WASHINGTON, April 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In anticipation of the upcoming Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held in Los Angeles this summer, 20 Olympic medalists across the world have come together to show their support of Special Olympics by participating in the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America. Leading the challenge is Olympic swimmer Donna de Varona, along with American gymnast Bart Conner, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, Russian-American artistic gymnast Nastia Liukin, American figure skaters Scott Hamilton and Michelle Kwan, American snowboarder Hannah Teter, American short track speed skater Apolo Ohno, American speed skater Casey FitzRandolph, American professional basketball players Sam Perkins and Ruth Riley, American swimmers John Naber and Jessica Hardy, American soccer player Kristine Lilly, American freestyle skier Ashley Caldwell, Swiss swimmer Dominik Meichtry, Paralympic athlete April Holmes, American bobsledder Steven Holcomb and American ice hockey players Julie Chu and Jocelyne Lamoureux.
Through the Special Olympics Unified Relay Olympian Challenge, they have committed to running, biking or walking a segment in the upcoming Unified Relay Across America helping to carry the torch and deliver the Flame of Hope, the official torch for the Special Olympics World Games, to Los Angeles, and are challenging their fellow Olympians and peers across the world to participate.
"Please join me in supporting Special Olympics and the World Games by running in our Torch Relay," said de Varona. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part and be a part of a very special gathering!"
For 46 days, from May 26 to July 10, in the first known torch relay to cross all 50 states, more than 20,000 participants will run, walk or bike over 10,000 segments of the relay. The Unified Relay is a team and individual fundraising event. Three simultaneous relay routes will cover almost 21,000 miles of the US, starting their individual journeys in Augusta, Maine, Miami, Florida and Washington, DC and unifying in Los Angeles. Along each route, welcoming ceremonies and community celebrations will take place nightly with musical performances, celebrity guests and Unified Sports Experiences, where people with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team.
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.
Anyone can 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.
From July 25 – August 2 Special Olympics will hold its flagship event, the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, CA, demonstrating sports excellence, which promotes equality, respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Transcending the boundaries of geography, nationality, political philosophy, gender, age, culture and religion, the world will come together for the largest sporting and humanitarian event on the planet to see 7,000 athletes from 170 countries compete in 25 sports.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 81,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics®, The Coca-Cola Company, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Lions Clubs International, Toys"R"Us, Mattel, Microsoft, P&G, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, Finish Line, The Safeway Foundation, and Safilo Group. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, instagram.com/specialolympics and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.
SOURCE Special Olympics