Special Olympics is a global non-profit organisation that provides more than 4 million athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports.
It gives them the opportunity to demonstrate courage, develop physical fitness, as well as the sharing of skills, joy and friendship with not only their families and other athletes, but also with the community.
Their mission is to create a better world by fostering acceptance and inclusion of all people through focusing on what adults and children with intellectual disabilities can do in sports and other activities, rather than dwelling on what they can't.
The Bible says we should"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6 verse 2) and though this isn't a Christian organisation, it just shows how the power of Christ can work through people to reach those who are in need of love and care. Proverbs 3 verse 27 states,"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it."
An organisation such as Special Olympics work on a donation basis, yet they work for the good of others, they work to recognise and encourage those who feel hopeless and forgotten.
Through challenging destructive stereotypes and negative thinking about people with intellectual disabilities, they are empowering not only those individuals with the intellectual disabilities, but opening the eyes of every nation to the power of sport and the ability and greatness of each of these individuals.
A veteran sports reporter from the last Special Olympics World Games said, "If greatness can be seen as overcoming obstacles with determination and heart, then there was a whole lot of greatness at the World Summer Games."
Special Olympics also offer initiatives such as 'Healthy Athletes', which provide health-care services to Special Olympic athletes around the world. The program includes free vision, hearing and dental screening, injury prevention clinics and nutrition education.
The testimonies about Healthy Athletes and Special Olympics in general just show what an empowering organisation it is. Working with hundreds of thousands of volunteers and coaches each year, they bring together those who are most vulnerable - those often ignored, neglected and excluded from society - and use the transformative power of sports to help these athletes to believe in themselves and have acceptance.
The newest arena for our athletes will be in Australia, where the first-ever Asia Pacific Regional Games will be held in December 2013 in New South Wales, and then later in Melbourne in October 2014.
Annemarie de Villiers is studying sports science and has a dream to be a sports scientist for a professional club. Born in South Africa, raised in New Zealand and tertiary professionally qualified in Melbourne Australia.
Annmarie de Villers previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/annemarie-de-villiers.html