Since 1970, Special Olympics Kentucky has helped people with intellectual disabilities build confidence, increase self-esteem and develop physical fitness with its year-round program of sports training and competition. In addition to experiencing the joy of sports, through Special Olympics competition athletes learn teamwork, how to work with a coach, how to handle adversity and success and how to work to improve their skills -- all life skills that they take with them off the field, court or track and into their schools and their jobs. In a very real way, Special Olympics helps people with intellectual disabilities develop the skills they need to build better, more independent lives.
Special Olympics Kentucky currently offers training and competition in 15 sports statewide that lead to 10 State Level events, including our State Summer Games, which draw more than 1,300 athletes to Richmond, Ky., each year.
If sports were all we did, that would be quite an accomplishment; however, in the 45 years since the first Special Olympics International Games in Chicago, we have become so much more than that.
Through our Healthy Athletes Initiatives, Special Olympics Kentucky provides medical screenings for our athletes and others with intellectual disabilities at events like our State Summer Games and MedFest Health Fairs, providing vision, dental, hearing, foot health and physical therapy screenings -- and during MedFests sports physicals. Many Healthy Athletes programs also provide immediate solutions for our athletes' needs -- things like free glasses and basic dental care.
Our Young Athletes Program provides early childhood services for children 2- to 7-years-old with intellectual disabilities who are too young for traditional Special Olympics Sports competitions. Young Athletes Programs provide social and motor skills training activities that help prepare the Young Athletes for future Special Olympics participation. The Young Athletes Program encourages the involvement of parents and siblings in the activities, making it an excellent way for families to explore and celebrate their child's abilities together. The program can be adapted for any sized group from two Young Athletes to several dozen and Young Athlete Programs can be held nearly anywhere.
The Special Olympics Project Unify Initiative is a youth-driven program that helps prevent bullying and promotes inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities at the school level. From promoting an end to the "R-word" with Spread the Word to End the Word Days to Unified Sports Leagues, Project Unify is helping to bring students with and without intellectual disabilities together to show that we are all much more similar than we are different.
Currently Special Olympics Kentucky serves more than 6,600 athletes and their families throughout the state of Kentucky.