Our partnership with Special Olympics began in 2018 and while the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, Special Olympics World Games and other volunteer events we engage with around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies within the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics.
United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to making our world a better place. Since the launch of our Special Olympics Service Ambassador (SOSA) Program in 2019 at ORD we have doubled down on our commitment to the Special Olympics Inclusion Revolution by expanding to Houston, Denver and Washington DC. The 17 SOSAs working in our airports are part-time employees, who welcome our customers and help them find check-in kiosks, where to drop bags and how to find the TSA PreCheck line. They wear co-branded Special Olympics/United uniforms, and each SOSA has a mentor on site during their shift.
DEN Service Ambassador Hanna Atkinson has been a SOSA with United since 2021. She is an avid ambassador for the Special Olympics and has won several awards.
Many think that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) struggle in the workplace,” wrote Hanna. “This is an unfair opinion. People with IDD can rise to the expectations when given the time and support necessary to develop the tools to be successful.
ORD Service Ambassador Daniel Smrokowski, has been with United since the start of the program. He also has an impressive resume including being an award-winning podcaster, columnist, and an acclaimed advocate telling disability stories on his groundbreaking, global platform Special Chronicles.
I’m honored to hold the position of Service Ambassador at United Airlines,” continued Daniel. “The opportunity to be part of the United family means everything to me. I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gift of communication to help others.