This past Sunday, January 26th, in Aspen, Colorado I had the pleasure of welcoming snowboarder Hannah Teter to our Special Olympics Movement as our first action sports Global Ambassador. Anyone who knows Hannah knows the energy, drive, and commitment she puts into the things she cares about, whether that’s shredding a half-pipe, bringing hope to a poor village in Kenya, or helping children around the world escape a life of poverty.
The fact that Hannah now brings that kind of championship spirit and commitment to the Special Olympics movement is wonderful, wonderful news. We are, in a word, “stoked.”
Hannah joins a team of volunteer ambassadors that include internationally recognized champions and celebrities like Apolo Anton Ohno, Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Michael Phelps, Damian Lillard, Yuna Kim, Vanessa Williams, Zhang Ziyi, and Yao Ming, to name a few. Our Ambassadors work hand-in-hand with our Global Messengers, athletes from Special Olympics and our Unified Sports programs around the world, to promote the Special Olympics message of hope, joy, and understanding in every corner of the globe.
Much of that joy and unity was on display on Sunday in Aspen as Hannah, and several other professional snowboarders joined 11 Special Olympics Colorado athletes and our friends and partners from the event sponsor Perfect Sense Digital, in a Celebrity Snowboarding Race to celebrate Hannah’s announcement.
Joy and exuberance ruled the day and continued through the evening in a post-race gathering of athletes, staff, media and supporters at the Sky Hotel for an awards celebration and reception headlined by musical guest “Parade of Lights.” We were all swept up in the unifying energy of both celebrating Hannah’s commitment to our athletes and in the joy of simply being together.
Togetherness is what Special Olympics athletes excel at bringing out in everyone they come across. That’s the message a Global Ambassador like Hannah can amplify through her world of action sports and more. Celebrations like these are about more than just the moment of joy, but also about the anticipation of what is to come as we work together engaging a new generation, critical in order to grow the Special Olympics Movement. It’s so easy to see that when everyone gets out on a field or a mountain together, the joy of sport is at it’s most powerful.
These Unified events build mutual respect and foster inclusion. Everyone is part of a team. Watching Hannah and her fellow snowboarders like Jamie Anderson, Arielle Gold, Scotty James and others, it’s obvious they love the joy that our athletes bring to their sports. They always say, ‘I got more from them than I gave.’
That’s a powerful message for the world to hear from its’ sports heroes. It brings everyone together and it’s one of the most vital roles our Global Ambassadors play in championing Special Olympics athletes.
In the past few years, our Global Ambassadors have helped engage the public at unprecedented levels, and not just at our World Games. Locally, nationally, and worldwide, they have led a public outreach effort that has inspired millions of athletes and volunteers in more than 170 countries to participate in Special Olympics sports and programs. And their passionate involvement has brought attention to the stories and examples that demonstrate to people around the world the potential for a world of greater tolerance and acceptance.
These Ambassadors are individuals, with different personalities and backgrounds, but every one has brought extraordinary passion and commitment to their work on our behalf. I think what binds them together, and what binds them to our movement, is the experiences they have had with our athletes.
When Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics almost 50 years ago, she quickly recognized the powerful transformation that happened to people who engaged with our athletes. The examples our athletes set, examples of determination, pride, and joy in competition and teamwork, not only opens your eyes, they also make you want to tell someone about what you’ve experienced, and how you’ve been changed.
Hannah and her fellow Global Ambassadors know that feeling, and want to tell those stories, many times those stories come from first hand experience.
“I grew up with a special-needs brother,” Teter told the Denver Post this weekend. “I know how hard it was and how hard it was for him in school and just the separation there was. Special Olympics has been something I’ve always wanted to be a part of.”
We’re thrilled she is now part of our team, so welcome Hannah, and thank you in advance for all that you will do. I have no doubt that from this point on; it’s all “big air.”
See all the pics from this event: http://j.mp/1ebuHtF