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The Unified Relay Across America

The Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America was an event unlike any other. To bring our nation together for awareness and understanding of our mission, over 10,000 people carried the Flame of Hope coast to coast across the United States. The Flame of Hope was delivered to Los Angeles for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

A First for Special Olympics.

Hitting every state over 46 days, the relay involved thousands carrying the Flame of Hope and lighting the way to a future of inclusion and respect for people with intellectual disabilities. ESPN and ABC showcased the story of this historic relay leading up to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

In its role as presenting sponsor, Bank of America provided significant financial and volunteer support to the Unified Relay. In addition, the company used its deep connections in local communities to encourage participation among individuals, families and businesses.

Results

The Unified Relay Across America raised $1,674,748 for Special Olympics.

Communities Everywhere Took Part

A big audience was at the Mall of America in Minnesota to celebrate the arrival of the Unified Relay.

Over the course of 46 days, in a hand-to-hand exchange, participants ran, walked or biked segments of the relay in a team and individual fundraising event that passed throughout the United States. The relay culminated at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles on July 25, 2015. ESPN, the official broadcaster of the World Games, produced the Opening Ceremony live as well as a nightly highlights program throughout the nine-day event. The Unified Relay began on 26 May, where the Flame of Hope was split into three flames, one each for the three simultaneous routes starting in Augusta, Maine; Miami, Florida; and Washington, D.C.

Traveling west, all three routes became unified in Los Angeles on 10 July. Along each route, welcoming ceremonies and community celebrations took place nightly with musical performances, celebrity guests and Unified Sports Experiences. 

Co-captains Led the Way

Students and graduates of the University of Miami took photos and video along each route.

Each Unified Relay route was led by a group of co-captains, including media personalities, actors, musicians, athletes and Special Olympics athletes. Co-captains served as spokespeople for the Special Olympics movement and the Unified Relay, encouraged participation through registration, fundraising and spectatorship.

The Unified Relay co-captains were Damian Lillard, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and American professional basketball star; Elena Delle Donne, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and American professional basketball star; Joe Haden, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and American professional football star; Maria Menounos, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and journalist; Aloe Blacc, American singer and songwriter; Josh Turner, American singer and actor; Special Olympics North Carolina athlete Zach Commander, Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete Johanna Schoeneck and Special Olympics Iowa athlete Corey Leonhard.

“The flame of the torch is inspirational, in a way that few symbols can match. And I’m thrilled to be part of the announcement of what promises to be the greatest and biggest Torch Run in United States history,” said Michelle Kwan, Olympic figure-skating legend and Special Olympics International Board Member, as the Unified Relay got under way. “A run that will not only touch every state in the Union, every corner of this country but also engage and inspire every American.