Special Olympics Florida held its annual Champions’ Gala, presented by Publix, at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Award-winning news anchors for WESH 2 News, Jim Payne and Meredith McDonough hosted the event celebrating the organization’s 45th anniversary with a special performance by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Cheap Trick’s lead vocalist Robin Zander. Additional guests included U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings, Orange County Sherriff Jerry Demings, professional basketball player for the Orlando Magic Aaron Gordon, and more.
Florida is widely known across the globe for its more than 600 beautiful beaches, and the athletes of Special Olympics Florida love enjoying sports that the coastlines uniquely offer. Surfing is a fast-growing sport for Special Olympics Florida, and thanks to grants from Surfing’s Evolution and Preservation Foundation, several counties are able to have surfing programs for the first time this year or expand their current programs.
Special Olympics Florida has heroes and champions on and off the field. We have lost one of the most precious assets our organization has ever had — Hall of Fame Member, Vi Payton.
As soon as I was welcomed into this great organization, I was introduced to an abundance of opportunities. My story began in Miami where I had the privilege to work and spend my days with students in the Miami Learning Experience, a school that offers education programs for people with developmental disabilities. Students here are able to participate in Special Olympics Florida sports and programs as part of their physical education.
Special Olympics Florida Director for Leon County, Bridget Hawk, never fails to be inspired by the exceptional people in her life who happen to have a disability – including her oldest son, Shaun.
July 20th represents Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day. In 1962, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver began inviting young people with intellectual disabilities to a summer day camp she hosted in her backyard. She called it “Camp Shriver.” The goal was to explore the children’s skills in a variety of sports and physical activities. That first Camp Shriver grew into what is now known as Special Olympics, a global movement that serves more than 4.9 million athletes. Today, Camp Shriver is still an integral part of our program using sports as a vehicle to bring children with and without disabilities together so that they have the opportunity to develop their motor and social skills, create positive peer relationships and make new friends.
Special Olympics Florida athlete Gregg Dedic rises early for swim practice before work, but he’s not headed to the pool – he’s off to swim in a lake. Gregg is a star Special Olympics athlete and pioneer in the fast-growing sport of open water swimming. Read More
Attending the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria was one of the most amazing Special Olympics experiences in my 43 years of being involved with the organization. Meeting athletes, families, and volunteers from around the world renewed my faith in humanity. Everyone I met talked about how Special Olympics has had a positive impact on their lives.
What started as a simple interaction and discussion about leadership between Tampa Bay Buccaneers star quarterback Jameis Winston and Special Olympics Florida athlete Jacob Sare, quickly turned into a moment of a lifetime for several dozen Special Olympics athletes.
It spread through the crowd like wildfire: “Can you hear it?” The “it” was the distant sound of sirens. This sound can often provoke unsettling emotions in people, but this time, it sent 4,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, and spectators into a state of nearly unbearable anticipation.