Special Olympics Alaska Mission:
"Special Olympics Alaska provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, to demonstrate courage, to experience joy and to participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
Soon after President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver launched a crusade to change the way the world treated — or ignored — intellectual disabilities. This re-education program gained credence as the Kennedys disclosed that one of their own, Rosemary Kennedy, had intellectual disabilities. Throughout the 1960s, Eunice Shriver’s commitment saw not only landmark legislation dealing with intellectual disabilities and disability rights, but was also instrumental in bringing intellectual disabilities out of the darkness and into the light of public acceptance.
The genesis of Special Olympics was a summer day camp that Sargent and Eunice Shriver started in the backyard of their Maryland home. In July 1968, the world witnessed the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. In December of that year, the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation incorporated Special Olympics. Since then, Special Olympics has grown to become the largest program of its kind. Special Olympics in Alaska also traces its beginnings to 1968. Erica Ahrens’ initial interest blossomed into the first state games in Fairbanks in 1969. Another key player was Chuck Melick who served as the first games director in Alaska.
The Goal of Special Olympics Alaska is to help bring all persons with intellectual disabilities, and/or a closely-related intellectual disability, into the larger society under conditions whereby they are accepted, respected and given a chance to become more productive citizens.
The training that is such an integral part of the Special Olympics program is truly "Training for Life." Through training, Special Olympics athletes not only acquire specific sports skills to prepare for competition, they also gain an opportunity for even greater participation in family, school and community life. Societal acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities ultimately benefits all concerned.
Lifting Spirits through Sports:
Special Olympics programs are patterned after the Olympic Games. In fact, Special Olympics is the only organization authorized by the International Olympic Committee to use the word "Olympics" in its name. Like the mainstream Olympics, Special Olympics International has a truly global presence, with programs in every state and in 150 countries. It includes nearly one million athletes and 500,000 volunteers who take part in over 15,000 Special Olympics games around the world, involving 23 summer and winter sports. In Alaska, over 500 athletes and over 1000 volunteers are involved in Special Olympics programs.