The excitement of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has come and gone, but I’m proud to say there’s still plenty of great things happening with Special Olympics. As many of you know, I’m a long-time supporter of this cause. As an active member of Special Olympics New Jersey for over 10 years and having served on its Board of Directors for three years, I’m excited to soon take on a new role on the Executive Committee as Board Secretary at what’s a very exciting time for the organization.
An important initiative currently underway is Unified Sports which promotes social inclusion through shared sports training and competition. Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, encouraging sports and fun while, at the same time, bringing people together to learn more about each other. With ESPN as the Global Presenting Sponsor, more than 1.2 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports, including my son Alec. From watching him and seeing the positive impact this has made on him and all the participants, I hope that number continues to grow.
Day & Zimmermann has also been a great supporter of Special Olympics – you may recall we sponsored Team NJ at the 2014 Special Olympics National Games in New Jersey – the gold winning volleyball team! Along with the sponsorship, it was incredible to see the many D&Z employees who gave of their personal time to volunteer at the event itself – a true testament to how employees take our commitment to diversity and inclusion to heart. Our People with Disabilities Advocacy Resource Group also does a great job championing company-wide education on individuals with diverse abilities and encouraging participation and optimization of people with disabilities, and I’m proud to be involved as Executive Sponsor with Shina Warner and Andrea Petska as co-chairs.
We’re also gearing up to mark an important milestone: the 50th anniversary celebration for Special Olympics in 2018. Planning is already in force to mark this special occasion. Special Olympics has a unique history and started from a very personal passion. Rose and Joseph Kennedy Sr. had a daughter, Rose, born with intellectual disabilities, and it was her sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver who went on to form what became the Special Olympics. At this time, there was much less understanding around intellectual disabilities than there is today, and common practice was to institutionalize these individuals, as Rose was at one time. We, thankfully, have come a long way.
Family rooted. Emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Rich heritage while looking toward the future and growing. These not only describe Special Olympics, but also D&Z, and I am fortunate to be a part of two great groups. Fostering diversity and inclusion truly makes a difference, and I believe both Special Olympics and D&Z are true champions for the cause.