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Ability Awareness

Recent studies have revealed much about people's perceptions of Special Olympics and the benefits of sports participation. Here is a summary of some of those studies:

A Yale University study compared results of a group of Special Olympics athletes to an appropriately matched group on non-Special Olympics athletes. Their conclusion: Special Olympics participation led to "higher social competence scores than the comparison group and more positive self-perceptions."

The Gallup Organization conducted a public opinion survey of American attitudes toward persons with intellectual disabilities and awareness of Special Olympics:

  • 96 percent of Americans said they feel people with intellectual disabilities benefit from involvement with sports. Most respondents mentioned "building self-esteem" and "gaining social skills" as the major benefits from sports participation. The most frequently mentioned benefits: increased self-esteem: 24 percent; cooperation with other social skills: 24 percent; physical benefits and exercise: 20 percent.
  • 70 percent of Americans believe Special Olympics is a sports program for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Just 9 percent said that Special Olympics is only for people with intellectual disabilities.
    • Fact: Although Special Olympics does include athletes with physical disabilities, the qualification is that they be people with intellectual disabilities and/or closely related developmental disabilities.
  • 80 percent of Americans correctly stated that Special Olympics sports training and competitions are available to people of all ages with intellectual disabilities. Only 15 percent felt Special Olympics is just for children and teens.
    • Fact: Athletes range from 8 years old to no upper age limit.
  • Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of those responding to the recent Gallup survey were aware that Special Olympics involves year-round training. However, 16 percent said they believed Special Olympics involved a single Olympic-type event once a year.
    • Fact: In Indiana, there are annual Summer Games, a Spring Basketball Tournament, Winter Games, and a Fall Sports Tournament, along with more than 100 local sports qualifiers and meets in 17 different sports throughout the year.
  • Over half (54 percent) of those participating in the Gallup survey said they would consider volunteering and/or participating in a Special Olympics sports program.
    • Fact: In Indiana, there are nearly 10,000 volunteers who support Special Olympics all year round.

Throughout Special Olympics there are many meaningful stories that describe successes, challenges and common human experiences. The following outline is based on fact and can be localized for anyone interested in publicizing the efforts of Special Olympics Manchester participants.

Recent studies prove that Special Olympics athletes do better in their daily lives. What is it about Special Olympics that makes this possible? What role does the program play in the lives of young and adult athletes? Some athletes live with parents, some in group homes, many hold down jobs. A focus on one or a group of athletes can be the basis of a strong story.

Who trains Special Olympics athletes? Volunteer coaches do. Some are skilled athletes; others are teachers or enthusiastic individuals who understand the benefits of sports training. The public would be surprised to learn that Special Olympics has a required certified training program for all of its coaches. Not only do coaches do the training, many do the car pooling, secure training sites, and act as mentors. They can talk about volunteering, working with persons with disabilities and establishing priorities—some have given up family or vacation time to be part of Special Olympics. They'll tell you why.

Families' lives have changed through Special Olympics. Athletes have helped to reshape the lives of their siblings, parents, and grandparents. Parents have had the opportunity to become proud parents, watching as their sons and daughters develop into valuable members of the North Manchester community. In some families, everyone is part of Special Olympics—parents and siblings are coaches and volunteers. Special Olympics tells a great family story.

Training for Life
Public awareness of Special Olympics reflects the emphasis on training, not competition. Whether you focus on the campaign or make it a component of another story, the story of Training for Life defines Special Olympics and helps to correct misconceptions.

While there is plenty of envelope-stuffing, there's plenty more opportunities for Special Olympics volunteers. For example, Special Olympics area coordinators have volunteered many years of service. Why these business professionals, sports enthusiasts, parents and college students are involved would enlighten anyone who wonders what he/she could do to better their worlds. Let our volunteers tell that story and share what the unexpected rewards can be.

Business Partners
With many nonprofits and charities vying for the same donor dollar, Special Olympics has a cause-marketing component that very few organizations can offer. The credibility of our program is known worldwide. But what are the benefits of that for a sponsor? Special Olympics sponsors don't just donate funds, they also get their employees involved as volunteers. Sponsors see their contributions at work and making a difference in lives. A story about the marketing partnerships in Special Olympics is an interesting business angle.

For more information about Special Olympics Manchester, please contact Kim Duchane at kaduchane@manchester.edu or call 260-982-5382.

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