Unified Relay Gives Athletes Opportunity to Carry the Torch

On May 14, the Special Olympics Flame of Hope for the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 was lit during a formal torch lighting ceremony in Athens, Greece. On May 26, the Flame of Hope will travel to Washington, D.C., in time for the start of the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America.

Tony Hill, a Global Messenger and member of the Southern Illinois Grasshoppers,
Tony Hill, a Global Messenger and member of the Southern Illinois Grasshoppers, raised money for the Unified Relay at a local restaurant

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 via 3 routes.

Athletes and Special Olympics Illinois staff members have come together on two teams for the Central Route of the Unified Relay that will run through the southern part of the state in early June.

The Unified Relay travels through Illinois via two routes. The Central Route will pass through Southern Illinois June 8 and 9 and the Northern Route will come through Chicago June 12 through 14. The Unified Relay will culminate at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles on July 25.

Sandy Nash, SOILL Manager of Development – Torch Run and captain of Team Global Messengers, created the team to give athlete Global Messengers in Southwestern/Area 12 the opportunity to represent Special Olympics in another way. “They donate so much of their time to represent Special Olympics as Global Messengers,” said Nash. “I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to come together as a group to represent Special Olympics Illinois and have a small part in the World Games.”

Linda Wunder, SOILL Regional Supervisor, is captain of the SOILL Staff for Area Athletes team. The Unified Relay “is a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an event like this,” she said.

Jim Morgan
Jim Morgan

“I wanted to give athletes this opportunity and help raise money for their agencies,” Wunder said referring to the revenue sharing opportunity  developed where Special Olympics Illinois is splitting its share of the proceeds from the Unified Relay with agencies who participate. All of the athletes on Wunder’s team are members of the Southern Illinois Grasshoppers.

Jim Morgan, of Belleville, an athlete with the Grasshoppers and a Global Messenger, is participating on the Global Messengers team. The Unified Relay “is an awesome way to give back,” he said. “To me, it’s a way to honor the officers” who raise so much money for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois every year.

Plus, he’s looking forward to having the opportunity to carry the torch – something that traditionally is reserved for law enforcement officers only. Jim admits he’s been in awe of the Torch Run since first seeing it in 2005 at the Summer Games. He personally hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in the carrying of the torch at his local or state level and “this is one chance to get involved.”

Both Nash and Wunder agree that this may be the only opportunity for some athletes to be personally involved in the Torch Run and World Games. That’s why the athletes are busy raising money through a variety of local fundraisers.

Support Team Global Messengers, SOILL Staff for Area Athletes or another Illinois Unified Relay team.

All Unified Relay participants must register and fundraise by May 25. Click here for more information and to register.