The mission of Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH) is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
Five Decades of Empowerment
The Special Olympics New Hampshire mission remains as vital today as it did when the movement was founded fifty years ago. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.
Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths, abilities, skills and find success. Our athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life. They inspire their communities to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.
There are as many as 40,000 people with intellectual disabilities in New Hampshire and our goal is to reach out to every one of them, as well and their families. We do this through a wide range of trainings, competitions, health screenings and fundraising events. We also create opportunities for families, community members, local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, celebrities, dignitaries and others to band together to change attitudes and support athletes.
The Power to Transform Lives
The transformative power of sports to instill confidence, improve health and inspire a sense of competition is at the core of what Special Olympics does. From the detailed coaching guides to the sharp-eyed officials at our games, the focus is on real sports, real competition and real achievements.
In Special Olympics, the power and joy of sports shifts focus to what our athletes CAN do, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away. Instead, we see our athletes’ talents and abilities and applaud them for it. And they are doing a lot — from basketball to powerlifting to sprint triathlon. With our 17 Olympic-style sports, we offer adults and children with intellectual disabilities many ways to be involved in their communities and to show who they really are.
In March of 2020 we changed.
For 50 years the focus of Special Olympics New Hampshire had been to provide our athletes in-person training and competition in a variety of sports. When the world shut down, we had to figure out how to serve our 3,500 athletes and their families.
We called every athlete to let them know they were not alone. Those calls provided us vital information in how we need to communicate with our family – 37% of our athletes preferred to receive communication from SONH via mail. Those calls also gave us great insight into how we could help families – we needed to provide things folks could easily do at home with minimal equipment. Our athletes were afraid of being lonely.
Those phone calls provided us the direction we needed.
- We created a Return to Activity Task force made up of members of all levels of our organization to help guide us on important decisions we would need to be ready to make.
- We sent every athlete an at-home training pack.
- We created an at-home challenge where athletes complete physical, health, social and emotional wellbeing tasks to earn points and prizes.
We needed to make some very hard financial decisions in 2020 to maintain the fiscal health of the organization. We gave up our office and moved our operations to our homes. We did not let any employee go because of the pandemic, but we did not replace any staff that left.
2021 was the year of Hope, and we were ready!
We transitioned our very successful Penguin Plunge and Winni Dip to Do-it-yourself events.
Man, Granite Staters came through – from the wildly creative participants, the generous donors, and amazing volunteers. The 2021 Plunge and Dip exceeded our expectations.
We continued with two additional at home challenges. We offered various leadership classes for our athletes. We kept in touch.
We worked with our athletes, teams and volunteers to plan for getting back to it. Our goal was to get our teams practicing together and to have as many events in the 2nd half of 2021 as possible. We restarted in July… our athletes were together (following very strict protocols) socializing, training and getting ready for competition. We held two in-person events, and converted five additional events to virtual competition before needing to have our Programs shut down through the new year.
Who would have thought that 2021 would have been harder than 2020.
We are going to survive this pandemic and come out stronger in 2022.