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About Special Olympics of South Dakota

Our Mission

The Mission of Special Olympics South Dakota is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children (8 years and older) and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Our Philosophy

Special Olympics is founded on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports.

Special Olympics believes that consistent training is essential to the development of sports skills, and that competition among those of equal abilities is the most appropriate means of testing these skills, measuring progress and providing incentives for personal growth.

Special Olympics believes that through sports training and competition, people with intellectual disabilities benefit physically, mentally, socially and spiritually; families are strengthened; and the community at large, both through participation and observation, is united in understanding people with intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.

Our Vision

Special Olympics is an unprecedented global movement which, through quality sports training and competition, improves the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and, in turn, the lives of everyone they touch.


Special Olympics South Dakota, Inc. is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization which is not part of the United Way, federal, or state governments. All funding comes from caring individuals, businesses, organizations, and corporations.

Our History

The concept of Special Olympics began in the early 1960’s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disabilities. In 1968, Mrs. Shriver organized the First International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. From Chicago, the excitement spread to South Dakota, where in 1968 the 1st Annual Special Olympics South Dakota Summer Games were held with 125 athletes participating.

The Spirit of Special Olympics

On her way to the Opening Ceremonies of the first Special Olympics World Games, Eunice Kennedy Shriver wrote the final draft to an athlete oath. In front of the many spectators and visitors, Shriver memorably opened the Games with these words:

"In ancient Rome, the gladiators went into the arena with these words on their lips: 'Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.' Today, all of you young athletes are in the arena. Many of you will win, but even more important, I know you will be brave, and bring credit to your parents and to your country. Let us begin the Olympics. Thank you."

Eunice Kennedy celebrates with an athlete at the third Special Olympics Games. UCLA, California. 1972.