POSTED: Wednesday August 12th 2015


Goal to Bring Special Olympics Unified Sports to More U.S. Colleges and Universities

August 12, 2015—Special Olympics - the world’s largest provider of sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities - and NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation are aligning efforts to increase inclusive sports opportunities for people of all abilities. Beginning in 2016, NIRSA and Special Olympics will work to expand Special Olympics Unified SportsĀ® programs and opportunities at participating NIRSA member colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

The announcement comes on the heels of meetings held at UCLA between NIRSA staff and volunteer leaders and Special Olympics’ North America regional leaders during the recent 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

Both organizations share missions, visions and cultures dedicated to the promotion of inclusion, community, and health for all through participation in sport. Unified Sports is a Special Olympics program that brings people with and without intellectual disabilities, of all ages, together as teammates, using sport as a shortcut to friendship and understanding. With the support of partner organizations like NIRSA and ESPN, the global presenting sponsor of Unified Sports, this is one of the fastest growing areas of Special Olympics, with more than 854,000 athletes and unified partners currently participating in Unified Sports, globally.

Through this alignment, Special Olympics and NIRSA aim to bring Unified Sports to more U.S. college campuses; to offer students and participants a platform to learn the values of inclusion through experiential sports; to provide meaningful student-learning opportunities for college students and encourage them to become leaders within Special Olympics; and to provide Special Olympics athletes a forum to experience the physical and social benefits gained through ongoing interaction with peers.

“Unified Sports uses the universal language of sport as a shortcut to friendship and understanding. When we play unified we live unified,” says Marc Edenzon, Chief of Global Programming, Special Olympics. Edenzon adds, “We know there is a drop-off in involvement with Special Olympics, for both people with and without intellectual disabilities, after high school graduation. This partnership hopes to combat that issue by providing a continuity and structure for their evolving Special Olympics experience.”

“Through the multiple platforms of Unified Sports, students have opportunities to gain valuable life skills and new perspectives on the power of participation in sports,” explains Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University and President of NIRSA. “As leaders in collegiate recreation, NIRSA member institutions are well poised to help expand the shared experiences of Unified Sports, break down barriers and show that there is more to sports than winning and losing,” Shingles adds about the new partnership.

Lisa Fitzgerald, a Rowan University Unified Sports alum and intern with UCLA Recreation during the Special Olympics World Games, has experienced the power of Unified Sports first-hand: “Unified Sports is more than just a game; it's a movement and a lifestyle. I'm excited to see it continue to bring hope, change, inclusion, and respect to all of those who spread the message and join in. I can’t wait to see this partnership spread throughout colleges and universities.”

Special Olympics’ affiliation with NIRSA began in 2010 and has steadily grown, with inclusive sports activities and competitions - such as annual regional Unified Sports flag football tournaments, hosted by NIRSA - taking place on numerous colleges and universities each year.

NIRSA is the premier association of leaders in collegiate recreation who transform lives and facilitate the development of healthy communities worldwide. By providing opportunities for learning and growth, supporting and sharing meaningful research, and fostering networking among our member community, NIRSA is a leader in higher education and champion for the advancement of recreation, sport, and wellness.

Since its founding in 1950, NIRSA membership has grown to comprise nearly 4,500 dedicated professionals, students, and associates, serving an estimated 8.1 million students. Leadership, teamwork, dedication, and respect are among the many skills exercised by inclusive competition, fitness, and recreation. As college and university students develop into future leaders, NIRSA members support their learning and growth by fostering lifelong habits of wellbeing.

Supported by the NIRSA Headquarters team, based in Corvallis, Oregon, NIRSA is governed by volunteer leaders from across North America. Learn more online at and get in touch with us through social media using @NIRSAlive and

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than 1.4 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 94,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics,

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Media Contacts
Amie Dugan Simon Bravo
Special Olympics North America NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation
O. 202-824-0326 O. 541-766-8211

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Keywords · Special Olympics · NIRSA

Name: Amie Dugan
Organization: Special Olympics North America
Phone: 12028240326

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