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The mission of Special Olympics Florida is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. The ultimate objective of Special Olympics Florida is to help people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs. Special Olympics Florida, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Special Olympics Florida Marion County serves over 700 athletes and offers training and competition in a variety of team and individual sports. These athletes are trained by volunteer coaches, and are supported and encouraged by event 25 volunteers in the county.
Special Olympics athletes are given opportunities to participate without regard to economic, demographic, religious, or social factors. Neither athletes nor parents are charged a fee to participate in the program, and activities exist for those of all ability levels, from the highly functioning to the severely challenged. Anyone can participate in Special Olympics if they meet the eligibility criteria of having intellectual disabilities or a similar developmental disability.
Intellectual disability does not discriminate. Athletes who participate in Special Olympics come in all ages, ethnicities, and economic and social backgrounds. However, a significant number of athletes live in urban areas and come from lower socioeconomic groups. In addition, the vast majority of school-aged children with intellectual disabilities who attend public schools receive free or reduced lunch, placing them in the at-risk demographic.