This year, Special Olympics will host the first-ever Unified Relay Across America, and Bank of America is honored to serve as its presenting sponsor.
The Unified Relay is a cross-country event that will carry the Flame of Hope from Athens to Los Angeles, the host city of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Bank of America is also an official partner of the World Games, which takes place July 25 to August 2 and is expected to be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world this year. In addition to providing financial and volunteer support for the Unified Relay, which takes place from May 26 to July 10, Bank of America will use their partnership to deepen Special Olympics’ connections to local communities and further spread the message of respect and inclusion for all.
“By putting our scale and resources behind the Unified Relay, we’ll help bring a message of unity and inclusion to an incredibly large audience, and hopefully break some fundraising records along the way,” says Anne Finucane, global chief strategy and marketing officer at Bank of America and a member of the Special Olympics Board of Directors.
Bank of America and Special Olympics
Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968. It has grown into a global movement, aiming to empower those with intellectual disabilities through the power and joy of sports and support both on and off the field.
“Individuals with intellectual disabilities are vital members of the communities we live in and serve,” says Kerry Sullivan, president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. “Our more than 30 years of partnership with Special Olympics goes beyond sports competitions and is embedded in our company through employment practices, workforce development investments and employee engagement.”
Here’s how Bank of America and Special Olympics have worked together:
- Employment and recruiting: “For nearly 20 years, we’ve integrated people with disabilities into our own workforce,” says Sullivan. “And some of our employees have also competed in Special Olympics.” The bank’s Support Services team has more than 300 employees with disabilities.
- Philanthropy and volunteerism: “We’ve provided over $13 million to support Special Olympics USA, World Summer and Winter Games, and to programs such as the Healthy Athlete and the Athlete Leadership programs,” Sullivan says. “We partner with nonprofit organizations across the country that support the disability community through housing, employment and basic human services, including opportunities to build better money habits. Plus, our employees have rallied in support of Special Olympics, donating more than 40,000 hours since 2010.”
- Disability Advocacy Network: Bank of America’s Disability Advocacy Network (DAN) includes more than 1,700 members across 16 chapters in the United States and United Kingdom. The network provides employees with disabilities and those who have family, friends or clients with disabilities with opportunities for professional growth and development.
- Community engagement: “We’re working with our market president teams, Bank of America Community Volunteers and DAN on activities leading up to the World Games and Unified Relay, connecting our local teams to Special Olympics program offices and other nonprofits that are serving individuals with disabilities — including supportive housing, workforce development programs, financial empowerment and social enterprises,” says Sullivan.
A chance to come together
“Our World Games offer an opportunity for our nation to come together to celebrate differences and unify in the spirit of respect and inclusion,” says Special Olympics CEO Janet Froetscher.
How the Unified Relay will work
More than 20,000 people are expected to join the Unified Relay as torchbearers. Throughout the course of 46 days, three simultaneous routes will begin on the East Coast in Augusta, Maine, Washington, D.C., and Miami and travel west to Los Angeles by way of hand-to-hand torch exchange. Participants can register as a team or an individual to run, walk or bike a half- or five-mile segment of the relay and pledge to raise a targeted amount of money for Special Olympics.
After passing through all 50 states, the Relay will convene in California for the Law Enforcement Final Leg Torch Run, featuring members of law enforcement organizations and Special Olympics athletes representing 36 countries. This Final Leg Torch Run will end on July 25 at the World Games’ opening ceremony in Los Angeles.
Photographs courtesy of Special Olympics
Some of the featured participants are not employees of U.S. Trust. The opinions and conclusions expressed are not necessarily those of U.S. Trust or its personnel.