track & field & won a silver medal and 3 bronze ribbons and made lots of friends. She also joined the Special Olympics bowling through a park district.

About Donna Kleitz-Rivera:A mother of 2; my daughter, Katie is 16 years old and son is 19 years old. I Love my family, to travel, scrapbook, manatees, camping, and photography.
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July 17, 2018 | North America: Illinois

BRAD MUZZARELLI: 38 YEARS OF SPECIAL OLYMPICS

By Ronald J Muzzarelli

My name is Ron Muzzarelli. I am the brother of one amazing Special Olympian, Brad "Muzzy: Muzzarelli. My brother participated in the very first Special Olympics held at Soldier Field in 1968 and competed in the softball throw.View Story My name is Ron Muzzarelli, I am the brother of one amazing Special Olympian, Brad "Muzzy" Muzzarelli. My brother participated in the very first Special Olympics held at Soldier Field in 1968 and competed in the softball throw. During his 38 years of participation, Brad competed in many different events such as bowling, basketball, and track and field, but swimming was his specialty. To my knowledge, he was the first athlete in Special Olympics to ever swim the butterfly stroke and the 100 yard individual medley. Brad was honored to be selected to represent Illinois and participate in two different International competitions. He was even brave enough to participate in the Polar Plunge. I lost my brother to cancer in June of 2009, but two weeks before he died, he was competing in Bocce at the Illinois State Special Olympics games where he won a gold and a silver medal. My brother touched many lives through Special Olympics and was a great example of what being an athlete is all about.

About Ronald J Muzzarelli:I, along with my mother, my wife, and my kids are just a proud family of a very special athlete.
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July 12, 2018 | North America: Florida

His Dream

By DEBRA J FORESTER

2014 Nationals

My son Shelby is late to sports for 12 yrs of his life he couldn't participate due to health reasons. In 2014 he was picked to go to nationals he was so excited he had the best time of his life and made friendships for life. Thank you Special Olympics. Now he wants to conquer World games.View Story My son Shelby is late to sports for 12 yrs of his life he couldn't participate due to health reasons. In 2014 he was picked to go to nationals he was so excited he had the best time of his life and made friendships for life. Thank you Special Olympics. Now he wants to conquer World games.

About DEBRA J FORESTER:Shelby Forester graduated high school and went to the 2014 National Special Olympic Games. Had liver transplant in 2007 started doing Special Olympics in 2011. Loves Track Basketball Softball and Swimming and of course bowling. Special Olympics is his life he dreams to make it to world games some day.
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July 11, 2018 | North America: Ohio

A Parents Perspective

By Margaret Kaya

Special Olympics has had a tremendous impact on my daughter, Lisa. It has opened up a whole new world for her and I’ve seen her grow and develop into a very poised, outgoing, and athletic(!) person.View Story Special Olympics has had a tremendous impact on my daughter, Lisa. It has opened up a whole new world for her and I’ve seen her grow and develop into a very poised, outgoing, and athletic(!) person. She has always enjoyed sports, but for various reasons over the years, was unable to participate in any directly. Special Olympics has given her the opportunity to join in on more activities and sports than she ever dreamed of doing—bocce, basketball, flag football, track, snowshoeing, the minijavelin throw, and bowling. She may not be the best one on the team, but I can’t image anyone is playing with more heart than Lisa. She wants to do well and win, but, even more, she has learned the satisfaction that comes from doing her best and helping her teammates do well. Lisa has also been chosen to participate in the Global Messenger program. She truly shines in this role and takes her responsibilities very seriously. She is always open to new assignments, and I have been so proud of how she has sought out opportunities to talk about Special Olympics with various people. Lisa contacted the mayor and as a result of that contact, received a resolution congratulating Special Olympics on their 50th anniversary from the the Evanston City Council. She will be on Windy City Live as a result of contacting the reporter at Chicago’s ABC Channel 7 that does the program. She pours her heart and soul into her presentations and her love for Special Olympics is evident to all.As a child, Lisa was very shy and didn’t talk to many people other than to say hello. She struggled with fine and large motor skills, and with other issues that caused her to have problems making friends. She never gave up though, and always kept trying to make things work. Lisa will be 45 soon, and in thinking back to her grade and high school years, I marvel that she had the courage to keep going like she did. But her persistence and courage have allowed her to grow and develop in amazing ways.

About Margaret Kaya:Very caring and supportive.
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