When Special Olympics launched in 1968, the mission was to end discrimination against individuals with intellectual disabilities through the power of sports. Inclusion has been at the forefront of the organization's values since Day 1, and there cannot be true, all-encompassing inclusion without understanding the importance of diversity in a movement that seeks to break down barriers.

In the decades since its inception, the world has continued to change and Special Olympics, like the rest of the world, continues to adapt. Special Olympics Southern California values, celebrates and respects the various differences, neurodiversities, backgrounds and perspectives that makeup the Special Olympics athlete and world population.


SOSC prides itself as a diverse, inclusive and anti-racist organization that practices equity, promotes unity and respects all voices to ensure everyone within our communities achieves their full potential.



Our board, staff, athletes, volunteers and partners represent the broad spectrum of the communities we serve. The uniqueness of each individual's identities, experiences and perspectives are valued and given due consideration.


Our culture fosters a sense of belonging and support throughout the organization and the activities we sponsor. We actively invite individuals to fully and effectively participate in and contribute to critical organizational goals and processes.


The work we do is characterized by fair treatment and open access to resources and opportunities.


We regularly and intentionally examine our policies, procedures, routines and unconscious bias to uncover the presence of systemic racism and actively dismantle and replace them with systems that promote and support equity for all.

Calvin Lyons

"People with intellectual disabilities intersect across all areas of life (e.g. ethnicities, age, religion, gender identity, etc.). Special Olympics Southern California is in a unique position to bring people together through the power of sports and provide a stage for people with intellectual disabilities to share their inspiring and powerful voice. We are keenly aware that there is much more to accomplish to ensure everyone is included and treated with dignity. Change is not often comfortable, but we will be courageous and continue to transform the world into a more inclusive place for all."

Calvin Lyons, President and CEO for Special Olympics Southern California

Equality equity graphic


Colbert Williams
Angela Zhu
Fabiola Aceves
Max Parrish


The mission is to oversee and advance SOSC's diversity, inclusion and anti-racism initiatives with general responsibility for: big-picture planning; data collection and analysis; implementation; and monitoring.


Calvin Lyons
SOSC President and CEO

Jan Palchikoff
Senior VP, Sports and Programs (Council Chair)

Joshua Beg
Administrator, Sports and Programs

Gina Carbajal
Director Development, Santa Barbara County

Chasen Eddow
Director, Sports and Programs

Melissa Erdmann
Assistant VP, Unified Champion Schools

Luke Farnell
Director, LETR

Dustin Hildebrand
Manager, Schools Program

Laura Mayo
Assistant VP, Development

Crystal Pauley-Jenkins
Senior Manager, Human Resources

Laura Seckel
VP, Human Resources

Jody Watty
Director Development, San Luis Obispo County

Melissa Wickman
Assistant VP, Development

Each member is asked to serve for a minimum of one year. The council also includes professional outside facilitators who offer guidance and assistance, but have no role in decision-making with the organization's initiatives. The council communicates with SOSC employees via periodic emails and updates at monthly all-staff meetings.


  • SOSC established the Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism, consisting of up to 15 employees who meet monthly. View the Council charter.

  • Employees participated in an interactive workshop and breakout sessions tailored to address diversity, inclusion and anti-racism at the two-day 2021 SOSC Employee Conference in January. The breakout sessions provided input that helped the Council understand some of the needs of employees and of the organization as a whole.

  • As part of the Individual Goal setting process in January 2021, every employee created a goal to spend time reading books or articles and/or watching videos to increase their awareness of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism issues. They also made a commitment to participate in SOSC initiatives around the issues.

  • The Council drafted a Diversity Vision Statement for SOSC. The statement was approved by the Board of Directors in November 2021. View the statement.

  • The Board of Directors created the Diversity Sub-Committee to concentrate on identifying strong candidates for Board consideration with a heightened focus on identifying potential members from diverse backgrounds.

  • We launched an Intranet Hub for employees containing information and resources on diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism.

  • We created SOSC’s diversity, inclusion and anti-racism webpage to share SOSC’s vision and goals with the public.

  • We formed dialogue groups in which employees volunteered to participate in small groups in a series of facilitated discussions about a range of topics such as implicit bias, social identities and racism. The purpose was to foster an environment in which employees could learn with and from each other about these subjects and help them address these issues at work and in their personal lives.

  • We identified that we have not highlighted an equitable number of stories about people of color in SOSC’s marketing and communications promotions. To help correct this, we updated processes to ensure we balanced who we featured, including ethnicities, age, religion, gender identity, and more. This includes translating the SOSC website into seven languages (with more to come), photos, stories, and videos. We shared these materials on the WeAreSOSC blog, through emails, and on social media.