Innovators of the Week: Dennis and Maria

The following post was written by Dennis and Maria, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from El Salvador. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!

The project that my brother and I developed allowed us to work as a team. Having a brother does not always mean that you will understand everything he does, but now I know how he, and other athletes, work in each of their sports activities.

I liked that we could talk about intellectual disabilities, how to talk to people with intellectual disabilities, and how to participate with schools for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

After we planned our project we contacted the participating schools and clubs and we told them about everything necessary to start a league. Along the way we realized that they were interested in more than the prize — they were interested in living together. This was achieved after our talk about individuals with intellectual disabilities so we decided not to give out prizes, but diplomas, to all the participants.

The soccer league was competing once a week until there were 2 teams left. It was held on the Magico Gonzalez stadium courts and each match lasted 2 hours. The first division teams of our country train on these courts and play matches that stimulated the participation of the students at the educational centers.

In the finals we recognized the work of the 2 coaches who were supporting their teams throughout the league.

We are satisfied with the results because the stereotypes against individuals with intellectual disabilities were removed. This helps us create a better country, not only for my brother, but for a large percentage of the population with intellectual disabilities.

The 2018–2019 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Kantar Group, the Microsoft Corporation, Lane Global Youth Leadership, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects at

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