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Last Updated On: 06/01/2020
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Special Olympics Pennsylvania Armstrong Indiana Counties


Organizational Information

Parent Organization

Special Olympics Pennsylvania

Vision, Mission and/or Purpose of Organization


History of Organization

The movement is known worldwide as Special Olympics began simply as the idea of one extraordinary woman with a vision. Eunice Kennedy Shriver believed that people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought. And so, the world’s largest amateur sports organization began in 1962 as a day camp in the backyard of Eunice and Sargent Shriver, with the first International Games taking place in 1968. Today, the movement thrives in more than 172 countries throughout the world. In 1969, 187 Pennsylvania athletes traveled to Maryland to participate in the Special Olympics Mid-Atlantic Invitational. It was not until months later, however, that these athletes would have a state program to call their own. In May 1970, the first-ever Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) competition was held when 135 brave athletes participated in a small track and field competition at West Chester University. Despite its size and scope, an official Special Olympics program came into being that day thanks to the dedication, determination and vision of event organizers and volunteer directors, Dr. Ed Norris and Hank Goodwin from West Chester's Physical Education Department. The event was funded by a grant from the Department of Special Education in Harrisburg and spurred increasing state-wide interest in Special Olympics’ mission in the years that followed. Two familiar names in SOPA lore played a role in its beginnings, including one of Pennsylvania's most acclaimed athletes, Loretta Claiborne, who participated in athletics and the late former Chairman of the Board, Al Senavitis, who served as a timer during the West Chester track and field event. Making the program’s establishment particularly ceremonious, then-Governor Raymond Shafer designated May 24 - 30, 1970 as “Special Olympics Week” in Pennsylvania by marking the occasion with an official proclamation. As the organization evolved through the 1970s, the competitions moved around the state, with various colleges serving as hosts, including Cheyney, Slippery Rock, and Edinboro Universities. In 1978, a milestone of significant note occurred with the appointment of Frank Dean as the first Executive Director of SOPA. The organization grew rapidly through the 1980s as the staff grew, county programs were founded, and local events were held across the state. Similar growth continued through the 1990s and early 2000s leading up to current President & CEO Matthew B. Aaron taking over in November 2008. In the 11 years since SOPA has enjoyed robust growth and is on the verge of a reorganization that will continue to draw even more athletes and volunteers to the program. Today, Special Olympics Pennsylvania trains nearly 20,000 athletes who compete annually in 21 Olympic-type sports at over 300 local, sectional, and state-level competitions. For The Past 50 Years… For 50 years, SOPA has used the power of sports to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and unite everyone by fostering community and building a more acceptable and civil society. Through what has now blossomed into 54 local programs across the state, most of which are county or city-based, SOPA provides services that promote physical fitness and leadership skills development. Athlete Leadership Programs are offered to empower athletes to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change within the Special Olympics movement, and create inclusive communities around the world. Through these programs, athletes take on roles as Global Messengers (trained as public speakers for Special Olympics), athlete representatives, coaches, board members, and more. Special Olympics also helps to address major challenges facing its athletes: obesity, healthcare and employment. Obesity is more common among individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) than in the general population. Likewise, far too often persons with ID go without medical treatment, not by their choice, but because there are very few physicians, dentists, optometrists/ophthalmologists, and podiatrists that are actually trained in treating this population. In response to these health challenges, SOPA provides free athletic training and competition year-round in Olympic-type sports for persons with ID. With sports at the core, Special Olympics directly addresses the problem of obesity by promoting healthy, active lifestyles. In addition, SOPA’s Healthy Athletes® initiative, a program offering free health screenings in the form of eye, ear, dental and podiatry assessments, is provided for athletes during select statewide Games. These screenings are conducted in fun, welcoming environments, and for some athletes, are the first time they have ever seen a doctor. Additionally, SOPA strives to create a unified world by promoting inclusion, uniting communities, and changing attitudes. Through Unified Sports, SOPA brings together individuals with and without intellectual disabilities as equal teammates in training and competition. This growing statewide program builds fully inclusive schools and communities, promotes respect and acceptance, and facilitates meaningful relationships between people of all abilities. Our Benefits The Special Olympics experience fills a critical need in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and the demonstration of competence to themselves, their families and the community. Athletes learn developmental and life skills as the benefits of participation translate beyond sports, helping them to live more independent and rewarding lives. Special Olympics also provides a positive venue for families, volunteers, and donors to become part of a caring community, and to become involved in the movement.

Accreditations and Licenses




Legal Structure

Non-profit corporation

Funding Sources

Grants, public, corporate and agency donations

Contact Information

Key Leader(s)

Michelle Jordan -  New Program Manager

Contact Person(s)

Michelle L Jordan - New Program Manager

Contact Number(s)

Web Addresses

Primary Address

Special Olympics Pennsylvania Western Office
Cedar Ridge Business Park 200 Cedar Ridge Drive, Suite 214
Pittsburgh, PA, 15205

Additional Addresses

Special Olympics Pennsylvania Armstrong Indiana Counties
P.O. Box 255
Ford City, PA, 16226

Service Information

Service Area

Western Pennsylvania - The office above will refer callers to the nearest local chapter

Service Description

Special Olympics Pennsylvania, a chapter of Special Olympics International, provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all individuals with intellectual disabilities by providing them with continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness skills, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

We are a bi-county program offering sports training and competition in the Armstrong and Indianan Counties. We currently offer in the Indiana area Equestrian and Athletics (Track & Field) in the Spring, Long Distance Walking and Running and Bocce in the Fall, Snowshoeing, and Bowling in the Winter. In Armstrong County, we offer Athletics and Softball in the Spring, Bocce, and Long Distance Walking and Running in the Fall, Bowling in the Winter. Please contact Michelle Jordan for an athlete participation application to be filled out and a medical portion to be completed by the individual's physician. We are always recruiting athletes, coaches, and volunteers. For more information again contact Michelle Jordan or reach out to our Facebook page at Special Olympics Pennsylvania Armstrong Indiana Counties. We offer training and competition in all skill levels and can make needed accommodations to ensure all can participate. Our Facebook page contains our local schedules and events.


Athletics, disabilities, intellectual disabilities, developmental delay, competition, sports training, bocce, bowling, snowshoeing, softball, Special Olympics

Available Hours

9:00 am - 5:00 pm / Monday through Friday Answering machine available 24 hours Manager available anytime 814-441-7981

Fees/Cost for Services

No cost to the athlete.

Eligibility Requirements

The program is open to children and adults with intellectual disabilities who may or may not have a physical handicap. The physician completing the medical section of the application confirms the diagnosis. Participants must be at least eight years of age. Athletes can train at age 7 and are able to compete at age 8. There is no age limit as long as the athlete is approved by their physician that they are able to participate.

Required Documentation

Physican signed athlete participation application

How to Access Services or Schedule Appointments

Contact the local Program Manager Michelle Jordan at 814-441-7981 or to have an application emailed or mailed to you.

Miscellaneous Information

Handicap Accessibility

Yes, we do our very best to accommodate all levels of disability.

Languages Spoken or Available

Currently English

Speaker Available


Volunteer Use


Volunteer Need


Volunteer Description

Volunteers are always welcome. Special Olympics Pennsylvania and the local program have numerous volunteer opportunities available. Contact Program Manager Michelle Jordan for more information.

Uploaded Documents

Athlete Participation Application (athlete part page 1.pdf)
athlete part page 2.pdf (athlete part page 2.pdf)
Athlete welcome letter (athlete welcome letter.pdf)