Youth Games is a one day event sponsored by Nike to introduce eligible youth to Special Olympics.
Youth Games is a one day event sponsored by Nike to introduce eligible youth to Special Olympics. Youth get moving in a sports clinic and participate in a unique Special Olympics experience so that they and their families can sample Special Olympics.
The Youth Games are co-produced by Nike and Special Olympics Oregon, and funded by Nike. As part of last year’s event, more than 500 Special Olympics athletes participated in sports instruction and competition designed for youth ages 6 to 18. More than 400 Nike employee volunteers as well as professional athletes were on hand to welcome and inspire the young participants, including Paralympic triathlete Sarah Reinertsen and Olympic gold medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez.
“The ‘inclusion revolution’ was alive and well at Nike last year as hundreds of Special Olympics athletes had the opportunity to run, jump and play with some of the best athletes around,” said Britt Oase, CEO of Special Olympics Oregon. “Special Olympics Oregon inspires greatness and Nike gets kids moving. Put the two together and you’ve got an amazing partnership for empowering youth. Thank you to Nike for your dedication to our athletes and your ongoing commitment to Special Olympics Oregon. You’ve been a phenomenal partner over the years, and we’re so thankful for all that you do to make this event such a special experience for our athletes.”
During last year’s event, Nike also hosted a Unified Champion Schools (UCS) exhibition soccer game with Forest Grove and Westview High Schools. The UCS program provides a unique combination of sports, education, and leadership activities to equip students with the tools and training to create sport, classroom, and school cultures of acceptance and inclusion. Nike is a lead donor for the program that currently includes 111 UCS schools in 29 districts throughout the state of Oregon.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year, because we know that kids are made to play, and some of the most amazing moments for these young athletes happen on the field, track, and court as they create their first memories of play and sport,” said Jorge Casimiro, Nike Vice President of Global Community Impact. “As a longtime partner of Special Olympics Oregon, it’s been an honor to support them and help build the Youth Games to be what it is today, as well as to amplify their efforts to fuel cultures of inclusion and respect in high schools across the state through Unified Champion Schools.”
Stories of Transformation Through the Power of Sport
Ten-year-old Tula first participated in the Youth Games two years ago. According to her mom, Andrea Haupt, “Tula’s athletic abilities have advanced tremendously over the past two years. What is most impressive is to see her self-confidence soar when she participates in practice and competition. She learns that success as an athlete takes time and determination. This lesson can be applied to every aspect of her life, including academics, personal relationships and self-care. We are so proud of the girl she has become, and we revel seeing her achieve her goals with Special Olympics.”
For 13-year-old Landon Bate, this will be his sixth year participating in the Youth Games. Landon’s mom, Jennifer, says her son, who has autism, has always struggled with not being able to take part in mainstream sports, but through Special Olympics, Landon has thrived. “Over his years with Special Olympics, we have not only seen his skill set grow, but also his confidence, compassion and sportsmanship. Landon has always had a kind heart, but he truly shines when he is around other Special Olympics athletes. Events like the Youth Games bring him a lot of joy and confidence. That is not only a gift to him, but to his dad and I as well.”
During the 2017 Youth Games, 17-year-old Grace Almgren was selected to recite the Special Olympics athlete oath onstage during the Opening Ceremonies, along with her favorite athlete, Sarah Reinertsen. According to Grace’s mom, Karis Almgren, “Last year’s Youth Games event was the highlight of the year for Grace! She has attended annually since 2008, and to be honored to go on stage to say the athletic oath with one of her role models was an experience that she’ll never forget.” Karis says Grace’s confidence has blossomed as a result of her experience with Special Olympics: “To see her up on stage, saying the oath with confidence and ease, just made my heart burst with pride.”
About Special Olympics Oregon
Special Olympics Oregon serves children, youth and adults with intellectual disabilities—the largest disability population in the state—through year-round programs that provide participants the opportunity to develop physical fitness through sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports, receive regular health education and screenings, enjoy ongoing mentoring from trained volunteers, access family networking and advocacy resources, and increase their overall quality of life in school, at home and in their communities. Special Olympics participants demonstrate courage, experience joy, and are able to participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship. Their positive spirit, determination to succeed and innate human decency make them powerful ambassadors for greatness. For more information, visit soor.org and follow @SOORstate.
About Nike Community Impact
Nike believes in the power of sport to unleash human potential and build community. We fuel this belief through Made to Play, our commitment to getting kids moving through play and sport so they can lead healthier, happier and more successful lives. Together with community partners and our employees around the world, we’re designing innovative solutions to get more than 16 million kids playing, running and jumping their way to a brighter future. Find out more about Nike’s commitment to getting kids moving and providing opportunities for equal playing fields for all at communityimpact.nike.com.