ESPN | Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge Scores $45,000 for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games

Stars of Sports and Entertainment Teamed with Top Executives and Special Olympics Athletes, Face-Off in Games Ranging from Bocce, Basketball, E-Games and Miniature Golf

By Steve Bruce

July 2, 2018


On the Opening Day of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, 15 teams competed in the ESPN |Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge and raised $45,000 for Special Olympics.  The event took place Sunday, July 1 at the University of Washington’s Husky Ballpark.

The event was played using a Unified format – like many of the sports at this year’s Games -- that promotes social inclusion by joining people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same teams. Each of the 15 teams included at least one Special Olympics athlete.

Sports and entertainment participants included Jordan Spieth, Apolo Ohno, Gary Payton, Holly Rowe, Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, Mark Henry, Kasey Keller, Lauren Potter, Shaquem Griffin, Shaquill Griffin, Kevin Negandhi, Walter Jones, Damon Huard, Victoria Arlen, Allen Stone, Marshmello, Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver and Special Olympics Board Member and Chief Inspiration Officer Loretta Claiborne. 

Corporate executives included Microsoft’s Brad Smith, Coca-Cola’s James Dinkins, WWE’s Stephanie McMahon, Bank of America’s Kerri Schroeder, Starbucks’ Vivek Varma, T-Mobile’s John Freier, Seattle Mariners’ John Stanton and Jerry Dipoto, DocuSign’s Dan Springer, Kaiser Permanente’s Susan Mullaney, University of Washington’s Anna Mari Cauce, Swire Coca-Cola’s Paul Lukanowski, Finish Line’s Sam Sato, The Walt Disney Company’s Elissa Margolis, Holland America’s Orlando Ashford, and ESPN’s Russell Wolff.

The executives and celebrities were joined by Special Olympics athletes including Mariah Gilbert, Anthony Thibeault, Michelle Anderson, Joshua Bennett, Courtney Block, Tatiana Goff, Devon Adelman, Michael Holland, Heyiwot Amar, Douglass Hodges, Erin Bailey, Colin Wilfrid, Andrew Peterson, Megan Fernandez, and Mike Van Zee.  

“Unified Sports are among the fastest growing Special Olympics programs as this initiative fosters inclusion and understanding via sports,” said Special Olympics International Chairman Timothy Shriver. “Today’s Unified Sports Challenge underscores the importance of teamwork and that Special Olympics athletes can compete with the best of the best, whether they come from the board room, stage or playing fields.”

The ESPN |Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge incorporated basketball, soccer, golf, football, social media challenge, dance off, darts, bocce, E-games and a memory challenge.

The top four teams all donated their winnings, a total of $45,000, to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games including University of Washington’s donation of $20,000, Swire Coca-Cola’s donation of $12,500, Coca-Cola North America’s donation of $7,500, and the WWE’s donation of $5,000.

 L-R: Susan Mullaney, President, Kaiser Permanente Washington; Joshua Bennett, Special Olympics Washington athlete; Devon Adelman, Special Olympics Washington athlete; Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks Legend and USA Games Ambassador; Dr. Stephen Tarnoff, President and CEO, Washington Permanente Medical Group

L-R: Susan Mullaney, President, Kaiser Permanente Washington; Joshua Bennett, Special Olympics Washington athlete; Devon Adelman, Special Olympics Washington athlete; Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks Legend and USA Games Ambassador; Dr. Stephen Tarnoff, President and CEO, Washington Permanente Medical Group