Volunteer for Special Olympics

Volunteers are the backbone of the Special Olympics movement. They are coaches, trainers, officials, event organizers, fundraisers and managers. They can also be unified partners -- playing alongside athletes with intellectual disabilities -- or fans cheering in the stands.

A Special Olympics official points and gives an athete some pre-race instructions

Helpful Hint. Special Olympics athlete Erin Thompson of Virginia gets pre-race instructions from volunteer race official Bob McCormick.

Rewarding for All

Our volunteers are all ages and their commitments can range from an afternoon to a lifetime. From China to the United States, Ghana to Singapore, Australia to Paraguay, Ireland to India, our volunteers are helping to bring out the champion in every Special Olympics athlete.

Special Olympics would not exist today — and could not have been created -- without the time, energy, commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteers. We owe so much to these millions of people who find the time to make the world a better place.

If you want to be a volunteer, get in touch with Special Olympics near you.

 


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

Spirit of Giving

Special Olympics is about transforming lives, including your own. It’s about a spirit of giving and teamwork. It's about making your commune ty and neighborhood a more welcoming and accepting place for people of all abilities.

It’s also about creating lifelong friendships and finding a new way of thinking about others. 

Our volunteers include the local coach who works with athletes many times a week. Or the people who help organize and plan our World Games every two years. Or the photographers who take the most amazing pictures of our athletes in action.

All around the world, Special Olympics training, competitions and other events are happening 365 days a year. There is always something interesting to do!

 


All Ages, All Interests

We have seen dramatic growth in teens and young adults volunteering with Special Olympics. These volunteers include students taking part in school-based groups like Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools and Special Olympics College. Their enthusiasm, dedication and creativity are hard to beat!

One of our college leaders began volunteering on a whim when she was in the second grade. She calls that "the best decision of my life."

Charles Scott of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors has been a longtime volunteer. Over the years, he has learned that Special Olympics is a place that deeply appreciates its volunteers, their spirit and dedication. "You know you’re really helping people who are differently able than others," he says. "That’s a gratifying experience for us all.”

 

Stories About Our Volunteers


August 06, 2018 | North America: Texas

In Carolines Memory

By Lana Taylor

My daughter Caroline was born with a ring chromosome abnormality. My daughter was murdered at the age of 22. Beatened to death. The R word is so offensive to me because she was able to do a lot of things. I couldn't have loved her more. Yes she was labeled with mental retardation. But to me its suchView Story My daughter Caroline was born with a ring chromosome abnormality. My daughter was murdered at the age of 22; she was beat to death. The R word is offensive to me because she was able to do a lot of things. I couldn't have loved her more. She was labeled with mental retardation, but to me its such a harsh word. People all around me use the R word and I have repeatedly told them it hurts me and its against the most beautiful person whom I shared 22 wonderful years with. As a kid I never used that word and would cry when I heard others use it. Its so demeaning to the most beautiful children in the world. Why say that word. I truly don't understand. My entire family never used that word, even before my beautiful angel came into my life. Please stop the word, that truly divides us instead of reuniting us. Special needs children are truly special to us. They give us unconditional love. Don't hurt us by using that word please...

About Lana Taylor:I was a mother a special needs daughter, whom I lost in a brutal way. Caroline was/is her name. I miss her so much.She was only 22 years old. I wholeheartedly agree with stop saying the R word....
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August 01, 2018 | North America: Southern California

An Unforgettable Moment: A memorable effort by a very special Special Olympian

By Edward Tooley

After sharing this story with the students I teach, a student asked if they could draw a picture that complimented the story. Here it is!!!!!!!!!

One of my college professors was searching for student volunteers for a Special Olympics event to take place the next Saturday. As the sign up sheet went up and down the aisles I started to come up with excuses for not volunteering.View Story One of my college professors was searching for student volunteers for a Special Olympics event to take place the next Saturday. As the sign up sheet went up and down the aisles I started to come up with excuses for not volunteering. Maybe it was the distance to the college where the event was to take place, or the early time volunteers had to report for duty (early time, that is, for an occasionally lazy college kid). Whatever the reason that made me hesitate, I am so thankful to this day that it did not keep me from volunteering. If I missed this event then I would have missed one of the most unforgettable moments that I have ever witnessed. An event that I unashamedly admit changed the way I live my life.I arrived at the college bright and early and reported to the volunteer tent. My assignment was simple, I was to stand at the finish line and wait until the event was over, and then take the results to the announcing booth. While standing at the finish line, I was able to witness many amazing efforts and close races. I was most impressed by the effort each athlete gave in their event. What also impressed me was the sincere joy each athlete expressed while participating. Sometimes the sheer joy of participating in a sporting event can get lost in the intense competition of winning and losing.Then a miraculous moment happened right before my eyes, a group of athletes were lined up to run a short sprint. My eyes were captured by one of the athletes in a wheelchair, a little girl with a huge smile wearing bright bows in her hair. Her smile filled the stadium that day. I couldn’t help but smile back at her. The runners were ready and the gun sounded. They were off. Each runner sped up the track with all their might. My eyes searched for the little girl with the bright bows. There she was pumping her arms with every ounce of energy she had. My eyes were now riveted to her every move. She was having difficulty getting her wheelchair to move smoothly down the lane. I did notice that this brave athlete happened to be the only competitor in a wheelchair. But there she pumped. And pumped. Her efforts were getting little result. But that did not stop her. The other athletes were now finished with the race. I noticed as she got closer that she also had an injured arm. But that did not stop this BRIGHT star in the day. The race was long over but this athlete kept pumping. The crowd of spectators focused on her. They started to cheer passionately for this amazing athlete. That made the little girl pump even harder. As she neared the finish line the roar of the crowd was thunderous. There I stood cheering with tears falling down my cheeks and chills going up my spine. I wish you could have been there to hear the roar as she passed the finish line.After all these years, my ears can still hear the echoes of those cheers. I wish I could thank that remarkable athlete for what her efforts taught this unmotivated college guy. I grew up a lot that day because of the tenacity and effort of that little girl in the wheelchair. I don’t even know her name, but the memory of her effort has stayed with me. I was reminded that day of a verse from the Bible found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It states, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might.” God reminded me that I wasn’t making the most of the abilities and talents He had so graciously bestowed upon me. Whenever I get that lazy bug that buzzes in and out of my life, God brings to mind this heroic athlete with the bows in her hair and the joy in her heart.

About Edward Tooley:I am a teacher of history and a free lance writer. This story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul in 2015 under the subtitle: Volunteering and Giving Back. That title is a bit misleading, because it is the attitude and determination of the Special Olympians that gives us the proper perspective about competition and sportsmanship. I hoping that one day this story will turn into a book for Children.
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July 31, 2018 | North America: Nevada

"EUNICE & SPECIAL OLYMPICS PAVED A PATH FOR ONE LIKE ME"

By Lori Lane Pendleton

"INCLUSION SHARES A SMILE & A HUG!"

"EUNICE'S VISION PAVES A PATH" A journey she started So very long ago Still continues today As we hail Inclusion's growth... And as inclusion spreads the pain subsides  divisions are broken  TRUE CHAMPIONS RISE...View Story "EUNICE'S VISION PAVES A PATH"A journey she startedSo very long agoStill continues todayAs we hail Inclusion's growth...And as inclusion spreadsthe pain subsides divisions are broken TRUE CHAMPIONS RISE...Knowledge is shared Beyond every borderNo one is shunned Throughout the world's corners...Voices are heard To the ends of the Earth All of us a lightAll born of great worth...Yes, we all have a choice To love and embrace To let our eyes be openedLet the fears be erased...Look without judgementTouch without fearHear the words that are spokenYou replace every tear...They're a gift to humanityA blessing to you and IThe odds they overcameThe past now defied...Inclusion holds the keyto soar and rise aboveLet us all pave a pathIN UNITY AND LOVE...AND may we carry a torchIn the light of Eunice's visionFor her spirit LIVES ONTHROUGH EVERY HEART OF "INCLUSION"July 8 2018 Lori Lane PendletonTHANK YOU SPECIAL OLYMPICS FOR CHANGING HEARTS & LIVES!

About Lori Lane Pendleton:I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE to become a part of Special Olympics in some small or even large way! IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!! I have been a volunteer for Special Olympics for 8 yrs now. This year I was humbled beyond words to receive the 2017 Sports Volunteer of the Year award. It left me speechless! Which is not a natural thing for me. Ask my peers, LOL. I was introduced to SO by a very special woman named Ann who I call "Mom" & very extraordinary young athlete named "Anthony" who has also become my son. And over the years Special Olympics has become a home to me! There is no other place on earth I would rather be! I just wanted to share this message because Special Olympics does so much more than they think! I don't have a intellectual disability yet a physical one where others have always made me feel I was less than and a burden on society because I do not look like I have challenges.  It broke my heart! Yet, through it all I have always striven to live beyond my circumstances.
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July 31, 2018 | Asia Pacific: Singapore

Play Inclusive 2018

By Ryan Mahindapala

The stage was set for the inaugural Play Inclusive 2018, Singapore's largest unified sporting competition on 14 July at the OCBC Arena. 450 participants from 38 different schools took part in Football, Floorball, Basketball and Badminton. The aim of the event was to encourage inclusion in society whView Story The stage was set for the inaugural Play Inclusive 2018, Singapore's largest unified sporting competition on 14 July at the OCBC Arena. 450 participants from 38 different schools took part in Football, Floorball, Basketball and Badminton. The aim of the event was to encourage inclusion in society where individuals with and without intellectual disabilities can come together to take part in sport, foster unity and in the process learn valuable life skills such as teamwork, determination and courage. A testament to the vision of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, to see athletes and partners play and compete alongside one another was truly a moving moment. Together with the unwavering support of the spectators, the athletes, partners as well as teachers, parents and volunteers each contributed to the success of Play Inclusive 2018. In the end, it was smiles all around and a yearning to come back next year to participate in an event that now holds a special place in the hearts of many.

About Ryan Mahindapala:The author is an advocate for inclusion and volunteered as the Assistant Competition Manager (Football) for Play Inclusive 2018.
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July 17, 2018 | North America: Tennessee

No Reason For The R-word

By Reilly Cate

I am an eighth grade student and advocate for all people with special needs. This has been my passion since I was five years old, and I believe that everyone deserves acceptance and inclusion. I volunteer as much as I can at a Down syndrome achievement center called GiGi’s Playhouse, was the PresideView Story I am an eighth grade student and advocate for all people with special needs. This has been my passion since I was five years old, and I believe that everyone deserves acceptance and inclusion. I volunteer as much as I can at a Down syndrome achievement center called GiGi’s Playhouse, was the President of Best Buddies at my school, regularly help in my church’s special needs program, and always am on the lookout for new opportunities. Being a middle school student, I hear the r-word a lot, and it’s increadably sad to have to tell people about the impact their language has on a community of amazing people. There is absolutely no reason why you should use the r-word, no matter what the situation Remember that all life has value!

About Reilly Cate:
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July 03, 2018 | North America: Illinois

Looking Back 50 Years Ago

By Dr. Jane Delaney

Fifty years ago, I worked for the Chicago Park District in the administration building during my summer break from university. I had the pleasure to meet and work for Anne McGlone—a sensitive, bright, and creative young woman, who worked in the Department of Recreation.View Story Fifty years ago, I worked for the Chicago Park District in the administration building during my summer break from university. I had the pleasure to meet and work for Anne McGlone—a sensitive, bright, and creative young woman, who worked in the Department of Recreation. It was Anne's idea to provide a program for children with Down's syndrome and other special needs. The program was modeled after the Olympic games—with some modifications. We hand made medals for the kids and supervised the activities which were held in Soldier Field for two - three days.The program eventually expanded under Anne McGlone Burke's dedication - eventually becoming the international program it is today. The Honorable Anne Burke is truly a hero who has been a voice for children throughout her career as as an attorney and a Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

About Dr. Jane Delaney:I currently teach English at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Illinois. It was my participation in the formation of the Special Olympics back in 1967/1968 in Chicago which inspired me to become an educator. In addition to my work with high school students, I conduct leadership seminars for teachers in Jesuit schools in the United States and Canada. I also taught in Xiamen, China for eight weeks.
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June 25, 2018 | Asia Pacific: Bharat (India)

Abhishek Gogoi's Golden dream

By Arshel Akhter

Abhishek during the competition

17 year old Abhishek Gogoi from Guwahati, Assam in India is a very talented sportsman with interests in multiple sports, especially in cycling in which he currently holds the National Record of 19 minutes and 12 seconds, which is the 12th fastest timing in World for the 10 kms Individual Time Trial event.View Story 17 year old Abhishek Gogoi from Guwahati, Assam in India is a very talented sportsman with interests in multiple sports, especially in cycling in which he currently holds the National Record of 19 minutes and 12 seconds, which is the 12th fastest timing in World for the 10 kms Individual Time Trial event. This record was set in the ‘Cycling NCC-cum-National Championship’ 2018 (held from 4th to 9th January 2018) at Ranchi, Jharkhand where Abhishek got the First position in both 5 kms Time Trial and 10 kms Time Trial events. With this record he has qualified to participate in Summer Special Olympics to be held in March 2019 in Abu Dhabi.Abhishek was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy a few months after his birth that was caused by neo-natal jaundice. He lost his father at a young age and his mother brought him up well to be an active and fun loving young boy.

About Arshel Akhter:I am the Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati, Assam in India. Its a non political position given by a Netherlands based social enterprise named BYCS. My responsibility is to promote cycling in general in my city with special focus on using the cycle as a mode of transport for commuting. I had initiated an online crowdfunding campaign to help Abhishek get a good road racing cycle to compete at the games after his seeing his enthusiasm, comittment and talent.
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