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Special Olympics Florida seeks volunteers to help celebrate 50 years

Number of athletes has tripled in 10 years
Posted at 6:14 AM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 09:42:20-05

The Special Olympics Florida is celebrating a huge milestone in 2022 — its 50th anniversary.

Events will take place throughout the year to celebrate and showcase the athletes they serve, as the work to inspire all Floridians to embrace the principals of inclusion and acceptance.

For the 50th anniversary this year, Special Olympics Florida is hosting the USA Games in Orlando. It is also hosting the Summer Games in Palm Beach County on Saturday at the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens.

Special Olympics Florida Vice President of Development Erin Kozlowski said the pandemic has created its own set of challenges. They moved many of their events online to keep their athletes safe.

Entering the new year, she said everything is almost back to normal, and they are excited about what this year will bring.

"It's just very humbling to be a part of a mission that has been around for 50 years. We've been able to change countless lives," Kozlowski said. "We're going to spend this year celebrating this amazing milestone, and then focus on what the next 50 years looks like."

The organization has grown from approximately 20,000 athletes in 2012 to 60,000 in 2022. They are 98% volunteer based, and as their number of athletes grows, so does their need for volunteers. To volunteer, click here.

Jonathan Doring is a tennis player competing in the Special Olympics. He's been involved for more than 30 years and said the organization has changed his life and allowed him to travel the country and the world.

"I like to do some exercising," Doring said. "Mentally and physically. Being sociable, making friends, try to get in shape."

Special Olympics Florida requires about $19 million annually to put on events and allow athletes to compete free of charge. Click here to donate.

To mark the 50th anniversary, the organization will also commission an art project honoring the founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The Special Olympics Florida is seeking artists and input from athletes and supporters to create the piece. More details on the project can be found here.