As December 31st draws near, it is clear this has been a year of transformational impact for Special Olympics Florida. Our athletes are succeeding on and off the playing field and have a bigger stage than ever to showcase their abilities. Here are just a few of the highlights from 2016.
We began 2016 with 31,779 athletes and are ending with more than 37,551 athletes – a 21% increase. This includes:
- Unified Champion Schools – 116 schools strong and 11 colleges
- Young Athletes – surpassed the 10,000 mark and will actually end above 11,000!
Special Olympics Florida also:
- Formed the first ever Sports Advisory Council – featuring all of Florida’s major league sports teams’ CEOs and presidents
- Created and implemented new transition programs – Little ELITES and intramural leagues with our Special Olympics Florida college programs
- Pioneered new opportunities – open water swim and stand up paddle triathlon
- Increased total competition participation statewide (area, county, and state level) by 8% from 2015
- Expanded the footprint of health services across the state – engaging more than 2,200 medical professionals and 20 colleges/universities
- Brought on new county programs – Hendry, Jefferson, Franklin, Holmes, Suwanee, Levy, Madison, and Highlands
- As athletes have taken on new roles in their communities, Athlete Leadership has expanded and been a fundamental part of Special Olympics Florida’s goal of inclusion and respect for all people
- Unprecedented news coverage and meaningful engagement of volunteers
- Officially kicked off our individual giving program
- Added new team members to our organization – while maintaining a balanced operating budget!
I am grateful and honored to have so many Champions by my side, brave in the attempt, making all of this possible. Thank you to all the athletes, coaches, volunteers, sponsors, staff, and many more who helped make 2016 a record-breaking year.
As we move into our 45th year, we look forward to all 2017 has to offer. We are setting even higher goals and hope to have an even greater impact for people with intellectual disabilities.
Thank you again to all who are part of the Special Olympics Florida community. We hope you have a joy-filled holiday!
Written by: Sherry Wheelock, President and CEO, Special Olympics Florida