Founders’ Champion Award

The purpose of establishing the Founders’ Champion Award is to honor the legacy of the Founders of Special Olympics Maryland by recognizing a leader in the community who personifies the values and commitment that led to organizing Special Olympics Maryland in 1970.   

Throughout history including the 1960s and 70s individuals with intellectual disabilities were frequently institutionalized and those who were not were still very much segregated. In childhood, if individuals with intellectual disabilities attended school it was through separate “special education” centers. For those adults who were not institutionalized their lives did not typically include employment.  Until Special Olympics arrived in 1968, sport for individuals with intellectual disabilities was not even an afterthought…they were not included or afforded the opportunity to participate in organized sports. 

Our Founders, Tom Carski, Ed Mitchell, and John Rigley were inspired by our athletes to show Marylanders what individuals with intellectual disabilities could do. Through conversations with Special Olympics International Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, these gentlemen quickly grasped the power of sport to provide an environment where the abilities of our athletes could be displayed. The first Summer Games at Towson in 1970 fostered a learning environment for Marylanders who volunteered or came as spectators as they witnessed athletes competing in sports like track and field and swimming. Our Founders understood the transformative power of sport for our athletes and the transformative power of our athletes to change attitudes. The mission was not just for our athletes it was for everyone. 

This Founders’ Champion Award will serve as a perpetual reminder of how our Founders leveraged their passion for and steadfast belief in our athletes combined with the power of sport to transform lives and communities across Maryland.  

The Special Olympics Maryland Founders’ Champion will be someone who is a Champion for: 

  • People with intellectual disabilities. 
  • The power of sport to transform lives. 
  • Building interactive, inclusive communities of dignity and respect across Maryland. 
  • Creating a world where opportunity is not limited by disability. 

Special Olympics Maryland Founders’ Champion Award – Selection Criteria 

The Award Winner will have demonstrated a profoundly positive impact on Special Olympics Maryland and more tangibly on the lives of athletes, families, volunteers, supporters, and the broader community.  

The following criteria provides guidance for the selection of the annual Award Winner. It is understood that the winner may not excel in every criteria point. 

  1. A prominent person in the community with the ability to influence others in ways that produce positive results related to advancing the Special Olympics mission in Maryland. 
  2. Person in a leadership position with a company/organization who demonstrates a commitment to influencing/leading culture in support of Special Olympics mission. 
  3. Demonstrated sustained years of commitment in service to and support of Special Olympics Maryland. 
  4. Demonstrated/measurable impact related to expanding awareness related to Special Olympics Maryland athletes, the mission, the scope of the program, and the broader community of all individuals with intellectual disabilities. 
  5. Impact on Marylanders without intellectual disabilities, actions and impact related to building interactive inclusive communities…advancing the concept of experiencing inclusion. 
  6. Demonstrated commitment to athletes measured by meaningful relationship(s) with an athlete or group of athletes. 
  7. Demonstrated/measurable impact related to helping increase revenue necessary to grow the program.