School Based Programs

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® initiatives use sports to develop school communities where youth are agents of change - fostering respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with disabilities.

With financial support from ABLEnow, Booz Allen Hamilton, Dominion Energy Charitable FoundationThe Emily S. & Coleman A. Hunter TrustWells Fargo FoundationRobins Foundation, Safeway Foundation, Virginia Farm BureauThe Wawa Foundation and The Supply Room, we are collaborating with the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia High School League and school systems across Virginia to inspire the first unified generation. Together, we can create more inclusive attitudes, develop physical fitness, promote community service, and build character in all young people.

Champions Together

Champions Together builds school communities of acceptance and inclusion by engaging students with and without disabilities in interscholastic sports training and competition. “This incredible partnership between the Special Olympics Unified Sports program and the Virginia Public School system, has clearly demonstrated the power of inclusive communities," said John Eisenberg, M. Ed, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services, Virginia Department of Education.

For participating high schools, this 2-year program includes 3 components:

  • Interscholastic Unified Sports® — students compete on interscholastic track and field teams comprised of approximately equal numbers of students with and without intellectual disabilities. Teams train for 8 weeks and compete in a minimum of 2 meets.

  • Awareness Activity — an inclusive student-led leadership team must organize an annual event to spark awareness and showcase new friendships. Events could include an “R-Word” campaign or activating the Get Into It® curriculum.
  • Fundraising — the school assists with fundraising activities to help sustain the Champions Together program. Schools may participate in collaborative fundraising events planned by Special Olympics Virginia to raise funds for their school.

    Schools who agree to activate all 3 Champions Together components within 2 years will be reimbursed for expenses up to $2,500. Funds can be used for coach stipends, uniforms, equipment, transportation and other approved expenses.

To get started, contact us at For additional Champions Together resources, visit our Champions Together resources page.

Appropriate for: high schools

Spread the Word to End the Word

Too often, people say “retard” or “retarded” without thinking about its effects - even if it’s not meant in a cruel way. The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, created by youth, invites schools, organizations and communities to pledge to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities. Visit for information about how to launch a Spread the Word to End the Word campaign in your school or to sign the pledge to eliminate the R-word.

Appropriate for: elementary, middle, high schools

Unified Sports®

Team sports bring people together. Our Unified Sports® teams include people with and without intellectual disabilities in an effort to shatter stereotypes through positive interaction on the playing field. Special education teachers have reported the program to be extremely effective at impacting youth, promoting physical activity and inspiring leadership. One teacher reported: “I’ve seen more interaction on the field today between classmates than I’ve seen in my classroom all year.” Start Unified Sports at your school!

Appropriate for: elementary, middle, high schools

Cool School Challenge

BRRRave the icy Atlantic in February at one of our annual Polar Plunge® Fests! Through this fundraising opportunity, students and teachers can discover how cool it feels to be a champion for Special Olympics. Students can earn community service credit, participate in costume contests, and have their Polar Plunge documented in cool group photos. We can’t think of a better reason to freeze! Visit our Polar Plunge site for more details.

Appropriate for: middle and high schools

Get Into It Curriculum

Promote respect in your class room with the Get Into It curriculum. Take Special Olympics from the playing fields into your classroom by energizing young people to become advocates for persons with intellectual disabilities. Online age-appropriate resources, including lessons, activities, videos, athlete stories and supplemental materials, are available for grades K-12. Visit the Get Into It website for more details.

Appropriate for: elementary, middle, high schools

ABLEnow Feet Meets

Training together and playing together are quick paths to friendship and understanding. Presented by ABLEnow, “Feet Meets” are a way for preschool, elementary, middle and high schools to engage students with and without intellectual disabilities during a training season and culminating “Feet Meet.” Students without disabilities can practice and compete with their team, as well as act as meet facilitators (middle/high school) and fans.

Little Feet Meets for preschool and elementary children are part of Special Olympics’ Young Athletes™, a developmentally appropriate play program to help children reach critical developmental milestones. Skill stations for preschool students, lead-up track events for students in grades K – 2 and competitive track events for students in grades 3 – 5 are offered to accommodate all ages and skill levels.

Appropriate for: preschool and elementary schools

Big Feet Meets for middle and high school students offer track and field events geared to all ability levels — from wheelchair and walking races to the 400M and shot put. The variety of events allow everyone to be successful and have fun.

To hold an ABLEnow "Feet Meet" at your school, contact Val Reinford, Vice President of Local Program Services, at, or call 804.726.3036.

Appropriate for: middle school and high school or inclusive of all ages

Volunteer 2 Cheer

Competing is not as special without fans - and that goes for any sports competition, including Special Olympics. In the first few moments, you will see that our athletes are extremely deserving of your applause and support. Volunteer 2 Cheer is a great way to inspire today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders. Visit our Volunteer 2 Cheer website for more details.

Appropriate for: elementary, middle, high schools


Visit our School Program Resources pages for tools to help youth, programs and educators who are looking to become more involved with the Special Olympics movement. For additional resources, or questions about any of the tools, please contact Val Reinford, Vice President of Local Program Services, at, or call her at 804.726.3036.

After High School

Graduation from high school signifies the end of one phase of your life and the beginning of a new one. We invite any student with an intellectual disability who is approaching graduation to participate in a community-based Area program for continued sports experiences. Check out our transition flyer for more details. 

Contact Us

Vice President of Local Program Services
Val Reinford


Need more information, resources, and videos to get your school involved?

Unified Champion Schools Resources

Join Us

Want to be an athlete? A coach? A volunteer? A supporter?

Find out what's happening near you, and help us transform lives through the joy of sport.

Find Special Olympics Near You