The 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event to hit Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. The event’s honorary co-chairs include President and First Lady Obama; Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Jerry Brown will serve as hosts. Past Special Olympics supporters include Bill Clinton, Bono, Collin Farrell, Vanessa Williams, Yao Ming and Muhammad Ali. Not only will the city of Los Angeles be responsible for hosting the week-long event with over 500,000 spectators, the UCLA campus itself will be the dedicated venue for several sports.
Founded in 1968, the Special Olympics World Games has retained its mission which states in part: “Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.” Special Olympics helps others see the accomplishments and full potential of those who have intellectual disabilities. The organization began as a day camp and has expanded to become highly recognized.
In the early ‘60s, people would often hide family members with disabilities, but in 1963, Special Olympics came to UCLA through Rafer Johnson, an alumni and Olympic gold medalist, who made a connection with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics day camp. UCLA is where Special Olympics began to grow and continues to thrive. Today the UCLA Special Olympics student group works with organizations like the Volunteer Center to produce events such as Three Pillars, One University, a professor research symposium in which students with special needs and Special Olympic athletes participate.
With 58 Olympic-style events including Football (Soccer; 11-a-side & 5-a-side), Softball, Gymnastics, Tennis, Volleyball, and Judo – all to be hosted at UCLA – the tradition of the organization continues. An event this life-changing and influential will need thousands of volunteers. With 177 countries attending and 7,000 athletes participating, 30,000 volunteers are needed to make these athletes’ dreams a reality.
How to Give Back and Volunteer
• Volunteer opportunities vary from general volunteers to language service volunteers and medical and health related volunteers. Click here for more information about the types of volunteers needed, requirements, and how to sign up.
• Volunteer questions? Check out the Special Olympics World Games Volunteer FAQS
• Form a team of 10 or more and be a part of the Fans in the Stands program, which will allow you to cheer on and support a specific sport within the Games! This is a great opportunity for student organizations to serve together and inspire a team of athletes.
Need More Inspiration?
• Read articles and watch videos about athletes and participants
• Watch President Obama’s welcome to the Special Olympics World Games
• View photos of athletes and the event