Special Olympics Partner Steps Up to Change the Game
BY: USA GAMES CORRESPONDENT, MIKE GASTINEAU
The Coca-Cola Company has been with Special Olympics from the very beginning.
In 1968, the leaders of Coca-Cola had the vision and foresight to become a founding partner of Special Olympics when the movement was in its infancy. Now, nearly 50 years later, The Coca-Cola Company remains committed to helping advance a mission of acceptance and inclusion that began with the shining idea of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded Special Olympics in 1968.
During their nearly 50-year relationship with Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company has maintained a deep commitment to the organization and has provided more than $190 million in support of its programs through product, equipment, donations, and marketing support.
That support has impacted Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states and around the world. It’s also impacted Coca-Cola employees through the opportunity to volunteer at the World Games and the USA Games. And Coca-Cola’s involvement is increasing. The company has sponsored the 2018 USA Games being held in early July in Seattle. They will also be involved in the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebration in Chicago later that same month.
Coca-Cola’s commitment is real, tangible, and game-changing. And they’re looking to make an even bigger impact next year. Since 2018 is an important milestone year for Special Olympics and Coca-Cola’s partnership, the company decided to turn the spotlight inward to ensure their efforts help include more than just sponsorship.
“That’s exactly how we’ve approached these Games,” said Becki Cedrone, who is with Coca-Cola’s Community Marketing department. “This is a big year for Special Olympics with the 50th anniversary and the USA Games so we wanted to ensure that in addition to highlighting our partnership, we are also celebrating inclusion and celebrating everyone’s differences.”
The company continually looks for ways they can embrace inclusion, including hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities to be part of their activation team at the USA Games. These team members will be paid at the same level as other employees and will go through the same training process.
Coca-Cola is also partnering with Unified by Music, an organization that combines musicians with and without intellectual disabilities. Unified by Music will be involved in several activities around the 2018 USA Games, according to Cedrone.
The effort to increase inclusion will extend beyond the 2018 USA Games. Coca-Cola is evaluating its overall hiring process to make sure that it includes opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
“It’s all part of our commitment to the 50th year of Special Olympics and beyond,” said Cedrone. “Special Olympics has made a real and lasting difference in the world as a beacon of hope, acceptance, and inclusion. Along the way, this movement has also made a meaningful difference in the individual lives of millions of people who might otherwise have been ignored or excluded.”
Fifty years after helping make the first-ever Special Olympics Games happen, Coca-Cola is still on board, still making a massive commitment, and now extending their outlook to examine ways they can do even more for people with intellectual disabilities.