June, 1962

Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a summer camp for children and adults with intellectual disabilities at her home in Maryland based on the belief that they were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts believed.

July, 1968

The First International Special Olympics Summer Games was held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. Over 1,000 individuals from 26 U.S. states and Canada participated in track and field events. A delegation of 6 students from Wichita competed and were the forerunners of Special Olympics Kansas.


May, 1970

The first Kansas Special Olympics was held at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center with 300 participants.

December, 1971

The U.S. Olympic committee gives Special Olympics official approval as one of only two organizations authorized to use the name “Olympics” in the United States.

February, 1977

Steamboat Springs, Colorado hosts the first International Special Olympics Winter Games with more than 550 athletes competing in skiing and skating events. Kansas was well represented having the second largest contingent exceeded only by Colorado.

July, 1979

As a result of tremendous growth, it was decided that Special Olympics Kansas could, and should, stand alone and the organization was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.



The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) is launched in Wichita, Kansas where Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for, and increase awareness of, Special Olympics. The LETR is now the movement’s largest grass roots fund raiser, raising over $30 million annually.


Eunice Kennedy Shriver, President of Special Olympics, Inc., attended the SOKS Summer Games in Wichita with over 1,600 athletes.


The first sports camp was held at the University of Kansas marking the beginning of a partnership with the Big-12. Coaching staff from the university provided workshops in 6 different sports to 175 athletes and coaches.

February, 1988

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) signs an historic agreement with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in which the IOC officially endorses and recognizes Special Olympics.

July, 1988

Special Olympics Unified Sports® is launched, bowling, volleyball and softball are the first sports to be included.


January, 1997

After its debut at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 1995, Healthy Athletes® becomes an official Special Olympics initiative, providing health-care services to Special Olympics athletes worldwide.


October, 2001

Special Olympics develops and distributes “SO Get Into It™ kits for students with and without intellectual disabilities to schools and teachers at no cost. The kit teaches young people about intellectual disabilities while empowering them to be the difference by learning the values of inclusion, acceptance and respect.

June 2003

Ireland hosts the first Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held outside the U.S.

October 2004

President George W. Bush signs the “Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act,” marking the first time that Special Olympics secures support through legislation.

December 2005

“The Ringer” opens in theatres throughout the U.S. and Canada; with appearances from over 150 athletes it challenges destructive stereotypes and negative thinking about people with intellectual disabilities and kicks off the introduction of Project Unify.

July 2008

Special Olympics celebrates its 40th anniversary with almost 3 million athletes in more than 180 countries worldwide.


Special Olympics Kansas introduced the Young Athletes® program in the Metro Area introducing 105 young children, ages 3-7 with intellectual disabilities, to the world of sports.

August 2009

Eunice Kennedy Shriver dies at her home in Massachusetts.

2010 and Beyond

June, 2010

Special Olympics Kansas celebrated 40 Years of service at the State Summer Games in Wichita, Kansas. The first Special Olympics Global Congress is held in Morocco.

Learn more about our mission, and our leaders of today.