As the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics’ contributions to athletics are both vital and far-reaching. The organization provides year-round training and competition opportunities to its athletes, who span 170 countries nationwide.
We at UE.co are excited to be supporting the Olympics’ San Diego branch as part of our ongoing charitable giving initiative. UE will serve as a Bronze-Level sponsor for the program’s next four sports seasons (a donation of $20,000), and our volunteers are ready to help program participants eliminate stigmas, find their athletic niches, and most importantly, build unforgettable memories.
With the organization’s 50th anniversary on the horizon, here is a quick look at its history of inclusiveness and empowerment.
Making a difference
The Special Olympics was founded in 1969 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family. The program was originally named Camp Shriver and served as a modest day camp hosted at Shriver’s home in Potomac, Maryland. Shriver’s mission was simple, yet incredibly ambitious: provide intellectually disabled children the joy and fulfillment of athletic involvement. The camp became an annual event, and it eventually evolved into a full-fledged movement — with many colleges, community centers, and recreational departments obtaining grants to host similar events. In time, the “Camp Shriver” moniker was replaced with the “Special Olympics.”
Later, the first International Special Olympics event (1972) was held right here in Southern California. Competitions took place at UCLA and Santa Monica City College. These events helped establish a tradition of expanded Special Olympics activity in California, as the next two decades saw the inception of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for California Special Olympics and the division of the program into two state chapters: Southern California and Northern California.
Carrying on tradition
Today, the Special Olympics have only magnified the ideals they were founded upon. The organization’s reach officially expanded to over 4.4 million athletes in 2017 — with over 80,000 events being held annually. The Olympics’ Southern California branch alone houses over 32,000 athletes, a staggering number that is more than indicative of the program’s lasting resonance; it pledges to always put its athletes first while fostering a culture of “honesty, integrity, and mutual respect.”
These notions in mind, UE is honored to be a part of a storied and successful initiative, one with a proven track record of selflessness and compassion.
For more information on the San Diego Special Olympics, click here.