This was a big year for Special Olympics. From high-level competitions and high-profile partnerships to the expansion of Unified Sports and Athlete Leadership, the power of inclusion was on full display. The momentum of the movement reached far beyond the Special Olympics organization into all aspects of development, industries and pop culture. Here are just a few highlights from 2019.
The World Games in Abu Dhabi were the biggest and most unified Games to date. More than 7,500 athletes competed in 24 sports. In attendance were 200 nations, more than 20 of which attended World Games for the first time. Behind the scenes, over 20,000 volunteers and more than 300 staff from 47 nations poured their hearts and souls into the event.
Leading up to World Games, LETR saw 115 Torch Runners participate in the Final Leg. They visited each of the seven United Arab Emirates over the course of 11 days to deliver the flame to Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi for the Opening Ceremony.
The new class of Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers (SSIGM) officially began their four-year terms in January. SSIGMs have demonstrated Athlete Leadership by speaking at global forums such as the United Nations in New York, and the Opening Ceremony at the World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Special Olympics athletes grabbed the attention of worldwide audiences on the big and small screens. Zack Gottsagen (SO-FL) starred alongside Shia LaBeouf in the hit film Peanut Butter Falcon, which was executive produced by Special Olympics Board Chair Tim Shriver. On television, Cole Sibus (SO-SoCal) stole America’s hearts in the new hit series “Stumptown” on ABC.
The Golisano Foundation help moved the needle on making inclusive health care a reality by donating $1.5 million to a new cancer treatment facility in Niagara Falls, NY. The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will strive to increase access to cancer treatment for all, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
While celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Spread the Word to End the Word decided to broaden its reach internationally and focus on inclusion. A new name, Spread the Word >> Inclusion, was announced and a new website launched.
As 2019 comes to a close, we look forward to more great moments in 2020 as we work to deliver a fully inclusive world. The Revolution is Inclusion! Won’t you join us?