Special Olympics has announced a three-year, $10 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in support of the organization's efforts to forge stronger youth engagement and transform educational systems globally through inclusive sport.
On the eve of Special Olympics' fiftieth anniversary, the organization has worked with SNF to create the Play Unified. Learn Unified model, which is designed to increase access and opportunity to school-based inclusive sports and education programming. To help address the needs of a community that comprises approximately 3 percent to 4 percent of the global population, the model will introduce Special Olympics Unified Sports and Unified Schools programming to more communities worldwide and establish new and lasting inclusive policies around sports and education. Focus countries for the partnership include Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Serbia, Chinese Taipei, and Tanzania.
Globally, the partnership will work to expand the reach and impact of in-school and inclusive sports programming, resulting in approximately two thousand new "unified" schools for the movement — schools that have active inclusive sports and advocacy programs for students of all ability levels. In addition, the partnership will train more than twenty thousand coaches to further develop the model.
"The support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is coming at a critical time as we witness and experience a world that is a divided place," said Special Olympics chair Timothy Shriver. "Attitudes of mass destruction are tearing communities apart. But we know first-hand how the Special Olympics experience — and our athletes — bring people together in ways that erase the lines of division. When we Play Unified and Learn Unified, we see dramatic transformation of school climates into academic settings of welcome and integration, something the world desperately needs right now. The Special Olympics movement is incredibly grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for recognizing the power of our athletes' message, and the vision of a generation truly unified."