10 February 2014 - THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS


G'day folks,

Welcome to a feature on some exceptional people - THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS. Through the power of sport, Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people especially those with an intellectual disability.


The global mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with an intellectual disability, 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.  

 Special Olympics has grown from a backyard camp into a global movement that allows people with an intellectual disability to achieve their personal best through sport.


Special Olympics started as a backyard camp and grew into a global movement that has been transforming the lives of people with an intellectual disability for over 40 years.

The Special Olympics movement was pioneered by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver whose sister Rosemary had an intellectual disability. Mrs Shriver knew first-hand that people with an intellectual disability were far more capable and deserving then people thought. So, in 1962 she invited 75 children with an intellectual disability into her backyard offering them a chance to explore their talents through sport.

Called Camp Shriver, this backyard activity soon turned into 40 camps across the US. Today, Mrs Shriver’s work spans the globe. On a worldwide basis, Special Olympics now serves over four million athletes in more than 170 countries with a volunteer network delivering over 44,000 competitions annually.

Special Olympics Australia is a not-for-profit organisation which was established in 1976.

Special Olympics Australia is delighted to have the support of our Patron and a group of dedicated ambassadors who proudly donate their time to raise awareness of the organisation and bring a smile to the faces of our athletes.

Peter Overton

Respected Channel Nine journalist Peter Overton has been an active ambassador of Special Olympics Australia since 2001. Peter is a regular at Special Olympics events and says, ‘Special Olympics is a great organisation that makes a difference to the lives of so many people. I'm always inspired by the achievements of the athletes, amazed at the skills of my fellow volunteers and proud of the great sponsors and donors that share their support. I am really pleased to have found a rewarding role at Special Olympics and I hope more people do too.’

Duncan Armstrong

Duncan Armstrong became a household name with an upset win in the 200m freestyle at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. It was Australia's 100th Olympic swimming medal. Since retiring from international swimming Duncan has enjoyed careers in television and radio, motivational speaking, endorsements and corporate partnerships. He is a big fan of Special Olympics Australia and says, 'The only athletes truly competing for the love of sport are found at Special Olympics.'

Rachel Ward

Rachel Ward has starred in a number of Australian and international films, but today she channels her experience into writing and directing. Rachel is perhaps best known for her adaptation and directing of Beautiful Kate, which was nominated for 10 AFI Awards and invited for screening at both the Sydney and Toronto Film Festivals. Rachel was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for raising awareness of social justice for disadvantaged and at-risk young people.

Jarryd Hayne

Rugby league legend Jarryd Hayne joined Special Olympics Australia as a national ambassador in 2010. He wants to encourage people with an intellectual disability to get involved in sport, overcome their obstacles and achieve their best and Special Olympics Australia is very proud to have him on board. (Photo courtesy of Action Photos)

Paula Duncan

Renowned Australian actress, and great community supporter, Paula Duncan has been a committed ambassador for Special Olympics Australia since 2008. She is also a hit with Special Olympics athletes who can’t wait to get a photo with the star. Of her involvement with Special Olympics she says, ‘I have worked with people with an intellectual disability for many years and one of the most innovative programs is Special Olympics, which allows them to participate, compete and join the community in a very real sense and I am right behind these everyday heroes every step of the way.’

Damien Leith

Damien Leith joined Special Olympics as an ambassador in 2006, soon after winning Australian Idol, much to the delight of the many Special Olympics athletes who love to dance along to his tunes! Damien first got involved in Special Olympics in 2003 when the World Games was held in his native Ireland. He says, ‘I want to help add value to the lives of people with an intellectual disability.’

Amber Lawrence

Amber Lawrence is a talented and award-winning singer/songwriter with a passion for helping Special Olympics athletes who inspire her. Amber has been involved with Special Olympics Australia for over five years and In 2012, she dedicated her song TRY as the theme song for the Junior National Games where she performed at the Opening Ceremony.

Jim Maxwell

Jim Maxwell is the most experienced cricket commentator on the ABC having covered hundreds of Test Matches. He is also a committed Special Olympics ambassador who has inspired athletes with his tales. He says, ‘I’m happy to share my time with other lovers of sport...and Special Olympics athletes love sport and all the benefits it brings. It’s a fantastic community program that just happens to include cricket!’

Craig Wing

Former Australian rugby league player Craig Wing joined Special Olympics in 2008. Craig says, ‘I'm really excited to be involved as services for people with an intellectual disability is something that's very real for me. I'm looking forward to raising awareness and showing that these people can accomplish amazing things. I admire Special Olympics athletes for their courage and enjoy being on their team.’

Renae Camino

Renae Camino is the envy of many Special Olympics basketball players who have followed her every move since she joined Special Olympics in 2008. Of her role Renae says, ‘I have experienced the great work that Special Olympics does through a close friend of mine, and I have watched firsthand the achievements and success that these athletes can reach. I just hope more athletes have the opportunity to get involved.’

Ashley Ona

Golfer, Ashley Ona has an impressive lists of awards and accolades in a the sport that she began playing at age 7. According to Ashley, 'I've always loved being outdoors and participating in sport. I am so passionate about the game of golf that I want to help others get involved and that's why I am working with Special Olympics athletes.'

Laurie Lawrence

Laurie Lawrence, a top athlete in his own right, is a former Australian Rugby Union Representative and Olympic and World Champion Swim coach. Laurie played a huge part in Australia’s success at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the Sydney 2000 Olympics as one of the Australian team motivators. Laurie has spoken at many Special Olympics events and continues to be an inspiration to all our athletes. (Bio courtesy laurielawrence.com.au)


Tahir is an actor, director, producer and MC. He is one of Australia’s busiest comedians, has been a feature in all comedy venues around the country and had numerous television appearances as credits. Tahir was voted comic of the year in 1996, and has been involved in some of Australia's most popular television programs including 'Fat Pizza' and 'Housos'. Along with Rob Shehadie, Tahir hosts many Special Olympics fundraising events, including the popular Laugh Out Loud Comedy Breakfast in Sydney. (Bio courtesy tahir.com.au)

Rob Shehadie

Rob Shehadie is a popular actor, writer, comedian and MC. He has starred in the hit TV comedy 'Fat Pizza', including the FAT PIZZA movie, which broke box office records around Australia. Rob has toured the country with several stage show comedies and made hundreds of appearances at schools, nightclubs and charity events. Along with Tahir, Rob hosts many Special Olympics fundraising events, including the popular Laugh Out Loud Comedy Breakfast in Sydney. (Bio courtesy robshehadie.com)

Maria Venuti

With a dynamic singing voice, Maria Venuti AM has made her career as a performer, actor and entertainer highly successful. As one of this country’s leading performers, Maria has played in every major cabaret venue around Australia, New Zealand, the Far East, Japan as well as entertaining our ‘boys’ in the Sinai Desert. Maria is often seen supporting our athletes at fundraising events and is passionate about the Special Olympics movement. (Bio courtesy mariavenuti.com.au)

Michael & Simone Ennis

Michael Ennis is a representative rugby league player and current captain of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs NRL club. Michael has played 170 first grade games and represented NSW on 4 occassions. Michael and his wife Simone are commonly at Special Olympics fundraising events and lead the way in promoting the Special Olympics movement through sporting avenues.

Iva Davies

The iconic Australian band ICEHOUSE was formed by Iva Davies, the front man and musical creative force who lead the band to an amazing 28 platinum records, eight top 10 albums and over thirty top 40 singles. Beyond ICEHOUSE Iva still continues to showcase his musical skills for films, ballet, television and special events. The Special Olympics community has the privilege to witness Iva perform at many events. (Bio & photo courtesy icehouse-ivadavies.com)

John Foreman

John Foreman is a musical director, pianist and composer, plus is a well-recognised face on Australian television. John wrote The Flame, which was performed by Tina Arena and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Opening Ceremony. His compositions have also been performed by artists such as Vanessa Amorosi and Jose Carreras. John attends and performs at many Special Olympics events and is the creative director of the 2013 Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games Opening Ceremony. (Bio & photo courtesy johnforeman.com.au)

 Five Key Principles

Advance quality sports and competitions
Build community partnerships
Connect fans and funds
Develop a strong leadership and volunteer culture
Establish sustainable capabilities

 Measures of Success

- 10,000 participating athletes
- 4,500 registered volunteers
- New major partnerships
- Strong Healthy Athletes program
- Lively Athlete Leadership Programs
- Diverse income streams
- Sponsorship increase
- Strong volunteer culture
- Increased brand awareness
- Reduced operating costs


Special Olympics would not exist today without the commitment and enthusiasm of the volunteers who give their time to the organisation. We rely on volunteers at all levels of the movement and our volunteer pool is dedicated and diverse. While some offer an afternoon, many enjoy the Special Olympics family so much they volunteer for a lifetime.  

No matter what commitment you can offer, you are welcome to join Special Olympics and experience the joy of making a positive impact on the lives of people with an intellectual disability.

Special Olympics is about transforming lives, including your own. It’s about a spirit of giving and teamwork. It's about making your community and neighborhood a more welcoming and accepting place for people of all abilities. It’s also about creating lifelong friendships and finding a new way of thinking about others. 

Our volunteers include the local coach who works with athletes many times a week, to the people who help organise and plan a World Games, to the photographer who captures athletes in action at competition events, to the executive who volunteers on behalf of their company a couple times a year.

Generally there are three types of volunteers at Special Olympics Australia:
- regular volunteers who contribute to a weekly, local program
- major event volunteers
- corporate volunteers

Special Olympics Australia have built a strong culture of volunteering and leadership and we offer support and development opportunities for our volunteer members, many of whom see the smiles on the athletes faces as their reward. Click on the link below for more information.

Clancy's comment: I've seen many videos of the Special Olympics. No wonder they call these olympians special. They are inspiring.

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