Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports every day, around the world. Through work in sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society.
Although Special Olympics Virginia has always been about building a respectful, inclusive society, its earliest purpose lay in improving the quality of life for persons with intellectual disabilities through access to sport and recreation.
Incorporated as Virginia Special Olympics in 1975, the first office was housed in Norfolk. Later operating out of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville in the late 70s and the Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg in the early 80s, the office finally settled on Richmond as a permanent location.
The first Summer International Games attended by Virginia athletes was held in 1979 in Brockport, New York, followed by participation in the first Winter International Special Olympics Games in 1985 in Park City, Utah. Since those early days, the now Special Olympics World Games, have been held at summer and winter venues around the globe, including Austria, Canada, Ireland, Japan, China and Greece.
Virginia Special Olympics held its first Summer Games at Virginia Tech and later at Lynchburg College, prior to establishing a now almost 30-year relationship with the University of Richmond in 1985. The current state championship format and annual calendar were adopted in 1987 followed by a change in corporate identity in 1998 (from Virginia Special Olympics to Special Olympics Virginia). A refreshed brand identity was released in mid-2012 and will be fully adopted in Virginia by 2015. Special Olympics Virginia now provides state championships in 13 Olympic-style sports for more than 11,000 actively involved athletes, 30 locally based programs, 20,000 volunteers, and hundreds of activities throughout the year.
In addition to its core sports programs, Global Messengers, Young Athletes™ and Healthy Athletes® provide Special Olympics athletes with opportunities for building self-advocacy skills, greater access to employment, community involvement and improved health.
With continued financial and volunteer support, Special Olympics Virginia is poised to build a bigger, better community for the more than 140,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities living in the state of Virginia.