Nonprofit Spotlight: Special Olympics of Kansas | Atmos Energy

Nonprofit Spotlight: Special Olympics of Kansas

Nonprofit Spotlight
July 1, 2020

Special Olympics Kansas has a history of celebrating inclusion and empowering children and adults with intellectual disabilities through sports.  Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics on the belief that individuals with intellectual disabilities could participate and excel in a variety of sports, thereby improving their quality of life and that of their family members. Today, with programs for 4 million athletes in over 180 countries and all 50 statesSpecial Olympics is the largest program in the world for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  

A delegation of six students from Holy Family Center, Wichita, who in 1968 participated in the first Special Olympics International Summer Games in Chicago, were the forerunners of Special Olympics Kansas (SOKS).  Since then, SOKS has grown to provide a thriving, year-round program of athletic training, health education and competitive opportunities to more than 5,400 athletes throughout Kansas. Participants train daily in one or more of 20 sport offerings, and competitions are held at multiple locations across the state. 

Special Olympics Kansas offers a variety of innovative programs including Unified Sports, Healthy Athletes Programs, Athlete Leadership Programs and Young Athletes, which help athletes improve their health and fitness, acquire new skills, develop lifelong friendships, and encourage widespread community understanding and acceptance.  Every day, athletes gain more than just a chance to play a game or run a race; they gain the opportunity to become a role model, a teacher, a friend, and an inspiration.  For the athletes of Special Olympics Kansas, the training never stops, and the benefits last a lifetime. 

Atmos Energy team members have volunteered thousands of hours and contributed more than $50,000  in kind since 2009, supporting the SOKS mission to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports competitions, health and nutrition programs, and leadership development.  Atmos Energy volunteers cook tasty chicken sandwiches with all the fixins for the annual Spikes & Strikes Classic, feeding more than 500 athletes and coaches each year 

“One of the best things about our partnership is the positive feedback I receive on the quality of the meal Atmos Energy provides, said Tim Rehder, Special Olympics Kansas senior vice president of program operations. “Throughout the year, coaches and athletes are always asking if this event is the one that serves the chicken sandwich and if I say no, they are disappointed.” 

The same popular chicken sandwich is also cooked for participants and attendees at the annual Heroes Pull, a fundraising event started in 2012 in which first responder teams pull a BearCat armored vehicle and a fire truck – and the quickest combined time wins. 

To learn more about Special Olympics Kansas and their dedication to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities please visit https://ksso.org/