Special Olympics Washington Programs
Sports are at the core of what Special Olympics Washington does, providing more than the opportunity to train and compete in 16 different Olympic-type sports, in more than 70 local, regional and statewide competitions – free of charge. Special Olympics Washington also provides health screenings through our Healthy Athletes program, inclusive school-based programs with Project UNIFY and Athlete Leadership Programs.
Healthy Athletes is the world’s largest public health program for people with intellectual disabilities. At Special Olympics events in Washington, Healthy Athletes provides athletes with free screenings in several areas – vision, hearing, dental, podiatry and healthy habits – providing free care when possible and making referrals to local practitioners when appropriate.
Project UNIFY brings Special Olympics programming into the schools, helping create inclusive opportunities and helping empower youth to become agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Project UNIFY also provides sports opportunities- otherwise not available in most schools – for individuals with intellectual disabilities to train and compete with their peers; representing their school in district-wide sports leagues.
Special Olympics is empowering athletes with intellectual disabilities to be leaders in society by providing them with opportunities to learn skills that transcend the playing field. Our athletes hold jobs, go to school and are active members of their communities.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Special Olympics Washington is working to build community awareness for people with intellectual disabilities, and create inclusive opportunities that bring a higher level of understanding and acceptance for all. Our Project UNIFY initiative, launched in 2009, has affected thousands of youth in the greater Seattle community. The initiative is an education-based program that uses the sports and education campaigns of Special Olympics to activate youth to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Our vision is that Project UNIFY will help nurture a generation of individuals who are compassionate and respectful, as well as assist Special Olympics Washington reach its growth and outreach goals for additional athletes. Recent success in targeted school districts must now be replicated in other districts – across Western Washington, and across the state. Among the greatest values of the Special Olympics Movement is its power to change the attitudes of people who are fearful of, or misunderstand people with special needs. This power is most effective in schools, among young people who have the potential to form an acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities that can last throughout their lives. Project UNIFY can help change the way individual with intellectual disabilities are viewed – and help shape future generations of tolerance and acceptance for all people.