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Our Mission is...
to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with mental disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver (JFK's sister) in 1968. The first event, the International Summer Games, was held in Chicago's Soldier Field with 1000 athletes from 26 states and Canada. Special Olympics Inc. is a part of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.
Today, Special Olympics is a worldwide movement serving over 1 million athletes in 160 countries.
Special Olympics Southwest Area currently has 1878 athletes that participate in sporting events and trainings.
SOMO athletes range from 8 to 80 years old. The average age of our athletes is around 25, therefore the terms "children" or "kids" is not appropriate the majority of the time. The term "athletes" is preferred. Children with mental disabilities grow into adults with mental disabilities; they do not remain "eternal children."
In order to be eligible for Special Olympics, an individual must be at least eight years old and considered to have mental retardation or other closely related developmental disabilities by their localities. Some of our athletes also have physical disabilities.
Mental retardation knows no boundaries. It cuts across the lines of racial, ethnic, educational, social and economic backgrounds; therefore Special Olympics athletes are a very diverse population of people.
We use the phrase "mental disabilities" rather than "mental retardation" in every capacity with the exception of our statement of eligibility. This is a direct reflection of our athletes' views and feelings on the subject.
Special Olympics Southwest Area provides year-round sports training and competition to individuals with mental disabilities. We average around 115 events per year including state, area and local level competition. This does not account for practices and other less formal training opportunities.
Our area is broken down into agencies within the 25 counties we serve. Our area consists of an Area Director and Development coordinator. Our area office is located in Springfield Mo and we have five area events, one district event, and a state competition within our area.
Athletes must qualify for state competitions in order to attend. They have "placed" at an area level competition (areas average 12 counties each) in the sport(s) of their choice in order to qualify. Upon qualification, they must attend a minimum of eight weeks of training in their sport of choice prior to the state event.
Special Olympics athletes do not pay to participate in the program. However, there is a $35 state games assessment to attend one of our six yearly state events.
The Special Olympics movement celebrates the abilities and achievements of a group of people who happen to have a disability. Special Olympics athletes are like any other athletes...they train and compete, they learn to win and to lose, they strive to do their best and they inspire us.
For every dollar raised by SOMO, 72 cents directly supports the athletes.
- Jennifer Winterrose
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