Play Ball -- Teams from France and Illinois square off in the Special Olympics Unified Cup.
Toyota continues its push to promote mobility and a barrier-free world as the presenting sponsor in the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup, this week in Chicago.
The soccer tournament unites athletes from 21 countries, across the abilities spectrum, to play together with the goal of increasing understanding and respect for everyone’s character and differences.
“During my school days, I was completely devoted to field hockey and learned the importance of fighting as part of one team,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation. “In Special Olympics, sport is not the only challenge; even daily life can be a battle to people with intellectual disabilities and those who support them in everyday life. A truly inclusive society, like the one being represented by ‘Unified Sports,’ is one where people with intellectual disabilities are not just supported by those charged with helping them, but where people with and without disabilities live side by side, grow up together, and learn from each other. It is this type of society Toyota wants to contribute to. Our partnership with Special Olympics has given Toyota a teammate, and we will challenge this quest together.”
The Special Olympics Unified Cup is just the latest example of Toyota’s commitment to mobility for all, after successful and ongoing partnerships with the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“At Toyota, we believe movement is a human right, and that when a person is free to move, anything is possible,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president, Toyota division marketing. “With Special Olympics, we share the common goal of creating a more mobile and inclusive society. Together, as a team both on and off the field, we’ll work to give everyone the ability to make their dreams come true.”
The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The organization uses sports, heath, education and leadership programs to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities.
In the U.S., Toyota’s partnership with the Special Olympics dates back to 1986. The company has donated money, vehicles and office space; team members have donated time at events and served on local chapter boards.
Pete Carey, group vice president of sales, marketing and product for Toyota Financial Services, has been involved with the Southern California chapter of Special Olympics for several years. He believes the organization’s impact goes well beyond the playing field.
“Really what they do is give these athletes a competitive spirit,” said Carey. “These are people who face significant challenges. They want to be brave in what they do. They want to be successful. And they want to feel a sense of accomplishment just like everyone does. Go to a Special Olympics event and you’ll see what I mean.”
If you want to watch, ESPN2 will broadcast the final matches live on July 20 at 5:00pm CST.
By Kristen Orsborn