History of Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization created to help people with intellectual disabilities develop self-confidence, social skills and a sense of personal accomplishment.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968. Shriver believed that people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable than commonly believed and deserving of the same opportunities and experiences as others. On the 40th anniversary of Special Olympics, she received Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award for a life dedicated to the ideals of sportsmanship. Currently, more than three million athletes in 181 countries and all 50 states in the United States participate.

Special Olympics Team Plano

Special Olympics Team Plano was formed in 1981 by Gail Pedigrew, Kay Goodman, Joan Roberts, and Janet Fricke. These volunteers gave Plano citizens with special needs an opportunity to participate and form a welcoming family network that would grow to 300 families. Cliff Miller, Ron Lander, and Kay Hord were early Heads of Delegation who each contributed in a significant way. Mickey Niemotka is the current, tireless President and has worked diligently since 1998.

Teams were formed in track (coached by Gail Pedigrew), soccer (coached by Kay Goodman and Joan Roberts), and swimming (coached by Janet Fricke). Softball (coached by Randy Foederer, John Walsh, Gary Taylor, and April Culver) was added in 1989 with bowling (coached by Jo and Jerry Anderson) added in 1990. Basketball began in 1995 with the first team coached by Dick Myers and Cliff Miller. This is by far the most popular sport with eleven current teams and fifteen coaches.

Bob Barman began the cycling team in 1997 and added triathlon a year later. The current gymnastics squad was formed in 1998 by Renee Manworren and Patti Levy and continues to be coached by these competent leaders. In 2002, the tennis team was formed by Debbie James and Pam Ferrell, and continues to grow under their guidance. Bocce ball was added in 2003 by Mickey Niemotka who continues to lead this spring sport. Volleyball was added in 2006, formed by Paul Lee, who continues to guide this growing sport. The latest sports edition was Flag Football, formed in 2011 by Steve Parry.

Team Plano is indebted to all of the past coaches and organizers who gave their time and effort to lead the program into the present organization. They are fortunate to have a wealth of participation from families of Special Olympics athletes and community volunteers as well. Consider accessing the volunteer page and adding to Team Plano’s rich history!