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Special Olympics, ESPN celebrate Top 5 Unified champion schools for 2019


2019 Honor Roll

The ESPN Top 5 for 2019

ESPN reveals its top five schools of 2019 as part of its Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program.


Special Olympics - 2019 Top 5 ESPN Honor Roll

ESPN is recognizing the top five schools of 2019 as part of its Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program. See who made the cut here.

50 Game Changers

Celebrating 50 years of Special Olympics

Meet Kayla McKeon, a lobbyist with Down Syndrome

Kayla McKeon works in Washington, D.C. to get bills passed on behalf of those with Down syndrome -- and she's making an incredible impact.


Perkins-Hawkins relationship epitomizes message of inclusion

Former NBA star Sam Perkins and Special Olympics track-and-field medalist Rodney Hawkins -- childhood friends who grew up together in Brooklyn -- reunited to support Special Olympics.


Sign the Inclusion Pledge and choose to include

The first Special Olympics Games debuted in the summer of 1968, and now 50 years later, we encourage you to #ChooseToInclude people with intellectual disabilities.

Game Changers

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Karen Ryan passing on a love of sports to her daughter Violet

When Karen Ryan's daughter was born with Down syndrome, she wanted to share her passion for running, and Special Olympics Young Athletes gave her the opportunity to do just that.


Special Olympics gold medalist eyes 2020 Paralympics

After winning two gold medals at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, Jonny Pierce is training to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.


Brady among athletes involved in Best Buddies Challenge

The two-day Best Buddies Challenge event brings athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities together with stars such as New England Patriots Tom Brady and Julian Edelman for football, food and fun.


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'I make my own journey in CO/LAB'

CO/LAB Theater Group in Brooklyn, New York, partners with Special Olympics to encourage actors of all abilities to find their voices.


Changing a culture of inequality in Saudi Arabia

Twenty-four Saudi women competed at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, helping to alter deep-rooted repression against women and people with intellectual disabilities back home.


The girl who benefited from being included

High school freshman Jackie Paisano, who is severely impacted by her disability, needed someone to believe in her. She found that in classmate and Special Olympics Unified partner Phillip Dilosa.


From the archives

The real and authentic Spencer Roberson

Twenty-three years ago, Spencer Roberson's parents chose equine therapy for their autistic son, and that decision set in motion a story few would have thought possible.


Law enforcement steps up for Special Olympics

Since 1981, law enforcement members have been the guardians of the Special Olympics flame. Today, they carry it to all local, national and world events in a torch run.


Meet Robert De Niro's son Elliot

When Elliot De Niro's parents put a tennis racket in his hands, they never imagined the profound effect it would make on their son and those around him.


special olympics

Kenmore Middle School: An ESPN Top 5 School


ICYMI: Game Changers

The Rock's rock: Special Olympics weightlifter Milton Rosen

Dwayne Johnson reflects on his childhood friend Milton Rosen and the impact the Special Olympics athlete had on the lives of him and his family.


Special Olympics helps free teenager from isolation

Special Olympics helped save 16-year-old Niyibikora Malachie, who has an intellectual disability, from physical confinement, and now the young man is sharing his passion for soccer and track in his own words.


Rosa's Law a story of inspiration and determination

In 2009, Rosa Marcellino and her family set out to abolish the 'R' word once and for all. The enactment of Rosa's Law was the culmination of their efforts.


From the World Games

A blind photographer's road to the Special Olympics World Games

A stroke left Special Olympics athlete David Jensen legally blind. Now he has just finished up shooting photos at the World Games in Abu Dhabi, his largest sports competition yet.

Watch to Watch

World Games

A dream come true for Nette Tuominen

For Nette Tuominen, the journey from her home in Finland to the grand stage of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games took 13 years of hard work. And now it's all paying off.


Daimi Aza Rodriquez, the gymnast with potential

The early years were difficult for Puerto Rico's Daimi Aza Rodriquez, but she found focus though Special Olympics.




To belong, the opening to the Special Olympics World Games

Gwendoline Christie welcomes the world to the United Arab Emirates for a global celebration of acceptance and inclusion achieved through athletic competition.


stories from great britain

World Games

The friendship that changed Erin Green's life forever

Born profoundly deaf, Special Olympics swimmer Erin Green doesn't trust anyone but her coach to guide her during important races. And that trust extends outside of the pool, too.

Great Britain's Kiera Byland lives for bicycle racing

The distance Great Britain's Kiera Byland has come on a bicycle pales in comparison to the distance she has come off of it.


Special Olympics World Games

Voices: Every day is Thanksgiving for Mallory Morris

For one track and field star headed to the Special Olympics World Games, the list of challenges pales in comparison with the list of things she's grateful for.

Special Olympics athletes prepare for World Games

Omar Al Shami and many other Special Olympics athletes look to showcase their skills in the upcoming World Games in Abu Dhabi.


Stories of triumph

World Games

An angel found her wings

Abandoned as a baby, Michelle "Angel" Athenas has an innate ability to survive, and now she's thriving as a Special Olympics powerlifter -- with the gold medals to prove it.


A new way of life for Khadija Sy

When Senegal's Khadija Sy discovered Special Olympics, it changed her life. "She's confident, she has friends, she's doing what she wants," says her mother.


Special Olympics coach Mary Roberts is all in

For Mary Roberts, the Arizona Unified basketball team is a second family -- and the athletes she coaches agree. "She's like a second mother," says Jeffrey Anthony, a Unified basketball player.


World Games: Previews

Competing in Abu Dhabi a dream come true for Harmon

For 37-year-old Jon Harmon, the bowling alley has always been "his place," and he will be taking his talents to the upcoming World Games.


Myers excited to represent United States at World Games

Competing in power lifting, Josh Myers will be representing the United States in the upcoming World Games.


ICYMI: Game Changers

Snowboarders Teter, Shilts share unbreakable bond


Unified Sports brings people together from all walks of life

Stephanie McMahon tells the story of Unified Sports from its beginnings to its international reach today.


Bogucki is a one-of-a-kind athlete

Bree Bogucki, a track athlete for Tennessee Wesleyan, travels and serves in her capacity as a Special Olympics Global Messenger.


special olympics

Special Olympics athlete makes emotional par


Loretta is a Game Changer

The power of being Loretta Claiborne

Growing up, Loretta Claiborne heard every kind of insult about her intellectual disability. But the former Special Olympics athlete-turned-advocate didn't allow the bullying to define her life.

Loretta Claiborne making her voice count

For more than 40 years, Loretta Claiborne has been a voice for people with intellectual disabilities. She has traveled the world as an ambassador for change, but her voice has not always been heard.


Catch up on Game Changers

Life lessons produce delicious results in Denver pizzeria

The Special Olympics commemorates its 50th anniversary and has evolved into a global force for inclusion, extending to a pizza place in Denver.


Kester Edwards, a man with a vision

An accident changed Kester Edwards' life and changed the world of Special Olympics by bringing the sport of open water swimming to the event.


Kellis High School making impact with Unified Sports

Kellis High School's Unified Sports, a Special Olympics program aimed at creating inclusion between students with and without intellectual disabilities, has created a whole generation of students who have experienced the benefits of the program.


'A Very Special Christmas' all about the Special Olympics

Artists from "A Very Special Christmas" discuss how the partnership with the Special Olympics came about.


stories to remember

50 Game Changers

How one woman changed Senegal's view on intellectual disabilities

Rajah Diouri Sy's daughter Khadija was born with Down syndrome, but through their involvement in the Special Olympics, they are breaking down the stigma around intellectual disabilities.


Making the world a better place

50 Game Changers

Ken Melvin more than just a Special Olympics athlete

Ken Melvin dreamed of serving his country in the military, but because of his intellectual disability, he couldn't pass the test to get in. With the help of Special Olympics and his family, he gained the confidence and support he needed to try again.


Actor McGinley a parent with a megaphone

Three high-profile parents with the personal experience of raising a child with an intellectual disability are sharing a larger game-changing message of acceptance and understanding with sports as an integral component.


Mohapatra making life-changing difference with swimming

Arpita Mohapatra has made it her personal mission to give swim lessons to as many people as she can, especially those with intellectual disabilities.


More to watch

Healthy Athletes helping people with intellectual disabilities

A healthcare program founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Dr. Steve Perlman over 20 years ago was a game changer and life saver for so many. ESPN contributor and Special Olympics International Global Messenger Dustin Plunkett reports.


Thornton leading the life no one thought he could have

Ricardo Thornton's life has been one of inspiration and consistently proving doubters wrong.


Unified flag football gives Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry new chapter

Before Michigan recently took on Notre Dame in college football, the school's Unified flag football teams played a friendly game.


What to watch: Game Changers

Jamie Brewer is a game changer

Jamie Brewer is changing the landscape for those with Down Syndrome, acting in movies and on Broadway, modeling and working to change legislature language in Texas against the "R" word.


SOfit is a health and wellness program for everyone

At Special Olympics Minnesota, Ben Swarts created and worked with Special Olympics Health Ambassador Nell Coonen-Korte on a program that could involve all people and would spread worldwide.


La Casa de Carlota is a business of change

La Casa de Carlota is a successful design studio with a client list that includes a professional soccer league comprised of people with intellectual disabilities, and they have a very unique characteristic that really sets them apart from most companies.


Keep watching: Game Changers

Charles' biggest impact comes off the football field

Jamaal Charles has always had an enormous impact on the football field, but growing up with a learning disability that limited his relationships, Jamaal found his truest comfort in a community far away from the locker rooms.


Gerald Mballe is paying it forward

Gerald Mballe fled his home in Cameroon to escape violence and hardship. Arriving in a strange land, his path to acceptance would come in a most unexpected way.


The will and determination of Danielle Liebl

Danielle Liebl defies the odds every day, after being told she would never walk again without assistance. Sign the pledge:


50 Game Changers: Kennedys' family connection to the Special Olympics

The relationship between Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her sister Rosemary Kennedy was the root of the entire Special Olympics movement. Sign the pledge:


Special Olympics turns 50

The personal side of Special Olympics for Tim Shriver

As the Special Olympics turns 50 years old today, Tim Shriver -- chairman of the organization and son of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver -- reflects on the beginning of the movement and where he sees it in another 50 years.

Shriver: 'I hope people see that everybody has a gift'

Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver reflects on a culture that hasn't always been big on inclusion and expresses his hope that it changes.


USA Games wraps up

The Faces of the Victors

There is experience and camaraderie of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, but there is also the many stories behind the winners' smiles. Here, we share a few of them.

Athlete living every day by the Special Olympics oath

For paddle boarder Mariah Gilbert, the Special Olympics oath holds a special place in her heart, one that represents the changes in her life.


Special Olympics allow father, son to bond during trying times

For Chris and Ray Harold, their time on the golf course at the Special Olympics USA Games, goes beyond golf. It's about savoring every last moment together.


Ready to be inspired?

Tagliareni a role model for all athletes

Special Olympics Florida athlete Brittany Talgliareni followed her brother into tennis and hasn't looked back since.


Lapre: 'I'm never quitting'

A Special Olympics athlete since 1968, Paul Lapre will be living out a dream by playing in this year's games in Seattle.


Powerlifter Gruss makes a habit of overcoming odds

Special Olympics powerlifter Catherine Gruss has overcome many challenges and doubters en route to competing in Seattle.


special olympics

Poll's positive spirit an asset for UWM

As both a manager and super-fan for multiple University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee teams, Michael Poll has left a lasting mark on everyone he's met.


USA Games

From Special Olympics play to the workplace

Special Olympics International Global Messenger David Egan says, "I am proud to have a job; I pay taxes, I vote and I matter." And he's sharing that message at the job fair at the USA Games.

Photos: The moments that show Special Olympics athletes are unstoppable

The Special Olympics USA Games have been full of dramatic and inspirational finishes. But these moments and stories are the ones we will not forget.

Ex-NFL OT Roberts is a champion for Special Olympics athletes

Ray Roberts used to open pathways for Barry Sanders as an offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions. Now he's helping create pathways for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

In the words of athletes

USA Games

The Schmidts are all in the family

Mike Schmidt felt right at home when he started playing Special Olympics sports. Since then, his two brothers and his parents have joined him on the basketball court -- and they're all headed to the USA Games.

For Special Olympics swimmer Jessica Grammer, 'dreams do come true'

When Jessica Grammer learned she was going to the USA Games, she screamed a celebratory 'Yes!' And her swimming prowess isn't the only thing she contributes to Team Missouri.

'I matter, I exist, and I have a right to play,' says Tyler Lagasse

For Special Olympics athlete Tyler Lagasse, golf is more than a sport. It's a chance to send the world a message -- and change perspectives.

FOudy's Finds

USA Games

Foudy's Finds: Special Olympics athlete has run 30 marathons

Julie Foudy goes for a run with Special Olympics athlete Andy Bryant who was once told he would never be able to walk across the street by himself. Now he's an elite marathon runner.


Foudy's Finds: Fab Five

Members of the Kentucky Special Olympics Gymnastics team receive uplifting messages from their Olympic heroes.


Shining in water and on land


A fish called JoJo

Jolina Harris, affectionately called JoJo by her family, was drawn to the water as a young child. The ocean was her playground -- and her solace. Now a 12-year-old, she finds that peace in the pool as a Special Olympics swimmer.

JoJo Harris finds peace in the water

Growing up in the Marshall Islands, JoJo Harris was always drawn to the water. After relocating to Las Vegas, JoJo joined the UNLV swim program and will now compete at the Special Olympics.


Meet Divine Pearl Navalta, aka The Sparkling Diva

The Special Olympics runner earned that nickname from her friends because of her fun, outgoing personality -- and now at the USA Games, she's channeling that energy on the track to win gold.

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