Special Olympics began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the First International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Illinois. The concept was born in the early 1960s when Mrs. Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disabilities. She saw that people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought. Since 1968, millions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities have participated in Special Olympics programs throughout the world.
Today there are accredited Special Olympics programs in more than 180 countries around the world, and more continue to be developed. Special Olympics Chapters are established in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. About 25,000 communities in the United States have Special Olympics programs.
Since the very first statewide Summer Meet in 1970 at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Special Olympics Idaho has offered sports training and athletic competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities -- year-round, free of charge and state-wide.
The Spirit of Special Olympics
"In a close 400 meter race one Special Olympics athlete was about to cross the finish line. At the very moment of victory she saw that a friend, also in the race, had fallen. Without hesitation, she turned, ran back and helped up her fallen friend. Hand in hand, they crossed the finish line together. This is the spirit of Special Olympics — skill, courage, sharing and joy."
Special Olympics is founded on the belief that:
- People with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, adapted as necessary to meet the needs of those with special mental and physical limitations.
- Consistent training, including physical conditioning and nutritional education, is essential to the development of sports skills; that competition among those of equal abilities is the most appropriate means of testing these skills, measuring progress and providing incentives for personal growth.
- Through sports training and competition, people with intellectual disabilities benefit physically, mentally, socially and spiritually; families are strengthened and the community at large, both through participation and observation, is united with people with intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.