Special Olympics Southern California -San Diego County region joined Live Well San Diego as a recognized partner on May 19, 2018. Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, based on her belief that individuals with intellectual disabilities could excel through involvement in sports. Mrs. Shriver's powerful message encouraged Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson to establish a California chapter in 1969. Special Olympics San Diego County region (SOSD) is one of nine regions in Special Olympics Southern California, the umbrella agency for all programs located in the southern half of the State of California. The local San Diego Regional Office serves nearly 3,000 athletes and provides 11 Olympic-style sports for participants to compete in.
SOSD programs cater to each phase of an individual’s life. Young Athletes provides children 2-7 years old a fun environment to practice motor skills, coordination, and social skills. Their Schools Program collaborates with local schools to provide children in special education classes in elementary, middle, and high schools access to sports training and competition. Their Community Program provides individuals with an intellectual disability ages 8 years and older with opportunities to practice and compete in 11 different Olympic-type sports throughout the year.
In addition to their sports programs, SOSD provides programs that address athletes’ overall health, as well as leadership development programs to give them important life-skills. Team Wellness teaches athletes about nutrition, how to read labels, healthy cooking, and the importance of regular exercise. Finally, the Athlete Leadership Program gives athletes a voice within the organization, both by training them to become public speakers to educate the community on behalf of the movement, and with the Athlete Input Council, which provides insights on athlete needs.