The Games are here! After four years of planning, training and more training, the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games have begun. Today’s Opening Ceremony (Prudential Center, 4:00 pm.- 6:00 pm. EST) ushers in 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches, 70,000 spectators and 10,000 volunteers. (9,999 plus me!!) Once the Special Olympics cauldron is lit, athletes will compete in 16 Olympic-style team and individual sports throughout the following week; over 10 venues across the state of New Jersey will play host to each competition.
Yankee Derek Jeter promotes the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games
More than ever, these Games are reaching out to a mainstream audience. Founding Partner 21st Century Fox has promoted the event with vast media coverage utilizing both live and recorded segments. WWE, also a Founding Partner, is the Official Production Partner of the 2014 USA Games, and has widely increased exposure through their world-wide audience. Governor Chris Christie is serving as the Games Honorary Chair, and a flock of celebrities are expected. THAT is the focus of these games; creating meaningful change in societal attitudes towards the differently abled by appealing to all demographics.
Now it’s our turn to join the movement. And we can- in 4 easy steps.
1. Be a “fan in the stands”.
Instead of paying mega bucks for a Yankee game, (I think in this instance Derek would agree), or plopping down in front of the tube for the FIFA World Cup, take the family to witness true grit and determination at the 2014 USA Games. Make no mistake- this are REAL athletes. You and your children will learn lessons they will never forget, and come away inspired in unexpected ways. And it is free. Find an event near you: 2014 Special Olympics USA Games Schedule. New Jersey was chosen; let’s be the best of hosts!
2. Teach your children well.
When my own son participated in the very first Unity Sports game in softball during the 2011 Special Olympics World Games in Athens, we knew this new initiative was something, well, special.
|Chairman Shriver looks on as Devin bats up.|
Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver describes the experience of “transformation that takes place when every student is included regardless of “ability”, is valued and is involved in collaborating to create welcoming and accepting environments in their schools.” Do read Mr. Shriver’s complete article “Empowering Students to Be Architects of Their Future: The Power of Special Olympics Project Unify” at the Special Education Guide blog. (Spend some time perusing the site while you are there- the depth of resouces and information here is impressive.) If your child’s school has not adopted Unified Sports, NOW is the time to start authentic social inclusion through athletics. Send Mr. Shriver’s words to your superintendent or principal today.
3. Social Media Cheer Squad
YOU know the power in your mobile devices; follow, share, retweet away. If you can’t make it into the stands, spread the word and build excitement through following links:
– Facebook Special Olympics USA Games
– Twitter @2014USAGames #2014USAGames
– Instagram 2014specialolympicsusagames
Follow the Opening Ceremony and other events on the live stream from the official website- Special Olympics 2014 USA Games New Jersey. Meaningful change is up to each of us. Ready, set, thumbs up, GO!
4. Money Talks
Well, it does. No athlete competing in the 2014 USA Games is responsible for the cost of the events, room, board, or medical screenings, (a shout to my fellow professionals working with the Healthy Athletes program!). Won’t you consider sponsoring in one of these ways?
– $2014 for 2014
– $20.14 General Donation
– Join Founding Partner Toys “R” Us by donating $5 to the 2014 USA Games through June 21st. Text CHEER to 80888 today and follow along at #CheerOnAChampion!
The official 2014 USA Games motto is this: REVEALING AMERICA’S CHAMPIONS JUNE 14-21 VOLUNTEER | DONATE | CHEER. We can do all three, but the mission doesn’t end there. Preparations are already underway for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. Get involved now by volunteering with your local chapter, becoming a coach or official, use your professional expertise with Healthy Athletes, or have your high school or college student join Project UNIFY. Participate in local fundraisers. Remember- the world (and your child) is watching, so #TakeAStand!
|runDisney kindly includes Special Olympics of Southern California as a Charity Group in their Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend,|
|For zombies of all ages: run, walk or volunteer at a rUNDEAD event near you!|
|Support your local Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.|
Read more about my Special Olympics journey: