By Rita Maloof, ALTA Foundation President
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the Georgia Summer Special Olympic Games return to Atlanta! The games will be held at Emory University on Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28.
Special Olympics was the first organization to offer training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The national organization, Special Olympics Incorporated, was founded in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Special Olympics Georgia provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults who have intellectual disabilities. This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and to participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
In 1970, 500 athletes gathered at a suburban Atlanta college to participate in the first-ever track and field event held under the Special Olympics Georgia banner. Over the past 50 years, the organization has grown exponentially and has helped thousands of children and adults in the process. The number of active athletes has grown to 26,620 participating in 26 sports.
Tennis was added to the summer games in 1999. Fifty-one players participated in the Individual Skills contest while 19 athletes competed in tennis singles. Today, more than 340 athletes compete in tennis events, making tennis the third most popular event behind Athletics (track & field) and swimming at the summer games.
In addition to Individual Skills and Singles, tennis is offered as a “Unified Sport,” an initiative that combines an equal number of Special Olympics athletes with athletes who do not have intellectual disabilities (called partners) for doubles play. Age and ability matching of athletes and partners is defined on a sport-by-sport basis.
Since 2003, the ALTA Foundation has been a proud partner of the Summer Special Olympic Games and the sponsor of the tennis venue. In addition to financial support, ALTA members and their families volunteer during the event as umpires, scorekeepers, ball persons, unified partners, and fill various other roles. More than 15,000 hours have been donated in the past. Approximately 120, three- to four-hour volunteer slots will need to be filled for the tennis games at Emory University this year. No experience — with the exception of general tennis knowledge — a strong desire to give back, and a smile are necessary to volunteer. We welcome all volunteers over the age of 8 — with parental accompaniment for those under the age of 12. Training is provided where needed.
For more information on how you, your family, and/or your organization can participate in the Summer Special Olympic Tennis Games, contact Rita Maloof at email@example.com.