Special Olympics of Arizona

Special Olympics of Arizona


For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics Arizona is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves. For athletes, Special Olympics Arizona sports provide a gateway to empowerment, competence, acceptance and joy. The lessons learned in Special Olympics also impact their life skills

In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver began a summer day camp at her home in Maryland for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  This camp was designed to allow these special individuals a chance to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities. The idea quickly took off, and in 1968 the first International Special Olympics took place at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, with 1,000 athletes from the US and Canada competing in Track & Field and Swimming.

The first Special Olympics Arizona competition consisted of a one-day Track & Field event with 100 athletes and 20 volunteers in 1975.  Today, Special Olympics Arizona offers:

  • 22 sports, with over 12,000 playing unified sports
  • 170 programs in 6 regional areas
  • Over 22,000 Arizona athletic participants
  • Over 22,000 volunteers

Along with this, the organization offers several programs that allow Special Olympics athletes to become leaders within the organization, Healthy LEAP for those with and without intellectual disabilities, and the Zero Project.

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