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About Us

History

Special Olympics is a global movement of people creating a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. We are helping to make the world a better, healthier, and more joyful place—one athlete, one volunteer, and one family member at a time. Learn more about us!

In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver began a summer day camp at her home in Maryland for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

This camp was designed to allow these special individuals a chance to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities. The idea quickly took off, and in 1968 the first International Special Olympics took place at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, with 1,000 athletes from the US and Canada competing in Track & Field and Swimming.

In 1975, the hard work and goodwill of Shriver’s efforts reached Arizona.

The first Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) competition consisted of a one-day Track & Field event with 100 athletes and 20 volunteers and today has grown to 21 sports, 675 regional competitions, and 4 statewide competitions for 21,461 athletes and 24,743 day-of volunteers annually.

SOAZ also provides inclusive health services, arts programs, advocacy and leadership programs, and more for people of all abilities and ages. Through SOAZ, families, athletes, and individuals can discover resources, gain support, and participate in our many programs and other services.

We work to bring awareness and advocate for our athletes, so that we may realize founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision: to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities everywhere, and transform the lives of everyone they touch – building a better, more accepting world for all of us.

 

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