“By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory. The right to play on any playing field. You have earned it. The right to hold a job. You have earned it. The right to be anyone’s neighbor. You have earned it. You have taught us that what matters is not power or politics or weapons or wealth. What truly counts is the courageous spirit and the generous heart.” – Eunice Kennedy-Shriver
50 years after the first Special Olympics International Games, the words of Eunice Kennedy-Shriver continue to shine a light on the path toward greater acceptance, inclusion and respect for people of all intellectual abilities.
On July 17 - 21, 2018, we were honored to join Special Olympics in the celebration of their 50th Anniversary at the site of the inaugural Special Olympics International Games in Chicago. These events brought together athletes, fans and supporters to honor the achievements – both on and off the field – of those with intellectual disabilities. The events also provided an opportunity to recommit to the goal of ending discrimination and advancing more inclusive communities around the globe.
Working with Special Olympics to advance inclusion – on and off the field
We’ve partnered with Special Olympics for more than 30 years, supporting athlete leadership on the field and empowering them off the field by connecting them to opportunities to achieve economic mobility and advancement. It’s part of our long-standing commitment to advancing a more diverse and inclusive society, which includes workforce inclusion within our company, engaging employees through advocacy and volunteerism, and ensuring our products and services are accessible.
Athlete Leadership Program
The Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Program gives athletes a voice in shaping the Special Olympics movement and allows athletes to pursue leadership opportunities. The program includes training to serve as coaches, officials, team captains, spokespeople and Special Olympics Board and Committee members. Through the Athlete Leadership Program, athletes learn how to speak persuasively, conduct media interviews, mentor other athletes, speak as advocates, discuss their opinions on policy and governance, analyze financial reports and research and prepare fundraising events and presentations.
Bank of America has supported the Athlete Leadership Program since 2013, and committed support to the new Special Olympics capital campaign that launched with the 50th anniversary celebrations in Chicago. Funding will help expand and scale the program’s leadership training and workforce development for athletes across the world, including cultivating 15,000 new athlete leaders.
The Revolution Is Inclusion
Through the power of the athletes and their sports, Special Olympics has ushered in a new world of unity, tolerance and respect – The Revolution Is Inclusion. We’ve been honored to partner with Special Olympics as we reflected on this milestone 50th anniversary, and not only celebrate the past, but look forward to the future. Bank of America, standing alongside other Special Olympics partners, is committed to supporting Special Olympics as they find new ways to embrace the opportunities of true inclusion through convening communities through sport, joy and shared passion.
Events at the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics in Chicago included:
- Unified Cup: The Special Olympics Unified Cup featured 24 female and male Unified teams composed of players with and without intellectual disabilities. Representing every region of the world, they played in this inaugural global football (soccer) invitational tournament to show the world that when we play unified, we live unified.
- Eternal Flame of Hope: A new, permanent, 30-foot monument for Special Olympics at Soldier Field, the site of the first games 50 years ago, was lit at a dedication ceremony. The monument featured a landscaped plaza and donor recognition wall, as well as spectacular sculpture, an eternal flame, symbolizing the eternal hope that Special Olympics provides to athletes and their families, and in turn, the eternal hope that Special Olympics athletes provide to the world. World-renowned artist Richard Hunt is the designer of the sculpture.
- Global Day of Inclusion: The site of the first Special Olympics International Games, Chicago’s Soldier Field hosted a massive celebration that served as the spark for people around the world to commit to making their cities more inclusive. This family friendly festival offered sports activities, interactive games, exhibits, food offerings and live entertainment.