Special Olympics Florida, Inc.

Join the Inclusion Revolution


The mission of Special Olympics Florida is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.  The ultimate objective is to help people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Mrs. Sherry L. Wheelock

Main address

1915 Don Wickham Drive

Clermont, FL 34711 USA

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Formerly known as

Florida Special Olympics



NTEE code info

Developmentally Disabled Services/Centers (P82)

Special Olympics (N72)

Health Support Services (E60)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Sports Training and Competition

Through year-round sports training and competition, Special Olympics Florida builds self-esteem, fosters courage and teaches valuable lessons about striving, winning, losing and trying again. A Yale University study found that athletes participating in Special Olympics benefit from:
- Improved physical fitness and sports skills
- Enhanced self-confidence and social competency
- Greater readiness for employment
- Better preparation for independent living
- Increased ability to make personal decisions
- Improved friendship and family relationships

Our goal is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports to all children and adults with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate. Currently, 55,340 athletes and their families are discovering that a bright future lies ahead.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities

The mission of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes®, developed in 1996 by Special Olympics International, is to improve athletes’ ability to train and compete in Special Olympics. Healthy Athletes is designed to help Special Olympics athletes improve their health and fitness, leading to enhanced sports experience and improved well-being. Healthy Athletes offers screenings in eight disciplines, including Fit Feet, FUNfitness (Physical Therapy), Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion, Opening Eyes®, Special Smiles®, MedFest® and Strong Minds.

Our objectives are to: improve access and health care for Special Olympics athletes at event-based health screenings; make referrals to local health practitioners when appropriate; train healthcare professionals about the needs and care of people with intellectual disabilities (ID); collect, analyze and disseminate data on the health status and needs of people with ID; advocate for improved health policies and programs for persons with ID.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities

Unified Champion Schools promotes social inclusion by bringing together young people, 8 and up, with and without Intellectual Disabilities (ID) on sports teams (Special Olympics Unified Sports®), through inclusive student clubs, together in school or community-wide initiatives, and by fostering youth leadership. At its core, this strategy is about unifying all students – with and without disabilities – using sports as a catalyst for social inclusion and attitude and behavioral change.

Our Young Athletes program is a part of Unified Champion Schools. It is a an innovative sports play program for children ages 2-7 with ID and their peers, designed to introduce them into the world of sports. First and foremost, these activities will help the children improve physically, cognitively and socially. This program also serves as an introduction to the resources and support available within Special Olympics Florida families, agencies and schools.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities

Little ELITES (Elementary Level Introduction To Entry-level Sports) is a sports program that bridges the gap between Special Olympics Young Athletes (ages 2-7), an innovative sports play program, and competitive Special Olympics sports (ages 8+) concepts and models. The program is ideal for children in 2nd through 5th grade who have an intellectual disability (ID) or developmental disability (DD) diagnosis.

As children age out of Young Athletes, there can be a lack of Special Olympics sports opportunities for children who are in grades 2-5. This is where Little ELITES comes in! Through Little ELITES, children who age out of Young Athletes can continue to work on their skills in specific sport(s) through structured school-based means of participation and eventually compete within the community. Schools can sign up for the following sports: Soccer, Athletics (Track and Field), Flag Football, and Basketball. Special Olympics Florida provides everything that is needed to run the program.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities

The Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) is designed for those athletes with severe disabilities whose physical and/or behavioral limitations preclude participation in traditional Special Olympics team and individual sports competitions. The emphasis in MATP is on training and participation rather than competition. MATP seeks to improve the athlete’s basic motor skills in the following areas: dexterity, striking, kicking, manual wheelchair, electric wheelchair and aquatics.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities

Rising Stars is a school or campus-based, non-competitive program designed to serve students in grades six through 12. It offers nine weeks of sport-specific training, helping athletes develop fundamental skills.

Rising Stars provides a school-centered Special Olympics experience for students who have aged out of our Little ELITES program – which serves grades two through five. It gives those students a chance to improve their skills, preparing them to compete later in other Special Olympics programs such as Unified Sports. The goal is to keep athletes and their families connected to the Special Olympics Florida support network for life.

Special Olympics Florida provides participating schools with everything needed to run the program. The following sports are offered through Rising Stars: soccer, athletics (track and field), flag football, and basketball.

Population(s) Served
People with disabilities

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our primary goals are Quality, Awareness, Sustainability, and Growth. We strive to:
- Deliver impactful sport, wellness and leadership activities to all participants in a safe environment.
- Improve awareness of our programs, improving the perceptions of persons with an intellectual disability.
- Increase our cash donated funds, directing at least 80% to program services while maintaining a fun workplace.
- Create opportunities for Floridians to participate in one or more sport, wellness or leadership activity.

Special Olympics hopes to serve 60,000 healthy athletes using 34,000 volunteers through fundraising that generates $19m+ supporting cash revenue by the year 2024.

As stated in our goals, our vision is to create a community where everyone has the lifelong opportunity to develop physically, emotionally, and socially through sports, wellness and leadership training. We will enhance current standards and models for sports, health, community, and educational events by: increasing staff and volunteer knowledge of all available programs and expected levels of implementation or execution; ensuring consistency and reinforcement of standards for local programs; developing and implementing a quality VIP family engagement program at competitions; elevating the formality and quality of our athlete leadership training programs to a recognizable and prestigious level; streamlining the on-boarding process of our committee development at the highest levels; and updating and training all staff and volunteers regarding new guidelines, materials, expectations and formats as they arise.

Special Olympics Florida receives consistent feedback from the medical professionals we work with that they often do not receive any type of specialized training during their schooling regarding how to treat individuals with intellectual disabilities. According to a cooperative study between Special Olympics Inc. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80% of U.S. medical school students report not getting any clinical training in the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities. To combat this, Special Olympics Florida is extensively involved in helping to develop curricula that colleges can utilize for their health programs. We have written articles and our information is being used by coaches and educators in local colleges, high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.

Special Olympics Florida also has a statewide database: Games Management System (GMS) wherein we keep and update our registered athlete information regarding sports participation, medical information, and awards received. Additionally, we have our health program screening and referral information and results.

Our programs have evaluation criteria built in and are measured via participation, return-on-investment, and mission driven outcomes. Our employees, donors and corporate/community partners play important roles in our Committee Structure and their feedback is essential to our ability to adhere to "best practices" and self-evaluation. Special Olympics Florida plans to raise more than 19 million dollars annually in order to continue to grow our capacity to serve more athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Our Operational and Strategic Plans were developed by our staff, volunteers, athlete leadership and Board of Directors; and for the next three years, have outlined a culture-of-health action plan that will improve the quality of competition and training at all levels; increase availability of health screenings and medical referrals on an ongoing basis; increase athlete leadership opportunities; develop, automate and consistently communicate best in class sports guidelines and policies; increase the number of certified coaches; continue to grow our in-school programs and initiatives (Young Athletes, Unified Champion Schools, Get Into It, Fans in the Stands, the R Word Campaign, Education Leaders Network, Youth Activation Committees and SO Colleges); improve school and adult day program opportunities; continue to remove barriers to participation by reducing common transportation issues, offering more mobile options to reduce costs or make it easier to complete medical requirements; identify and attract more candidates for our Athlete Leadership Program and continue to train and retain participants; transition our Class B Volunteers to Class A; increase and sustain our SOFL volunteer base; and expand support for The Champions Foundation.

Special Olympics Florida is a leader in innovation, implementation, communication, and advancing the agenda supporting the health and well being of athletes with ID and DD. We began with a small sports program in 1972 and brought that program into the public school system because it resonated with teachers and students with disabilities. More sports were added, competition evolved, and county and state games were developed. Unified Champion Schools began to bridge enormous gaps for teachers and coaches. We provided curricula support, equipment, training and competition that worked parallel with the FHSAA and now have State Championships for Track and Field, Basketball, Flag Football, and Bowling. For the students with ID/DD who do not play a sport but would like to participate, we started Cheerleading. We know that we have improved the image and awareness of the public perception of people with ID/DD. In public schools, we have had 78% Student Impact, 84% Healthcare Professional Impact, and 75% Student Advisor Impact.

We began our Health Programs in order to strengthen the training and competitive experience of each athlete with the ultimate purpose of supporting the athlete's health, fitness, and quality of life. In 2022 we conducted screening events and screened thousands of athletes and consumers and made over 626 doctor referrals. We provided free of charge: prescription glasses, sunglasses/sports goggles, insoles, mouth guards, and fluoride treatments. We hired Community Outreach Managers to enhance our outreach in strategic areas: Tampa, Hollywood, Jacksonville and Southwest Florida. We have aligned with strong healthcare partners and we are in the teaching curricula in the Ophthalmology, Audiology and Dental schools in Nova Southeastern. Resident Students there are trained as Community Outreach Managers and conduct screenings for us at our State Games.

Special Olympics Florida was invited to host informational booths and conduct screenings at major venues such as Family Cafe' furthering our outreach in the state. Our Community Outreach Managers will continue to recruit and train Clinical Directors to further support the ID/DD community locally. Classes in Healthy Eating and Healthy Habits are being taught now and as our Health Programs continue to reach more in our communities, the possibilities for expansion are boundless. We are serving 55,340 athletes thanks to the support from 24,688 volunteers and 2,360 coaches who help us at 270 competitions throughout the state of Florida.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, The feedback we collect is analyzed and used to improve stakeholder experiences, performance, access, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, Stakeholder participation, accurate contact information, privacy concerns, and time.


Special Olympics Florida, Inc.

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Special Olympics Florida, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 03/23/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Mr. Emery Gainey

Retired - Chief of Staff, Florida Attorney General's Office

Term: 2019 - 2024

Board co-chair

Ms. Singh

Universal Orlando

Brad Singh

Past Chair-Universal Orlando Sr. VP, Sourcing & Procurement

Brad Gilmour

Vice Chair - Director of Park Operations for Aquatica, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment

Tim Rabbu

Manatee CountyAthlete Representative

Dr. Yvonne Johnson

South Miami Hospital

Jim Payne

Secretary - Anchor, WESH Channel 2

Michael Nursey

Treasurer, TD Bank

Doug Pridgen

Monroe Douglas

Ashley Moody

Florida Attorney General

Bob Starks

Keller-Williams Realty Atlanta Partners (Director Emeritus

Cary D'Ortona

Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children

David Cato

Cleveland Clinic

Eric Hall

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

Karl Holz

Walt Disney World Company (Director Emeritus)

Marsha Singh

Publix Super Markets

Maryann Smith

Walt Disney World Company

Michele Goodwin

Ron Jon Surf Shop

Dr. Peggy Aune

Florida Department of Education

Scott Stricklin

University of Florida

Victor Shaffer


Walter Knox

Procter & Gamble

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes