Special Olympics Rhode Island

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Our Story


The Special Olympics concept was born in the early 1960’s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for children with intellectual disabilities. She observed the great joy campers experienced when playing sports, and resolved to create a program that meets physical fitness needs and boosts self-esteem. The Rhode Island Chapter of Special Olympics was established in 1968 and has served thousands of athletes and their families ever since.
Special Olympics Rhode Island (SORI) serves over 4,000 athletes, all Rhode Islanders with intellectual disabilities. Our athletes are of all ages, from age 2 to 77. Along with the athletes, Special Olympics provides involvement and support to family members and/or caregivers, along with hundreds of volunteers from high schools, colleges and companies from around the state.
Special Olympics Rhode Island is one of the most dynamic programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities; providing over 1,600 year-round sports training and athletic competitions for more than 4,000 athletes and hosting over 40 local, regional, and statewide tournaments and competitions each year in 20 official and demonstration sports. Special Olympics Rhode Island also has a Unified Sports Program, a Motor Activities Training Program, Young Athletes Program (for children under age 8), Healthy Athletes Program and the Sargent Shriver Global Messenger Program. Our Unified Champion Schools Program is in EVERY RI Public High School, most public Middle Schools and a growing number of Elementary Schools.
When Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968, she proclaimed that no athlete will pay to participate. SORI has stayed true to this policy and do not charge a registration or participation fee. SORI relies on the generosity and support of corporations, foundations and individuals to meet the organizational expenses. Though part of the international Special Olympics, SORI is independently operated and funded.

The mission of Special Olympics Rhode Island is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children 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.

Get Involved


You can impact Special Olympics Rhode Island by joining our Footprints journey and by becoming a fundraiser. Join a campaign and download the Charity Footprints' free mobile fitness application and #GetFitGiveBack.

Contact Information


Special Olympics Rhode Island
Special Olympics Rhode Island
370 George Washington Highway, Smithfield RI 02917