About Us

What is Special Olympics?

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Our founder, Dorothy Buehring Phillips, established the Special Olympics New York program in 1969. That same year, New York sent a delegation of athletes and coaches to the Northeast Regional Special Olympics competition in Boston, Massachusetts. Special Olympics New York was fully incorporated in 1970 and Phillips was appointed the first State Director. In June, 1970, the first State Summer Games were held in Rochester.

Today, Special Olympics New York (SONY) is the largest program in the United States and the nearly the largest program in the world. Our headquarters are located in Schenectady, with offices in the Long Island, New York City, Hudson Valley, Capital, Central, Genesee and Western Regions.

Our Mission:

To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-style sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, 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.

Who is eligible to participate in Special Olympics?
To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be at least 6 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction. The Special Olympics Young Athletes™ program was created for children with intellectual disabilities ages 2 through 7.

Can individuals with profound disabilities participate in Special Olympics?
Yes, almost all sports have a Skills component and Adaptive sport component and through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP), developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather than competition.

FUNDING SOURCES
Special Olympics New York is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and is funded primarily by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. Special Olympics New York never charges athletes, their families or caregivers to train or compete.