The 2014 Special
Olympics USA Games recently attracted 3,500 athletes from throughout
the country to a weeklong celebration of the human spirit in locations
throughout New Jersey. The events participants helped shatter
perceptions about what people with intellectual disabilities can do.
The key speaker was, advocate, actor and father, John
After four years of training, planning and preparing, the athletes
competed to win gold, silver, and bronze medals in 16 different sports
competitions: aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling,
flag football, golf, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, soccer, tennis,
volleyball, along with the two new demonstration sports, baseball
and a triathlon.
The athletes couldnt have performed at such a high level, if
they hadnt had the support of 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers,
and an estimated 70,000 spectators. This was also the most inclusive
Special Olympics to date because the competition included individuals
with intellectual disabilities and those without who played on the
same team together in 10 of the sports. Those events were basketball,
bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, triathlon
SO Games founding partner 21st Century FOX provided on-air and online
media exposure across its cable and broadcast networks, as well as
on its local stations. FOX, for the first time ever in games
history, also aired a one-hour recap chronicling the weeklong celebration
on its Sports 1 station. The show, Celebrating Champions: 2014 Special
Olympics USA Games, captured the passion, dedication and determination
of Americas most inspiring athletes.
In addition to training, competition, education, and community building,
2014 athletes also had access to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes
program. It provided free health examinations and additional access
to health care. People with intellectual disabilities are one of the
most medically underserved populations in the United States, and even
those who may have access to healthcare may not have seen doctors
trained to suit their needs. Through Healthy Athletes, doctors, dentists,
and other health professionals also get additional education and training
needed to care for the ID population.
During games week, more than 100 high school students with and without
intellectual disabilities met at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games
Youth Summit. There were leaders from within both Project UNIFY and
Special Olympics education and sports-based programs, which
are powered by an engaged youth community. This alliance increases
athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without
intellectual disabilities, and also creates communities of acceptance
Project UNIFY is a youth-led movement, meaning that high school and
university-aged students have the unique power to positively impact
their school communities by promoting social inclusion. Those who
head up the project are called Inclusive Youth Leaders: inclusive
because a leader can be anyone of any ability level; youth
because they have the passion and enthusiasm typically associated
with young people; and leaders because they are the primary
agents for positive social change within their communities.
The message of the Youth Summit was simple: Play Unified. Live Unified.
Unified remains a revolutionary conceptjust as revolutionary
as SO founder Eunice Kennedy Shrivers pioneering work for social
justice. She believed that young people, with and without intellectual
disabilities, could work together towards a greater victory than either
could achieve on their own.
Students participated in summit leadership sessions that strengthened
their abilities in communication, teamwork, co-leadership (pairing
of one person with an intellectual disability and one without) and
environment. Additionally, youth leaders conducted three school assemblies
on Special Olympics and Project UNIFY, focusing on the outcome of
friendship to select middle schools in the New Jersey area. Lastly,
all youth summit participants organized and staffed a Unified Sports
Festival to bring together people of all ages and ability levels to
participate in Unified Sports. The festival featured soccer, bocce,
football, kickball, Zumba and Wiffle ball.
All who attended the 2014 games were agents of change for inclusion.
Stay tuned for the launch of our new youth activation campaign coming
soon to a level playing field near you!
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including all of the photos in our Digi issue, by clicking "Like"
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