The sun catches her wispy, curly hair creating the perfect frame for her enthusiastic smile. Surrounded by her mama and sister, you are drawn to her. Saskia is a future Olympian for the Special Olympics and her father, Will Vogt, is here because of her. Vogt sits on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Southern California and shares their story. “I grew up in a family that is charitable yet I never found my place until the birth of Saskia and I knew that she would shape my path in this world. I did a lot of searching and trying to figure out as a family what resources are available and what the future holds. As I sought a way that would allow Saskia to be positively impacted, I reached out to Special Olympics and got involved.” With the Special Olympics World Games coming in 2015,Vogt shares, “I dream of a time when Saskia is not seen as different by the world – she is just Saskia. Special Olympics is in a position of building towards hopes and dreams for those with intellectual disabilities and I am thrilled to embrace a future for my daughter and her friends where we build a legacy that is not just hopes and dreams of inclusion, but an expectation of inclusion.”
People are gathered for the announcement that Studio City, California is one of the first of many Host Towns to welcome Special Olympic athletes for the 2015 World Games. Three days prior to the start of the games, Olympic delegations from around the world will experience memorable recreation, entertainment and cultural exchange in their Host Towns. The largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world, the Special Olympics World Games will welcome 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries and expects to attract 30,000 volunteers and over 500,000 spectators. The Games will be held in Los Angeles from July 25 through August 2, 2015 and will be the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.
Special Olympics Global Messenger, Dustin Plunkett, serves on the staff and does an incredible job of sharing the message around the world. He got involved with Special Olympics when a coach cared enough to ask him if he wanted to play with the team and it changed his life and his future. Plunkett shares passionately, “I grew up in a family where nobody knew how to support me – so joining Special Olympics gave me an extended family, the athletes were like my brothers and sisters and the coaches were my parents.” He goes on to say, “There are over 200 million people with intellectual disabilities and they are the most marginalized, mistreated and misunderstood people and are 2.5 times more likely to be bullied. Eunice Kennedy Shriver had a vision of addressing this issue and started Special Olympics because of her sister, Rosemary Kennedy, who had intellectual disabilities.” It is during the year round sports training and competition that athlete’s lives are transformed. The courage and joy reflected on every athlete’s face – win or lose – is an inspiration to everyone lucky enough to be involved.
The President and CEO of Special Olympics World Games, Patrick McClenahan, has a daughter with cerebral palsy and says his family is vested for personal reasons. After being asked by the Shriver Family to bring the World Games back to the United States, McClenahan got to work to raise the money necessary to do just that. In other countries, the Games are supported by the government, but in the United States they are privately funded through corporate sponsorship and philanthropic gifts. “Leaders of the Los Angeles area provided us with one million dollars of initial funding and individuals like Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw; companies like AEG, Bank of America and Wells Fargo and official partners Coca Cola, Mattel, Deloitte and Kaiser Permanente have helped us grow from there. We are now a staff of 62 and will grow to 150 by next year – compared to a team of 1200 that put on the ’84 Olympics.” McClenahan wants to encourage people to volunteer and to be spectators at the events. “The message of acceptance and inclusion resonates with everyone, not just those with intellectual disabilities.” Join this magnificent event and help change your life and that of an athlete. Donate or volunteer at http://www.la2015.org
“You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.” Eunice Kennedy Shriver
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