The international Special Olympics was founded 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. A state-based version, Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN), was organized in 1973. The organization provides the opportunity for athletes to participate in competition at the national and world levels, similar to traditional Olympics.
One exceptional Special Olympics athlete is Eden Prairie resident David Persons, who joined SOMN at the age of 38, as member of the Western Wings team. Persons has participated in bowling, bocce, Unified golf and many fundraising events. In 2012, he joined the Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs). In 2016, he was awarded the Judy Wahl Outstanding ALPs Male Athlete Award at SOMN’s Distinguished Service Awards. He is currently a SOMN board member.
To qualify for national or international games, athletes must attend a state competition and meet certain qualifying benchmarks in their sport. It is not required that they win gold, silver or bronze medals. An interview process follows, and representatives with SOMN choose the athletes who will continue to the next level. The world Special Olympics games are held every two years, alternating between winter and summer games. The next world games will be held in March 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emigrants.
—Wendy Petersen Biorn
Executive Director, Carver County Historical Society