Mission & History

Our Mission

The mission of Special Olympics PA is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

All training and competition opportunities are provided free of charge to the athletes and their families, enabling everyone to experience the benefits of Special Olympics that extend well beyond the playing field. 

Special Olympics was created by the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.  Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) is authorized and accredited by Special Olympics Inc. for the benefit of persons with intellectual disabilities.

Our History

The movement known worldwide as Special Olympics began simply as the idea of one extraordinary woman with a vision. Eunice Kennedy Shriver believed that people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought. And so, the world’s largest amateur sports organization began in 1962 as a day camp in the backyard of Eunice and Sargent Shriver, with the first International Games taking place in 1968. Today, the movement thrives in more than 172 countries throughout the world.

Greater Lehigh Valley Pocono Region 

In 2020, Special Olympics PA (SOPA) established its first Regional office, the Greater Lehigh Valley Pocono Region, to serve more than 2,700 athletes in Berks, Bethlehem City, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties. This regional approach is designed to provide sustainability to the organization, engage more athletes and provide enhanced, quality experiences to athletes across the region.