Press Release


SHAPE America Contact:
Joey Martelli
Advocacy & Public Affairs Manager
Special Olympics Contact:
Monica Klock
Manager, Fitness Youth and Schools

SHAPE America and Special Olympics sign Memorandum of Understanding to Formalize Longstanding Partnership

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, July 31, 2019 — SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) and Special Olympics have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize a partnership that has been in effect for over 50 years. The relationship began in 1965, when the Kennedy Foundation and AAHPERD, now known as SHAPE America, began work on organizing year-round national fitness programs for people with intellectual disabilities. Three years later, the first Special Olympics Games would take place in 1968. Now more than 50 years later, the relationship between SHAPE America and Special Olympics has flourished due to SHAPE America’s network of physical educators. These dedicated educators have emphasized the implementation of inclusive sports and fitness in the US through the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® program. The Unified Champion Schools program is a comprehensive three-component model that combines inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement to create school and community climates of acceptance and inclusion.

This MOU will define the work the organizations will do in collaboration, including but not limited to:

    1. Provide training and supporting resources for SHAPE America members and Special Olympics stakeholders on inclusive physical activity, physical education, and health promotion for students with and without ID in schools;

    2. Provide content for each other’s communication channels (publications, social media, newsletters) to increase awareness of the partnership, organizational initiatives, and share each other’s appropriate resources available to help educators;

    3. Support the development of partnerships between SHAPE America State Affiliates and Special Olympics State Programs.

The MOU was signed by Stephanie Morris, Chief Executive Officer of SHAPE America and by Andrea Cahn, Vice President of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools at SHAPE America’s Mind-Body Connection conference.

“We are excited to continue our five-decade partnership with Special Olympics by taking concrete steps to ensure we can all live in an inclusive world. Special Olympics is the perfect partner as we move forward in accomplishing our goals.”  – Stephanie Morris, Chief Executive Officer, SHAPE America 

“SHAPE America was one of the few courageous organizations that endorsed the first Special Olympics Games in 1968. Today, we are honored to build upon this important legacy through our shared goals of expanding inclusive programming and supporting all students on their path to lifelong health and physical literacy.” – Andrea Cahn, Vice President, Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools. 

SHAPE America’s mission is to advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance and sport. Special Olympics has a global goal of creating 10,000 Unified Champion Schools by 2020. Currently, there are approximately 6,500 schools participating in Unified Champion Schools programming.




About SHAPE America
SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators is the nation’s largest nonprofit membership organization of health and physical education professionals. Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education, and the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education serve as the foundation for well-designed physical education programs across the country. SHAPE America provides programs, resources and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs. For more information, visit


About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. Special Olympics empowers people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted 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 five million athletes and Unified partners in more than 190 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners around the country and the world. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium.

Press Information

Contact SHAPE America at:
(800) 213-7193