The outpouring of raw emotion and joy at this year’s “I Can” Special Olympics.

SOAR Hosts Second ‘I Can’ Special Olympics Games

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PHILADELPHIA/YEREVAN — Founded in 2005, the Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR) provides humanitarian relief to orphaned children and adults with disabilities in Armenia. During the past 17 years, SOAR has remained vigilant by spearheading child protection issues and satisfying the needs of Armenia’s most vulnerable populations. Growing to meet these needs while keeping true to its mission, SOAR has expanded to prevent institutionalization by providing financial, educational, and humanitarian assistance to at-risk children, youth, and families. Today, SOAR has more than 600 volunteers in 145 Chapters worldwide, supports 34 care institutions in four countries, and has distributed more than $11.5 million in humanitarian aid since its inception.

In May 2018, SOAR’s “I Can” Special Olympics launched a movement in Armenia to break down barriers and end discrimination against people with physical and intellectual disabilities by organizing a national sports festival. Fashioned after the Special Olympics, the games were held in Tsaghgadzor spanning three days, with 150 special needs children and adults participating in a variety of athletic and social activities.

Participants and supporters cheering on their friends at SOAR’s national sports festival for special needs children and adults.

In June 2022, SOAR’s quadrennial “I Can” festival was held in Shirakatsy Lyceum International Scientific-Educational Complex (June 24-25) and along Lake Sevan (June 26). More than 120 participants from 7 child and adult care centers participated in boccia, table tennis, relay, soccer, and rafting. Raffi Jehanian, Vice-Chairman attended on behalf of SOAR’s Executive Board. Special guest attendees included the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Narek Mkrtchyan; Vakhtang “Vic” Darchinyan, an Armenian-Australian boxer who held multiple world championships in two weight classes, including the IBF flyweight title from 2004 to 2007 and the WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal super-flyweight titles between 2008 and 2010; Ashot Adamyan, Arm Wrestling World Champion; Arshak Hovhannisyan, Smbat Karapetyan, and Taron Umroyan, surviving soldiers of the 2020 Artsakh War; Hakob Abrahamyan, President of the Armenian National Paralympic Committee; and Tigran Martirosyan, Armenian Weightlifting Champion.

SOAR’s “I Can” Special Olympics empowers people with physical and intellectual disabilities by providing them opportunities to learn skills that transcend the playing field. Our athletes can hold jobs, go to school, and be active members in their communities. SOAR’s hope is to give the “I Can” participants the chance to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, become self-sufficient, and participate in community activities that foster inclusivity throughout Armenia.

The opening ceremony of SOAR’s “I Can” Special Olympics.

SOAR extends its gratitude to the Harold and Josephine Gulamerian Armenian Orphan Fund; SOAR Kentucky, London, Maine, Ventura County, and particularly Rocky Mountains, which provided one-third of the funding; Jur.am and Coca-Cola for supplying water and juice; and all of our financial supporters and in-country volunteers who made our 2022 “I Can” Special Olympics possible.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, SOAR is the world’s only charitable organization devoted exclusively to providing humanitarian relief to orphaned Armenian children. To learn more about SOAR and view the gallery of Special Olympics photos and videos, visit soar-us.org/specialolympics.

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