Special Olympics to unite the USA with special torch run this summer

| January 30, 2015 | 1 Comment

BOA_Infographic_8 5x11_2015_genericSpecial Olympics and Michelle Kwan announced this week on ABC’s Good Morning America that registration has opened for the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America. The Unified Relay will give anyone in the country a chance to carry the Flame of Hope that will be lit in Athens, Greece and help deliver it to Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Games – now only six months away. Over the course of 46 days, in a hand-to-hand exchange, over 20,000 participants will run, walk or bike a segment of the relay in this team and individual fundraising event as it passes through all 50 states.

The relay will pass through the Annapolis area  May 26th,  May 27th, May 28th.

The relay will culminate 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, will produce the Opening Ceremony live as well as a nightly highlights program throughout the nine-day event. 

“In a time when there is so much dividing people, our World Games offer an opportunity for our nation to come together to celebrate differences and unify in the spirit of respect and inclusion,” said Special Olympics CEO Janet Froetscher.  “With so many people coming to the U.S. for the World Games, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for every citizen to carry the Flame of Hope through their communities where it will light the caldron that burns during the Games. As the torch makes its way across our country it will bring us together in a unique way that will open hearts and minds.” 

The U.S. portion of the Unified Relay will begin on 26 May, where it will be split into three simultaneous routes starting in Augusta, Maine; Miami, Florida; and Washington, D.C. Traveling west, all three routes will become unified in Los Angeles on 10 July. Along each route, welcoming ceremonies and community celebrations will take place nightly with musical performances, celebrity guests and Unified Sports Experiences.

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

“By putting our scale and resources behind the Unified Relay, we’ll help bring a message of unity and inclusion to an incredibly large audience, and hopefully break some fundraising records along the way,” said Anne Finucane, Bank of America global chief strategy and marketing officer and a member of the Special Olympics Board of Directors.

When the three relays arrive in Los Angeles, the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg Team, comprised of law enforcement officers representing 36 countries, along with 10 Special Olympics athletes, will accept the torches and continue the Flame of Hope’s journey to communities throughout California, including Host Towns where Special Olympics World Games delegations from more than 170 countries will participate in pre-Games cultural exchanges.

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

Special Olympics today announced the following as Unified Relay co-captains:  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.  “A Run that will not only touch every state in the Union, every corner of this country but also engage and inspire every American.  The Unified Relay Across America is going to unify the entire world in one giant celebration of the spirit of Special Olympics.”

Supporters will have the opportunity to run with the Flame of Hope by signing up as an individual torchbearer or as a team of torchbearers for a half-mile walk or run segment or a five-mile bike segment in an area of interest across the United States. Funds raised from the Unified Relay will go to Special Olympics to provide sports training, competition opportunities and additional programming that empowers people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Participants can find out more information and sign up for the Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America at www.unifiedrelay.org.

ESPN and ABC are the Official Media Partners of the Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America. ESPN is a long-time supporter of Special Olympics and is also the Official Broadcaster of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Their local and national support of the Unified Relay will lead into the 25 July World Games Opening Ceremonies, televised on ESPN’s networks. 

Throughout the 46 days, ESPN and ABC media will tell the story of the relay across its multiple media platforms, covering and promoting each of the three routes as they cross the country. It will include national coverage on ESPN and ABC programs at select stops throughout the relay, local coverage on relevant ABC-owned stations and affiliates along the routes, a “torch tracker” and “Countdown to LA2015” clock on ESPN.com and select ABC digital media, and promotion across ESPN web sites and radio stations as well as ABC affiliate stations – letting people know when the torch is coming to their town and where they can go to support the torch bearers.

Additionally, employees from ESPN and ABC will participate as torchbearers.

“We are extremely proud of the relationship we have with Special Olympics Unified Sports, the Unified Relay Across America and the upcoming LA2015 World Games,” said Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International. “We can’t wait to tell the many amazing stories of this relay and the Games this summer.”

Additional corporate supporters of the Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America include Microsoft, Toyota and Homeaway.

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