Special Olympics to Unite the USA in First-Ever Unified Relay Across America Presented By Bank Of America

Hitting Every State Over 46 days, Thousands Will Carry the Flame of Hope Lighting the Way to a Future of Inclusion and Respect for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Unified Relay Across America coming to Southern Illinois June 8-9; Chicago June 12-14

NORMAL, Ill. – Registration is open for the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America. The Unified Relay will give anyone in the country a chance to carry the Flame of Hope that will be lit in Athens, Greece and help deliver it to Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Over the course of 46 days, in a hand-to-hand exchange, thousands of participants will run, walk or bike a segment of the relay in this team and individual fundraising event as it passes through all 50 states.

The relay will culminate at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles on July 25, 2015. ESPN, the official broadcaster of the World Games, will produce the Opening Ceremony live as well as a nightly highlights program throughout the nine-day event.

“In a time when there is so much dividing people, our World Games offer an opportunity for our nation to come together to celebrate differences and unify in the spirit of respect and inclusion,” said Special Olympics CEO Janet Froetscher. “With so many people coming to the U.S. for the World Games, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for every citizen to carry the Flame of Hope through their communities where it will light the caldron that burns during the Games. As the torch makes its way across our country it will bring us together in a unique way that will open hearts and minds.”

“The Unified Relay Across America is a wonderful way for anyone interested or involved in  Special Olympics to support the movement,” said Special Olympics Illinois President & CEO Dave Breen. “We encourage athletes, families, coaches, volunteers, sponsors and law enforcement to either run with the Unified Relay or support someone who is as we build communities of acceptance and inclusion.”

The Unified Relay will arrive in southern Illinois on June 8 in Marion and will travel from Marion to St. Louis on June 9, running through Marion, Carterville, Carbondale, DeSoto, DuQuoin and Belleville.

Another route of the Unified Relay will arrive in northern Illinois on June 12 traveling to Chicago where there will be a community celebration on June 13 before the Unified Relay travels from to Milwaukee, Wis., on June 14.

Supporters will 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 5-mile bike segment in an area of interest across the United States. Torchbearers will also have the opportunity to keep the torch they ran with by meeting certain fundraising goals. 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 Illinois routes of the Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America at www.soill.org/unified-relay. All Unified Relay participants must register and fundraise by May 25.

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.

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. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.

About Special Olympics Illinois

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for nearly 22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 21,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562.

About the 2015  World Summer Games

With 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games – being staged in Los Angeles July 25 to Aug. 2, 2015 – will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. The 2015 Special Olympics World Games, with the unparalleled spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork, joy and displays of courage and skill that are hallmarks of all Special Olympics events, will feature 25 Olympic-style sports in venues throughout the Los Angeles region. For more information on the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, visit www.LA2015.org.


Michele Evans, Director of Communications, Office: 309-888-2573; Cell: 309-660-8497
Alexandra McMillin, Manager of Communications, Office: 630-942-5621; Cell: 312-502-7954