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The Deaf Youth Sports Festival

The Deaf Youth Sports Festival began in 1983 when seven volunteers and seven participants created the “Mini Deaf Olympics” (MDO), which they later changed to its current name. It is a weeklong event for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children across the country to participate in sporting competitions that are like the Olympics. The sporting events to participate in include soccer, volleyball, basketball, swimming, track and field (long jump, high jump, discus, shot-put), and bowling. The children are grouped by both age and skills into teams in compete in multiple games on a daily basis. Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded for each event.

MDO begins with an Opening Ceremony, in which the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Participants march into the auditorium, separated by state and school. Mr. and Miss MDO, who were crowned the previous year, open the games by carrying in the authentic Olympic torch, which was originally carried by Deaf founder Timothy Owens in the 1996 Olympics in Henryville, Indiana. Following this, the master of the ceremonies declares “Let the Games Begin!”. In the evening, such activities as roller-skating, among others, take place. On Friday night, at the banquet, the newly chosen Mr. and Miss MDO Olympian are crowned. The high school coaches, participants, and sports committee selects them from the high school participants. In order to be chosen, you must exhibit excellent sportsmanship, teamwork, and character.

The week comes to a close at the Closing Ceremonies, where highlights are shown, and the desirable Spirit Award is given to the team that showed the greatest sportsmanship, teamwork, and exceptional character.

While MDO used to take place on the University of Louisville campus, they relocated to the campus of the Indiana School for the Deaf, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2013. July of 2014 will mark the festival’s 32nd year of serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing children.

MDO is a program that serves Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth ages 5 through High School whose access to organized sports during the regular school year is often restricted or non-existent due to communication barriers, limited budgets for interpreters and accommodations, and socio-economic status. These children and youth are given an opportunity to learn about and participate in organized competitive sports, which they may never have been exposed to before. MDO’s goal is to challenge Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth to discover their potential through organized sporting competitions and directed activities that teach them communication, leadership, and social skills that are valuable and increase their potential to become proactive members of society.

Applications are available for both volunteers and participants and can be mailed to:

The Deaf Youth Sports Festival, Inc.-MDO, P.O. Box 421304, Indianapolis, IN 46242

The Deaf Youth Sports Festival takes place this year from Sunday, July 27th-Saturday, August 2nd. Participant Fees are as follows:
  • 1st Early Bird by March 15th: $175.00 (Savings of $325)
  • 2nd Early Bird by April 15th: $225.00 (Savings of $275)
  • 3rd Early Bird by May 15th: $300.00 (Savings of $200)
  • 4th Early Bird by June 15th: $400.00 (Savings of $100)
  • After July 1st: $500.00 (Full Price)
It may be possible for MDO to assist with some of the participation fee. Scholarships and Financial Assistance must be requested in writing by no later than May 1st. Requests should be sent to:

MDO Scholarship Request, P.O. Box 421304, Indianapolis, IN 46242

While there is no guarantee that MDO can give financial assistance, the earlier a request is received, the better chance of financial assistance. Checks can be made payable to MDO, or payment can be made by using PayPal at their website,, selecting PARTICIPANT, then going to DONATE at the bottom of the page.

The Deaf Youth Sports Festival-MDO is a great opportunity for youth ages 5 to high school to meet other Deaf and Hard of Hearing children of their own age, and to participate in activities that will enable them to gain skills that will benefit them in the future.

For more information, go to MDO’s website:, or visit their Facebook page:

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