111: How Does the Special Olympics Change Lives Outside of Sports?

In its 50+ years, the Special Olympics has served as a beacon of inclusion for aspiring athletes with disabilities. This now-worldwide institution started in 1968 in Chicago and was the brainchild of Eunice Kennedy Shriver — President John Kennedy’s sister. At that time, developmentally disabled children were often institutionalized and intentionally separated from their families. Eunice had seen how societal pressure ultimately affected how her sister, Rosemary, was treated because of her intellectual disability.

She was inspired to look for constructive and enriching programming options for those with disabilities and found very few of them, so she set about to create one of her own, using participation in sports as its overarching theme.

The program that Eunice envisioned has grown dramatically over the years, and there are now more than 5 million Special Olympic athletes worldwide, representing 200 countries. In addition, each state in the U.S. has its own chapter of the Special Olympics, with California being represented by two due to its size and population.

But, while most of us associate the organization primarily with these athletic events, in reality, the Special Olympics does much more to improve the lives of people with disabilities — far beyond the realm of sports participation. In the newest episode of Absolute Trust Talk, Kirsten Howe spoke with Tyler Krochmal, Senior Manager of PR and Communications for Special Olympics Northern California (SONC).

Tyler is a pivotal part of the Special Olympics’ media team — he’s heading to Berlin for the International Special Olympics in June — so he’s well versed on the organization’s overall mission. He even participated as a volunteer coach for a number of years. And because Tyler oversees the Special Olympics’ Athlete Leadership program, which allows athletes with disabilities to learn real-world skills that help them develop confidence and expand their opportunities in life, he’s seen firsthand the impact that this organization can have — even when there’s no sporting event involved.

In this episode, we’re going to discuss:

  • The impressive growth that the Special Olympics has seen since its inception and how that growth reflects today’s more enlightened and inclusionary approach toward people with disabilities.
  • How participation in the Special Olympics is a watershed moment for athletes with disabilities. Many athletes’ interest is kindled by watching their chosen sport on television and signing up to participate. Unlike other aspects of their lives, disabled athletes don’t have to worry about the judgment of others. There are no particular ability levels required — only the desire to participate.
  • The various ways Special Olympics is committed to supporting people with intellectual disabilities far beyond the athletic field to enhance their physical and emotional health.
  • How the Special Olympics provides enriching participation opportunities for coaches and other volunteers as well as the athletes themselves.

And more!

Don’t miss this very uplifting episode, as Kirsten and Tyler delve into some of the lesser-known ways that the Special Olympics enriches the lives of disabled adults.

Big Three from Episode #111:

  1. From its inception, the Special Olympics has represented an enlightened approach to enriching the lives of special needs individuals, using sporting competition as a common thread. Whereas members of this chronically underserved portion of the population had often been institutionalized and purposely separated from their families and communities, the Special Olympics represented an inclusionary approach — free from judgment — where aspiring disabled athletes could maximize their athletic potential and get a sense of fulfillment most of them had never experienced before.
  2. The Special Olympics isn’t just about athletic competitions. If you take a closer look at the Special Olympics’ programming, you’ll see that this organization has a lot more to offer than that. The Special Olympics puts a high premium on its athletes’ physical and emotional health. It reinforces this value with opportunities these athletes often wouldn’t have access to anywhere else.
  3. The Special Olympics’ Athlete Leadership program equips disabled athletes with invaluable skills that serve them well in everyday life, instilling confidence that will significantly enhance their chances of getting a job or doing better in school. In the process, these athletes learn public speaking training to better advocate for themselves throughout their lives.

Time-stamped Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction

0:53 We’re pleased to welcome Tyler Krochmal, Senior PR and Communications manager for Special Olympics of Northern California, to the show.

1:57 The Special Olympics represented an enlightened, revolutionary approach to treating disabled individuals because many were institutionalized rather than supported or helped to maintain their place in society.

2:33 Some five decades after its inception, Special Olympics has over 5 million athletes in more than 200 countries worldwide.

3:44 Thinking of volunteering or cheering on the athletes? Here are some upcoming Special Olympic events in the Northern California area.

5:22 Athletes who win gold medals at the Spring Games qualify for the Summer Games – a unique opportunity for athletes to travel, stay in dorms at the hosting university, and celebrate their hard work through fun events.

7:34 The Special Olympics relies on volunteer coaches to prepare athletes for competition and dedicate time to training them.

10:46 Want to support the Special Olympics? You can, of course, donate but also attend events – all are open to the public.

12:32 Tyler first got involved with the Special Olympics as an intern and then through coaching.

13:55 People with intellectual disabilities often have difficulty receiving the routine medical attention they need due to barriers of access, but also with doctors who don’t know how to treat them.

14:42 The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program seeks to remedy the lack of treatment that many special needs individuals face.

17:06 The School Program allows intellectually disabled students to feel like they’re a part of their school campus through sports and field day-like activities.

20:31 The Athlete Leadership Program provides training and opportunities for disabled athletes that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Here’s how it works.

23:12 The Special Olympics International Summer Games are right around the corner. Here are some details about the event.

24:20 Know of a disabled athlete who might want to participate in the Special Olympics? This is how to get them started.

Get in Touch with Tyler Krochmal

Tyler Krochmal
Sr. Manager, PR & Communications
Special Olympics Northern California (SONC)
3480 Buskirk Ave, #340
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
W: (925) 944-8801

Resources/Links Mentioned in this Episode:

[AD] Are you a resident of Walnut Creek or the greater East Bay needing help with your estate plan? At Absolute Trust Counsel, your family’s safety is our number one priority. We understand how complicated it can be to know if you’re making the right legacy planning decisions, which is why we’re here to make things easier. Schedule a free discovery call, and let’s talk about how we can help build the right plan for you and your family.

[AD] The job of a trustee isn’t as easy as one may think. You must give legal notices, retitle assets, file tax returns, understand a legal document, and perform a variety of tasks most people find unfamiliar. As a trustee, if you forget a step or make a mistake, you could be held liable.

Protect yourself, have a plan, and find out the next steps about your specific trust. Get started now by scheduling a 20-minute discovery call with Absolute Trust Counsel. During this introductory call, we will gather information about your trust administration, review our trust administration process with you, and answer any questions you may have. Our goal is to help you get the job done right!