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About Us

Who We Are

Special Olympics is an international organization* dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 32 Olympic-type summer and winter sports. (*Special Olympics is recognized as a tax-exempt organization under U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3).)

Special Olympics transforms lives through the joy of sport. We are the world's largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities-with more than 4.6 million athletes in 170 countries and millions more volunteers and supporters. We are also a global social movement. More than 1,500 athletes and 5,000+volunteers participate in North Dakota.

Special Olympics North Dakota (SOND) serves athletes, partners, coaches and other partners through 11 Area Programs in the state. We offer sports all year round with weekly practices, periodic games and annual tournaments. Whatever your interest in Special Olympics, we're excited to have you join us make a real difference in people's lives.

Real Sports Experience
Through the transformative power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment-on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential. 

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been spreading the message: people with intellectual disabilities can-and will-succeed when given the opportunity. This happens through the simple power of sport. At Special Olympics, we believe that sports can teach us all important lessons. When we train and strive for a goal, it teaches us to dream. When we struggle, it teaches us determination. When we win, we find joy. And if we lose, we can find the strength to try again. 

Our sports events bring together a large and inclusive community of athletes, supporters and families, coaches, volunteers and many others. The athletes are at the center of it all. They become the heroes-to  the shared joy of themselves, their families and their communities. These events help us all rediscover the purity of sports-and real athletic pursuits-based on true Olympic ideals.

Building Communities
Special Olympics works to spread compassion and acceptance in a way that can unite the world. Our goal is to awaken everyone to each person's common humanity. This vision of inclusion starts at the local level here in North Dakota and expands to our global community.

Special Olympics does this through a wide range of training sessions, competitions, health screenings and fundraising events. We also create opportunities for families, community members, local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, celebrities, dignitaries and others to band together to change attitudes and support athletes. 

Some of our key program efforts to build communities include: Athlete Leadership Programs, Family Engagement, Healthy Athletes, Project UNIFY and Young Athletes. 

Special Olympics knows no boundaries. Without regard to gender, race, religion, economic or education level, Special Olympics has the ability to unite all walks of life.
 

Changing Attitudes
Special Olympics is the leading voice in raising awareness about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics is raising awareness about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Through sports, we showcase the skills and dignity of our athletes. We also bring together communities to see and take part in the transformative power of sports. We know the odds our athletes must overcome and the barriers they face every single day. We see this at training events and competitions as our athletes push to beat their personal bests-and exceed them. Their stories and successes inspire us all. 

We believe in a world where there are millions of different abilities but not disabilities. And we're spreading this message everywhere.
 

Healthier Athletes
Special Olympics is the world's largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities. Many of our athletes come to us with neglected health problems. As such, we periodically offer free health screenings and care at our events for athletes.

Our goal is to bring better fitness, nutrition and healthier lifestyles to everyone involved in Special Olympics-from athletes and their families, to coaches and volunteers.  

Leading Research
Justice means being morally right, equitable and fair. Changing lives for the better means giving people services that make a positive impact. Neither is possible without a solid understanding of what's needed and having a plan to provide it. 

Special Olympics attitude research shows that the majority of people worldwide underestimate the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Our research also shows that their capabilities far exceed their expectations. With this knowledge in hand, we are opening doors for greater opportunities for them in education, health care and employment.

Special Olympics leads the world in researching and addressing the concerns of people with intellectual disabilities. We identify the pressing issues facing this group, commission and conduct high-level, externally validated scientific research, then reach out to the highest leaders in government, health care, education, the nonprofit sector and business to influence policy and to bring valuable services to those in need. Special Olympics' research of intellectual disability, and perceptions of those who have intellectual disability, is a catalytic force for social and policy change around the globe.
 

Sports and Play for Children Under Eight
Special Olympics Young Athletes™ is a unique sport and play program for children with intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. Children ages two to seven enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. 

Young Athletes is an early introduction to sports and to the world of Special Olympics. The children learn new things, play and have lots of fun! Parents say their children in Young Athletes also develop better social skills. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere. 

The Young Athletes program helps children all around the world, thanks to the support of our sponsors statewide and, internationally, through the Mattel Children's Foundation, Toys R Us, Kim Samuel and the Lynch Family Foundation. Their help leads children with intellectual disabilities into a bright new world of sports, social skills, pride, and possibility.

*Note: This is a pilot program through SOND and is not currently available in all areas. For more information about how you can get involved with Young Athletes, please contact our office.
 

Athlete Leadership
Through sports training and competitions, Special Olympics helps people with intellectual disabilities achieve joy, acceptance and success. They gain the confidence that comes with achievement. They feel empowered. Our Athlete Leadership Programs can take athletes even farther as leaders and respected spokespeople in their communities. 

Our athletes can become mentors for other athletes. They can train to become coaches and officials. They can also move toward a more public role as a speaker or spokesperson, telling audiences and journalists about the remarkable changes that Special Olympics helped bring to their lives. 

Many athletes choose to undergo training to learn presentation skills so they can help spread the message of Special Olympics to the general public. Some are selected by the Board of Directors to serve as Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers. Athlete Leadership training sessions are held periodically.


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

Our goal is ... for all persons with intellectual disabilities to have the chance to become useful and productive citizens who are accepted and respected in their communities.

The benefits ... of participation in Special Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities include improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence, a more positive self-image, friendships, and increased family support. Special Olympics athletes carry these benefits with them into their daily lives at home, in the classroom, on the job, and in the community. Families who participate become stronger as they learn a greater appreciation of their athlete's talents. Community volunteers find out what good friends the athletes can be. And everyone learns more about the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities.

To be eligible to participate ... in Special Olympics, an athlete must be at least eight 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.

Special Olympics North Dakota (SOND) provides year-round training and competition in 15 official sports: athletics, soccer, bocce, bowling, basketball, alpine and cross-country skiing, figure and speed skating, snow shoeing, swimming, gymnastics, flag football, power lifting, and volleyball. Unified competition is offered in the sports of bocce, soccer, and volleyball. Unified Sports® combine people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

Competitions are conducted on five levels: local, area, district, state, national and international. Athletes are required to compete minimally in one area or district competition prior to advancing to state-level competition. The USA National Games began in 2006 with Summer Games in Ames, Iowa. The next USA National Games will be held in Seattle, Washington in 2018. World Games are conducted every two years, alternating between winter and summer games.

Athletes in Special Olympics must train and compete in an eight to ten-week training program designed to increase physical fitness, sports skills, and knowledge of rules and regulations.

Special Olympics is the only organization authorized by the International Olympic Committee to use "Olympics" worldwide.

For more information about your Special Olympics Program, email our office at info@specialolympicsnd.org, call our office at (701) 746-0331, or connect with Special Olympics North Dakota on Facebook and Twitter.

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