ESPN and Special Olympics have announced a one-year extension to the two-year global initiative announced in September 2013 that leverages the power of sports to promote an environment of social inclusion and acceptance, by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through the Special Olympics Unified Sports(R) program.
ESPN will extend its commitment to be the global presenting sponsor and official media sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports.
To date, ESPN has invested nearly $5 million in financial and in-kind support.
ESPN will continue 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 the end of 2015.
There are currently more than 800,000 global participants in Unified Sports.
The announcement – made today by Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN corporate citizenship, and Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics – continues Disney’s and ESPN’s 30-year commitment to Special Olympics, ESPN’s first charitable investment.
A portion of the one-year extension funds will continue to support an increase in Unified Sports participation in domestic and international markets announced in 2013.
In addition, there will be expanded support in key growth markets, including China and India.
ESPN will also make possible key communications, marketing activations, coaches’ trainings, conferences, research and other resources needed to assist Special Olympics in expanding Unified Sports worldwide.
Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN corporate citizenship, said: “I’m proud that our investment has helped grow the number of Unified athletes, teammates and coaches across the globe. We’re excited to continue this momentum and spread the message of social inclusion to reach one million Unified athletes and coaches by the end of the year.”
Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics, said “Our partnership with Disney and ESPN has been game changing. It has provided us the critical platform to build our Special Olympics Unified Sports program worldwide and continue to create communities of inclusion and respect. One of our highest priorities as a movement is to mobilize youth everywhere to play and live unified, and break down the barriers that exist for people with intellectual disabilities. Having Disney and ESPN continue to help drive the importance of Unified Sports in their storytelling and awareness efforts will help us achieve full inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.”