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 U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, the U.S. Department of Education, 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.

Unified Champion Schools

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® shape a generation that welcomes everyone. With sports as the foundation, the program offers a unique combination of activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom and school climates of acceptance and inclusion. The program is designed to be woven into the fabric of the school, enhancing current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change. This is accomplished by implementing inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership opportunities and whole school engagement.

Schools who participate in Unified Champion Schools programming also have the chance to fundraise to support Special Olympics Virginia and their school. For additional details about the revenue share guidelines, click here.

Appropriate for: preschool through college

Champions Together

In Virginia, the Champions Together high-school program fulfills the Unified Champion Schools requirements. Students compete on interscholastic track and field teams comprised of approximately equal numbers of students with and without intellectual disabilities; an inclusive student-led leadership team must organize an annual awareness event like “Choose to Include;” and schools may participate in collaborative fundraising events planned by Special Olympics Virginia to raise funds for their school.

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.

Order your free supplies to support this initiative today. 

Appropriate for: elementary, middle, high schools

Choose to Include

Special Olympics has long been a movement for people with intellectual disabilities. Today, it is also a movement by them. It’s time for us to see the world as people with ID do — and to include them in our day-to-day lives. The Choose to Include campaign reminds students that when we give others the chance to fulfill their dreams, everyone wins. Take the pledge and Choose to Include.

Order your free supplies to support this initiative today. 

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

Champions Together Resources

Visit our Champions Together Resources page for Champions Together student activation resources and administrative forms.

Champions Together Resources