Media CenterSpecial Olympics International and CRS Renew Global Health Partnership

Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

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Susan Walters
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(443) 955-7103

Rebecca Simon
Special Olympics International
[email protected]
(202) 824-0344


Aim is to Improve the Lives of Children with Intellectual Disabilities and their Families

Baltimore, MD, May 15, 2017 – A partnership begun in 2014 between Special Olympics International (SOI) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was renewed for another five years when leaders from the two organizations met at the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria. The renewed partnership will expand its work on the elimination of health disparities, empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities, humanitarian assistance, youth activation and national policy development for people with intellectual disabilities. 

“The equation for this partnership is one plus one equals three with these children and their families being the winners,” said Mary Davis CEO of SOI.

Deep within the Nairobi’s slums, eight community centers have been transformed in to inclusive early childhood development centers for children with and without intellectual disabilities. The centers offer inclusive play, motor skills development programs, access to physical therapy, sessions that educate parents and have a trained force of community health workers that assist families of children with intellectual disabilities. The centers serve as beacons of hope for the many parents who too often isolate such children, fearing stigma, costs and a burden of dependence and have created more inclusive communities as a result. The partnership piloted in Kenya by SOI and CRS offers the most comprehensive early childhood care and development program for individuals with intellectual disabilities in that country.

CRS and SOI agreed to continue the life-changing work they are now doing together in Kenya and will explore ways to expand to other communities in the developing world.

“Over the next five years will find new ways to reach people with intellectual disabilities so they are not just recipients of services, but actually help design and deliver them as well, becoming part of the solution,” said Sean Callahan, president of CRS.

People with intellectual disabilities – up to 200 million people - are frequently the most underserved segment of those with disabilities, particularly in the developing world where CRS does its work. Along with their immediate families, they are too often marginalized by relatives and communities, vulnerable in cases of conflict or natural disasters and excluded from campaigns aimed at building their resilience.

“Special Olympics International and Catholic Relief Services have formed a complementary union tapping CRS’ strong networks in over 100 countries and SOI’s experience facilitating inclusion within communities for the empowerment of youth and adults with intellectual disabilities,” Davis said. “Together we are bringing these individuals into the light and providing the necessary support so they and their families can thrive.”

Callahan said this renewed partnership will build on the successes seen in Kenya, particularly these centers where children have an opportunity to play, learn, and receive health interventions while parents and caregivers get counseling, peer support and training in caring for their children, their families and, importantly, themselves.

“With Special Olympics International, we will strengthen and expand early childhood development initiatives to ensure more children can thrive,” he said. “And, we pledge to work together to change the way society cares for its most vulnerable children.”

Callahan said this partnership ties into a CRS campaign to get children out of institutions and into family-centered care around the world.

“Disability is a leading cause of children entering orphanages,” he said. “We want to deinstitutionalize care for millions of children around the world by giving parents the skills they need to support their children, turning orphanages into service providers.”



Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become acepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 170 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: TwitterFacebookYouTubeInstagram and our blog.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.


Susan Walters

Senior Communications Manager

Susan Walters
May 15, 2017

Based in Baltimore, MD

As a Senior Communications Manager for Catholic Relief Services, Susan Gossling Walters covers the agency’s footprint in the United States where she identifies personal stories existing within communities, college campuses, parishes, schools as well as families that illustrate a unique approach and commitment to service. Using her skills as a...More