Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) released its 2016 Athlete Census on Tuesday. Findings show that the organization provided year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for a record-number 58,333 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state of Texas last year. The figure revealed in SOTX’s 2016 Athlete Census is a 5.3 percent increase (3,101 athletes) from the end of 2015.
“The growth is a reflection of the hard work and outreach put forth by our volunteers and staff, and a recognition of our society becoming more inclusive,” said SOTX President & CEO Margaret Larsen. “As we continue to grow, I encourage people to get involved as volunteers and donors, because without you, Special Olympics Texas cannot offer the high-quality and life-changing opportunities that it strives to provide for our 58,333 athletes.”
According to SOTX’s 2016 Census, the Greater Fort Worth Area introduced programming and training to 1,459 new athletes, marking the largest increase (up 27.5 percent) among the 19 regions it serves. The San Antonio Area added 596 athletes in 2016, raising its total to 10,991 athletes, making it SOTX’s largest-served area in the state. Rounding out the top five were: Greater Houston Area (9,889), Greater Dallas Area (7,297), Rio Grande Valley (5,349) and Greater Fort Worth (5,309). The complete breakdown is at the bottom of the release.
The total number of athletes include those that participated in at least one of the 22 offered sports or in one of its various programs, including: Athletes in Training, Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) and the Young Athletes Program (YAP). More about each of these programs can be found at www.sotx.org/programs.
Areas that saw a significant decrease can attribute the drop to athletes that graduated out of the public education system. As athletes enter adulthood, it becomes increasingly harder for them to maintain participation because of transportation issues or because they lack information about available Special Olympics opportunities for adults. To conquer the hurdle, SOTX provides Adult Transition resources for campus facilitators to include in their Individual Education Program (IEP) for high school-aged students. The program goes beyond academics to include preparation for adult living. The IEP can include specific activities or steps to ensure that the youth will be linked to an adult team without interruption in their sports training and competition.
One program that has not only played a large role in introducing SOTX programming to new participants, but has also changed the way people with and without intellectual disabilities interact with one another is Unified Champion Schools.
Across the state, 105 campuses are registered as Unified Champion Schools. Since 2008 the U.S. Department of Education through Special Olympics, Inc. has awarded funds to Special Olympics programs to implement UCS in schools, promoting acceptance and inclusion among students with and without intellectual disabilities.
For SOTX to operate and provide programming, training and other services to the 58,333 athletes it serves on a year-round basis, it relies on volunteers and generous donors. It costs the organization $150 per athlete annually. Ninety-one cents of every dollar donated to SOTX directly supports programs for its athletes. SOTX was recently awarded a four-star rating by Charity Navigator and named a Platinum Participant by GuideStar; both recognitions are the highest rating offered by each respective charity watchdog.
Area 2016 2015 +/- (%)____
Area 1 – Rio Grande Valley (Mission) 5,349 5,262 87 (1.6%)
Area 2 – South Texas (Corpus Christi) 2,046 1,885 161 (7.9%)
Area 4 – Greater Houston 9,889 9,942 -53 (0.5%)
Area 5 – Beaumont 384 718 -334 (-87.0%)
Area 6 – Heart of East Texas (Conroe) 981 1,075 -94 (-9.6%)
Area 7 – East Texas (Lufkin) 1,031 937 94 (9.1%)
Area 9 – North Texas (Wichita Falls) 504 466 38 (7.5%)
Area 10 – Greater Dallas 7,297 6,888 409 (5.6%)
Area 11 – Greater Fort Worth 5,309 3,850 1,459 (27.5%)
Area 12 – Heart of Texas (Waco) 1,063 1,015 48 (4.5%)
Area 13 – Central Texas (Austin) 4,032 3,504 528 (13.1%)
Area 14 – Big Country/Concho Valley (Abilene) 1,217 1,003 214 (17.6%)
Area 16 – Panhandle (Amarillo) 608 535 73 (12.0%)
Area 17 – South Plains (Lubbock) 834 1,209 -375 (-45.0%)
Area 18 – Permian Basin/Big Bend (Midland) 369 329 40 (10.8%)
Area 19 – Greater El Paso 2,307 2,144 163 (7.1%)
Area 20 – San Antonio 10,991 10,395 596 (5.4%)
Area 21 – Laredo 2,091 2,010 81 (3.9%)
Area 22 – Gulf Coast (Webster) 2,031 2,065 -34 (-1.7%)
TOTAL 58,333 55,232 3,101 (5.3%)
About Special Olympics Texas
Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) is a privately funded non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect. SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 58,300 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. To learn more, visit www.specialolympicstexas.org or call 800.876.5646. Engage with us on: Twitter @SOTexas; fb.com/SpecialOlympicsTX;youtube.com/specialolympicstexas.