Importance of Unified Sports Discussed at Youth Sports Summit

Two women and a man stand together with a branded background smiling at the camera.
(Left to right) Donna de Varona, Olympic legend and Executive Board Member of Special Olympics International; Lucy Meyer, spokesperson for the Special Olympics-UNICEF USA partnership; Bill Shumard, President and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California at the LA84 Youth Sports Summit in Los Angeles.

Lucy Meyer, athlete and spokesperson for the Special Olympics-UNICEF USA Partnership, spoke about the incredible impact of Unified Sports during a panel discussion at the recent LA84 Youth Sports Summit. Speaking on a panel with Olympic legend and Executive Board Member of Special Olympics International, Donna de Varona, and Bill Shumard, President and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California, Lucy described how Unified Sports can change the world.

The overall theme for the summit, which took place in Los Angeles, was ‘Play Equity: Elevating the Game for our Kids’.

“It was so exciting to be on the panel with legend Donna De Varona and Bill Shumard to talk about the importance of Unified Sports to make the world a better place. I loved sharing with the audience my amazing experience playing Unified Sports in school, how much it means to me, and that we love it so much!”
Lucy Meyer

Lucy is among 1.7 million teammates across the globe who take part in Unified Sports—and that number is growing every year. Between 2017 and 2018, there was an increase of 8% in Unified Sports participants overall, and a 13% increase in those aged eight to 25 years old.

A woman sits facing a young woman and a man on a white sofa with large images of sports players in the background.
Olympic legend and Executive Board Member of Special Olympics International, Donna de Varona (left) in conversation with Lucy Meyer, Spokesperson for the Special Olympics-UNICEF USA partnership, and and Bill Shumard, President and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California, at the recent LA84 Youth Sports Summit in Los Angeles.

Two-time Olympic gold medallist, Donna de Varona, found Lucy’s description of her Unified Sports experience deeply compelling—as did the entire audience. She said, “Lucy commanded an audience of some 500 NGO leaders during her panel discussion. She spoke to how Unified Sports in her public high school attracted often marginalized students into the program, as many of them had given up participating in elite competitive sport. She discussed how being on the field of play together formed unique friendships and a deeper understanding of the challenges a diverse student population faces. It was a joy to hear her entertain the audience with such a vivid testimony to the value of Unified Sports.”

As part of her role as Spokesperson for the Special Olympics-UNICEF USA partnership, Lucy has been instrumental in expanding the reach and impact of the growing relationship between Special Olympics and UNICEF Country Offices. In addition to her strong global advocacy, Lucy has also made targeted site visits to Jamaica, Brazil and Bosnia and Herzegovina to witness the impact of inclusive programming, and encourage national governments and community leaders alike to continue to support the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities.