News and Articles

Partner Spotlight: Empowering Athletes Virtually through the Special Olympics Movement

Special Olympics International’s at home fitness program, School of Strength
April 16, 2020

This article is part of a “Partner Spotlight” series where we will be sharing the innovative ways SCSC partners are responding and adapting in light of COVID-19. 

Special Olympics International (SOI) is a global movement of people creating a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. SOI aims to make the world a better, healthier and more joyful place—one athlete, one volunteer, and one family member at a time.

Believing that family caregivers can face social isolation and need a sense of connectedness, The Samuel Family Foundation began working with SOI several years ago to expand the capacity and resources of their Sibling Engagement program. The program works with the siblings of Special Olympics athletes to ensure they feel supported and can be better advocates for inclusion. SOI and SCSC have also been collaborating on research through our Social Connectedness Fellowship to identify the unique challenges facing refugees with disabilities and people with profound/multiple disabilities, and explore solutions such as timebanking and inclusive post-secondary school programs. 

SOI has been working on how to continue to provide Special Olympics athletes and families support and programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, given that all group and in-person programming has been cancelled in line with physical distancing directives. Their response has focused on providing more digital materials, programs, and support that promote connection, emotional well-being and healthy, active living at home, including materials to help reinforce health messages about  COVID-19. SOI has also developed materials to support coaches, caregivers, families, and volunteers within the Special Olympics movement to help athletes to feel connected and supported during this time.

One innovative initiative SOI recently launched is the School of Strength, an interactive online platform that encourages athletes to participate in a fun and engaging training program they can do from home. The platform was developed with World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar Becky Lynch, and features a series of videos, a fitness tracker, a coach’s playbook, and a caregiver toolkit.

SOI is championing inclusion in all forms, and has been working tirelessly  to ensure their athletes and respective communities feel supported and are keeping healthy during this pandemic. SCSC is thrilled to help shine a light on SOI’s response to COVID-19 and to continue working with the incredible community at SOI to build a long-term movement for inclusion.

You can learn more about SOI’s mission and programming on their website and follow their updates on Facebook and Twitter.