Montana Special Olympics tells Havre its story, looks for volunteers

Many ways people can get involved, official says


October 3, 2019

Havre Daily News/File photo

Lance Seely of Havre, finishes a mile run with a time of 7:24 as Robyn Chaffin cheers him on during the Great Northern Special Olympic Spring Games April 24 at Havre Middle School.

Special Olympics Montana held a public event Wednesday in Havre to let members of the community meet the staff and learn about how volunteers can get involved. 

Vice President Outreach for Special Olympics of Montana Mandy Patriarche said the mission of Special Olympics 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.

"We are a community for our athletes, we are a community for our volunteers and we are a community for those families, as well," Patriarche said.

She added that Special Olympics is much bigger than sports, it is training for life through sports.

She also talked about the Special Olympics philosophy.

• People with intellectual disabilities can benefit from participation in sports - "It can really provide people an opportunity beyond just having that athletic training," she said.

• Consistent training is essential to improving sport skills - "We are a sports organization, we train hard and we play hard, and a misconception we are always trying to overcome is that we are not just a field day, we are a real competitive organization," she added.

• Equitable competition is the best means to measure success and provide incentives for growth.

• People with intellectual disabilities who train and compete in sports experience personal, mental and physical growth.

• Through both participation in and observation of our programs, families and communities are stronger, more inclusive and offer greater equality to everyone.

"Something special about Special Olympics is that we do division our athletes," Patriarche said. "We give every athlete, no matter their ability, a chance to be successful and to win."

She added that Special Olympics has a program called Unified Champion Schools that promotes inclusion. Special Olympics has seen data that the program has decreased bullying across the board, not just with the athletes, but with the whole school. 

Special Olympics, which began in 1968, was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who hosted the first International Games that were held at Soldier Field in Chicago. A total of 1,000 athletes from 26 states in the U.S. and Canada competed in athletics and aquatics.

In 1971, the United States Olympic Committee gave Special Olympics official approval to use the name "Olympics."

"We are one of three who is able to do that Junior Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympics are the only ones who are allowed to use that term," she said. "It is because we adhere to a lot of standards set by an Olympic board, we have a parade of athletes, we follow a code of conduct, so it's a really great thing to use."

She added that since 1968, Special Olympics is home to more than 5 million athletes in over 107 countries and over a million volunteers throughout the world.

"We have a huge platform. Everybody knows who we are, at least an idea, and that is because of the 5 million athletes worldwide. It is a remarkable thing to see," Patriarche said.

Special Olympics Montana, started in 1970 with the first summer games held in Billings with about 400 athletes competing in track and field and swimming, she said.

Patriarche said Special Olympics Montana has more than 2,300 athletes and over 4,000 volunteers.

"Special Olympics Montana we are our own organization, we are own 501(c) nonprofit," she said. "If you are donating your time, if you are donating money to Special Olympics Montana, it is helping athletes in your state."

Patriarche said during a PowerPoint presentation that in Montana, more than 2,000 athletes registered for state competition in 121 programs from 65 communities.

She added that the U.S. Census Data shows that 2 percent of all people living in the United States have intellectual disabilities and, in Montana, Special Olympics serve 10 percent of the eligible population.

The official Special Olympics Sports are separated into two seasons.

Spring sports are aquatics, bocce, cycling, equestrian, golf, gymnastic, kayaking, power-lifting and soccer.

Winter has alpine skiing, cross country skiing, bowling, snowboarding and snowshoeing.

  "Beyond just sports, Special Olympics provides additional programs off the playing field to further the development of healthy and inclusive communities, such as athlete leadership training program, healthy athletes and unified champion schools," she added.

She said numerous ways exist for people to join the Special Olympics movement.

She said people who want to be directly involved can join a local program to compete or provide team leadership, be a coach, or provide team support as chaperones, drivers or fundraisers. People who would like to participate at the state level can join a committee or board service or be involved in the state games management team.

People who want to know more information or want to compete, donate, or volunteer can visit


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