The Walt Disney Company and ESPN are starting a two year initiative to use sports for the promotion of social inclusion, they announced September 6. The two companies will work with Special Olympics Unified Sports® to join people with and without intellectual disabilities in Special Olympics' activities. The new partnership was announced by Timothy P Shriver, CEO and chairman of the Special Olympics, and John Skipper, ESPN president, in conjunction with a Special Olympics Unified Sports® event at ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Conn.
“Sports have the unique ability to transcend social and cultural barriers. Disney is proud to support Special Olympics Unified Sports®, which is helping to create a better world through compassion and understanding,” said Leslie Goodman, senior vice president, of Disney. The multimillion dollar investment by the companies will be used to “support Special Olympics’ goal of registering one million Unified Sports® participants, including athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities), teammates (individuals without intellectual disabilities) and coaches, by 2015.”
Special Olympics Unified Sports® “puts people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.” The goal of this sports program is “promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences,” according to Special Olympics Unified Sports’® website.
Along with financial support, ESPN will provide marketing assistance for Special Olympics Unified Sports®. Additionally, Disney and ESPN will become the “global presenting sponsors and official media sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports."
"Having unified track at our school last year was really fun -- it was amazing to see all of the athletes at Lunenburg High School running on the same track. While we may be all of different speeds and skill levels, we were all athletes and we were all looking to compete. There were no labels on anyone except for their lane numbers. This is something anyone would appreciate, runner or not," said David Albertini, a senior at Lunenburg High School, in Massachusetts.
More information about the Unified Sports program is available on the website of the Special Olympics.