Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) is the accrediting body for more than 50 area, county and city programs within Pennsylvania. The individuals who act as area and county managers and comprise their management teams are primarily volunteers. They raise funds, oversee volunteers, and help recruit athletes, while providing the all-important training and competition opportunities for their local athletes.
An athlete must be at least 6 years old (8 years old to attend competitions) and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: an intellectual disability, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay.
Nearly 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities or closely related developmental disabilities participate in over 300 local, sectional and state events. Athletes range in age from 8 to 80 and are of all ability levels.
Nearly 30,000 volunteers provided the manpower for Special Olympics Pennsylvania last year. Volunteers of all ages serve as coaches, escorts, organizers, fund-raisers, entertainers, or sports officials. Volunteers are always needed!
Special Olympics Pennsylvania competitions are offered year-round in 55 local programs across Pennsylvania. Special Olympics Pennsylvania conducts four statewide competitions — Fall Festival, Winter Games, Indoor Winter Games, and Summer Games.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania offers training and competition in the following events:


Aquatics (Swimming)

Athletics (Track & Field)








Long Distance Running/Walking


Roller Skating



Alpine Skiing


Cross Country Skiing

Figure Skating

Floor Hockey

Speed Skating

Snow Shoeing


Flag Football



The Special Olympics experience fills a critical need in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and the demonstration of competence to themselves, their families and the community. Athletes learn developmental and life skills as the benefits of participation translate beyond sports, helping them to live more independent and rewarding lives. Special Olympics also provides a positive venue for families, volunteers, and donors to become part of a caring community, and to become involved in the movement.
  • Sports opportunities for all ability levels
  • Divisioning for equitable competition (sports separation by ability)
  • Awards for all participants
  • Random draw for advancement to higher levels of competition
  • No fees charged to athletes or family members
Special Olympics Pennsylvania is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that raises the funds through the generosity of individuals, companies, and foundations.