The vision of Special Olympics is to open hearts and minds toward people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and create inclusive communities all over the world.
In 2017, the World Winter Games brought unprecedented global media awareness, changing attitudes toward the accomplishments of people with ID all around the world.
This success continued and expanded during the year through powerful new partnerships and dedicated support from government, community and civic leaders worldwide.
To celebrate Lions Club International’s milestone centennial, an event was held in Schladming during the 2017 Games. International Director of Lions Clubs International Aruna Oswal announced a $1 million donation to Special Olympics, part of a new partnership between Lions Clubs International and Special Olympics Bharat.
From the halls of the United Nations to huts in a Tanzania refugee camp, Special Olympics worked in 2017 to bring greater unity and understanding among people of all abilities. This is how we are building an inclusive world, now and for our future.
AVSC Turns 30
2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the “A Very Special Christmas” album series. Since 1987, the biggest and brightest voices in the recording industry have generously lent their time and talents to Special Olympics to create these albums. The grants generated by these albums have had huge impact around the world, bringing sports to neglected people and places where they could do the most good. Meet a few of the athletes touched by the A Very Special Christmas series.
By 2050, the number of people living in urban environments will nearly double. In response, in 2017 Special Olympics ramped up its efforts to increase awareness and programming for people with intellectual disabilities in urban settings. Host cities for Special Olympics World Games will now commit to lasting change by adopting inclusive policies, programs and services. Special Olympics Programs in the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo), Panama (Panama City), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi) and the U.S.A. (Chicago, Seattle and several locations in Pennsylvania) are engaging city governments and other key actors in the private sector to partner to support inclusive programming -- sports, health services, schools –- in urban and semi-urban environments.
A €6.5 million European Union grant helped support both the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria and secure a strong legacy for the Games throughout the region.
US Congressional Engagement
The U.S. government approved US$19.3 million for fiscal year 2017 in support of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program and inclusive health work in the USA.
Inter-American Development Bank
A new partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank resulted in $600K for a 3-year project to support Unified Schools and Young Athletes. This enormous support will bring these important programs to 60 mainstream schools and communi- ties -- positively impacting 18,000 youth with and without intellectual disabilities in Latin America.
The Panama Declaration
Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela and First Lady of the Dominican Republic Candida Montilla de Medina made a public declaration committing to support the inclusion of people with disabilities. They also pledged to challenge societies to expose inequity and exclusion involving people with intellectual disabilities and to use sports to help spread deeper understanding of -- and opportunities for -- people with intellectual disabilities.
Support in South Africa
For the first time, the South African government agreed to support South Africa’s National Games with a sizeable grant, and expand Young Athletes and Unified Sports.
Four countries in Africa and Europe are receiving support from UNICEF. This includes grants to expand Young Athletes in Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Moldova.
Throughout the year, Special Olympics worked in Africa and across Europe on behalf of refugees with intellectual disabilities. Our advocacy work also included bringing together global thought leaders to discuss this most vulnerable and least- served population within the global displacement crisis. Special Olympics Cyprus athlete and refugee Abdullah Najim was among the speakers at a European Commission panel held in Brussels, co-hosted by Burson-Marsteller.
New commitment from the First Lady of the Dominican Republic for $2 million to host the 2018 Global Athlete Congress and the Special Olympics World Tennis Invitational as part of the 50th anniversary celebration in Latin America.
In April, the Special Olympics-Y&R multimedia collaboration released the most popular video Special Olympics has ever posted. The video – titled “Born Apart” -- was created to promote the Special Olympics Latin American Regional Games and released as part of National Siblings Day. Within the first 72 hours the video was viewed more than 6.1 million times and reached over 17.6 million people. It was shared on Facebook over 72,000 times.
In July, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was posthumously honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 25th ESPY Awards Ceremony. Chairman Tim Shriver accepted the award, which was presented by former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama during a live broadcast on ABC. In addition, as part of building awareness, 27 honorary ESPYs were awarded to Special Olympics athletes across the USA. From broadcast, re-airings, social media and international news coverage, Special Olympics reached over 1 billion impressions.
In 2017, the Special Olympics Leadership Academy engaged 144 leaders in 47 countries, including 13 athlete leaders. To date, the Leadership Academy has engaged 365 participants, including 28 athletes, from 107 countries from all seven global regions.
A recent evaluation has shown the academy's impact on Programs: participating leaders report bringing close to $3.5 million in new revenue and fostering over 255 new partnerships, dramatically increasing awareness in their communities. In 2017, the Leadership Academy also received an Excellence in Practice award from the Association for Talent Development.