Families are the No. 1 fans of our Special Olympics athletes. They give the type of love, support and encouragement that no one else can. Special Olympics is a support network that brings families together in a caring, positive way — and that makes the cheers for the athletes even louder.

Strong bond

Volunteer in your loved one's athletic training. At Special Olympics competitions, family members are among friends — and feel at home. They watch with pride as their child, sibling, cousin, grandchild, aunt or uncle find success and joy.

Match up

Share ideas, issues and common interests with other families. Among people who really understand, even family members can be unaware of all that their child or relative with an intellectual disability can do.

Be an advocate

Families are also an essential link to the community and wider support for our movement. By joining the Family Support Network, becoming a volunteer, and leading the expansion of Young Athletes, Special Olympics family members can really make a difference.



For more information, please contact Melissa Erdmann at merdmann@sosc.org or 562.502.1122.

Stories from our families




Donna Wilson

Special Olympics parent and Healthy Athletes
from Santa Clarita Valley & Tri-Valley

What does Special Olympics mean to our family?
Special Olympics have been a part of our family’s life since 1999. My husband and I have five children, three of them we adopted as babies and they have Down Syndrome. Our older two boys were very active in sports and we wanted our younger children to have the same opportunity but quickly found that the secular sports programs were not as welcoming as we would like, so we sought out Special Olympics. It did not take long before the entire family became a part of the Special Olympics Program. Over the years both our older boys volunteered for various Special Olympic activities and sports programs and our oldest is currently the golf coach. My husband and I have always been part of the Coaching team and have worked hard to help raise funds and awareness within the community. Special Olympics is important to our family because it is a place that we can find families such as ours, families that understand our joys and our tears, and families that have become our lifelong friends. Our three athletes really enjoy their Special Olympics family and are willing to share how important it is to them wherever they go. Special Olympics have positively challenged our children physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways that they would not have been challenged, and for that I am grateful. “What does Special Olympics mean to our family?” It means fulfillment, our lives are filled with fun, our lives are filled with challenging activities, but most of all our lives are filled with people who care about us as much we care about them; our lives our filled with our Special Olympics “Family.”

How did Healthy Athletes Change My Daughters Life?
While attending Southern California Special Olympics State and Fall games through the years I have noticed the growth and support of the Healthy Athletes Program, being a very involved parent, who takes her children to many Doctors appointments, I would look at the Healthy Athlete program as a good idea for those who may not get the needed medical attention they should. Boy was I humbled at this last fall games. My daughter Vanessa had been showing signs of becoming far sighted and I told another coach that Vanessa is difficult to test so if they have healthy eyes I would like them to test her vision, I thought that they would be the best prepared to test someone with intellectual disabilities. We waited in the very long line and Vanessa did the first stage of the eye tests with some of the other athletes, at the end of the initial screening a very nice gentleman said that he would like to further test Vanessa at the inner station but the wait time was almost 2 hours, he suggested I please bring her back first thing the next day and they will test her and our other athletes. Not expecting anything I agreed and although the next day was busy I took her back. To the best of their testing at the temporary facility they informed me that it appeared Vanessa may have cataracts and that her eye sight is very bad. They said she appears to be extremely near and far sighted and that I should take her to an ophthalmologist for further examination as soon as I can, I was shocked and felt horrible as a mother. Vanessa did see an ophthalmologist and because of Healthy Athletes it was discovered that my daughter needs to be taken to Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA because her corneas are failing and my baby needs both corneas replaced. Because Vanessa has had so many medical issues she learns to adapt and apparently that is what she was doing as her vision was failing. Had Healthy Athletes not alerted me to a problem Vanessa’s vision would have just completely and rapidly deteriorated. This entire experience humbled me as a woman, a coach and mostly as a mom. We can provide our children with the best we have but sometimes the best we have is the other people in our lives that are there to help us like Special Olympics and the Healthy Athlete’s program. I can’t wait to see my daughter hit a softball because she tries so hard to do it and now I know the reason she can’t is because she can’t see it. Thank you Healthy Athletes for changing my daughter’s life, because of the program my daughter will one day see clearly and be able to experience the Special Olympics programs she loves so much in a whole new light.


Paul Hoffman has competed in Special Olympics for more than 30 years and is passionate about the changes sports have made in his life. Not only has athletics made him a healthier person, but it has given him more self-confidence and a sense of pride.

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