About Us

The Special Olympics Rhode Island program is one of the world’s most dynamic, providing over 1,600 year-round sports training and athletic competitions for more than 2,800 athletes and hosting over 40 local, regional, and statewide tournaments and competitions each year in 25 official and demonstration sports.

Special Olympics Rhode Island’s innovative programs also include the Unified Sports Program for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities, the Motor Activities Training Program for athletes with profound disabilities, Young Athletes Program, Healthy Athletes Program and the Global Messenger Program for athletes who serve as spokespeople for Special Olympics.

In 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics based on her conviction that competitive sports could provide a gateway to empowerment, acceptance, and joy for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. She believed that the lessons of training, setting and striving toward goals, and testing one’s skills would translate into greater success in school, the workplace, and the community. Above all, she believed that the athletes had the power to create a better world, transforming the lives of all those who witnessed their achievements and rejoiced in their victories.

Today, Special Olympics is the world’s largest program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 3.5 million Special Olympics athletes in the United States and in 170 countries take part in year-round training and competition in 30 individual and team sports. They are trained, coached, and cheered on by over half a million volunteers worldwide, who support every aspect of Special Olympics.

Since the first Special Olympics Torch was lit on July 20, 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago, “The Flame of Hope” has continued to burn in the hearts of millions of athletes all over the world, whose families and communities have been inspired by the courage, character, dedication, and achievements of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities by giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

Special Olympics is an unprecedented global movement which, through quality sports training and competition, improves the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and, in turn, the lives of everyone they touch.

Special Olympics empowers people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential and develop their skills through year-round sports training and competition. As a result, Special Olympics athletes become fulfilled and productive members of their families and the communities in which they live. Special Olympics is an experience that is energizing, healthy, welcoming and joyful.

Today, Special Olympics stands as a leader in the field of intellectual disability and has sharpened the focus on its mission as not just "nice," but critical; not just as a sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, but also an effective catalyst for social change.

Children and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics exhibit boundless courage and enthusiasm, enjoy the rewards of friendship, and ultimately discover not only new abilities and talents, but also "their voices."

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