Special Olympics Nebraska is a non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect across the state.
From Special Olympics Nebraska’s beginnings over 40 years ago, we have grown from a few hundred athletes to over 5,000 athletes, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics Nebraska is active in over 110 communities statewide and can be found in hundreds of classrooms through our Project Unify and Young Athletes Program initiatives.
Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship.
An athlete who embodies the best of Special Olympics Nebraska is Jason from Ogallala.
Jason’s early years before joining Special Olympics are marked by horrific abuse. At the age of 13 months, he was beaten, strangled and poisoned. He only weighed 13 pounds when he was placed in protective custody. His intellectual disability is a result of this shocking abuse. He was adopted at 3 years old by an amazing couple who were willing to show him the love and care he never knew. In school, Jason struggled with a developmental delay, ADD and a mild mental handicap. Things we take for granted, like reading and participating in class, never came easy for him.
Jason was encouraged to play sports by his parents and came to Special Olympics Nebraska when he was in the 9th grade. The change in Jason’s life was immediate. Rather than being picked last and keeping to himself out of fear of messing up, Jason finally felt he belonged on the team. He told us, “Once I started competing, everything seemed to fall into place. I gained confidence. I felt stronger. I was able to prove myself. But more importantly, I made a lot of lifelong friends.”
Jason’s favorite sport was basketball. On the court, he was free. Off the court, his parents noticed his involvement in Special Olympics Nebraska was affecting other aspects of his life. He was doing better in school and carried himself with a new self-confidence. Jason finally had friends who understood him like no one else could.
Now, Jason is thriving. Jason is more than a player these days, he is a leader. Jason is a Special Olympics Global Messenger and has shared his inspirational story with a national audience. He mentors other athletes and has served as the athlete voice on the Special Olympics Nebraska board of directors. Jason recently told us, “Looking back on my life, with everything that I know and was told, I’m glad things turned out the way they did. Without my mom and dad, I wouldn’t have this story. And without Special Olympics, I wouldn’t have a place to tell it.”
Jason is just one example of the power of sports that Special Olympics Nebraska provides to over 5,000 intellectually disabled Nebraskans everyday.