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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post from David Evangelista, Vice President of Global Development & Government Relations for Special Olympics.

It has been said that “youth holds the keys to the future”. Nothing captures this proverb more than the Special Olympics – Lions Clubs International partnership and the innovative youth activation underway between Special Olympics Bharat and the Lions Clubs of Multiple District 322.

Earlier this month, Lions and Leos of MD 322 and Special Olympics West Bengal athletes teamed up for a day of inclusive sports activities, promoting Special Olympics’ growing focus on youth-led social inclusion and Unified Sports. Over 100 Special Olympics athletes participated alongside 40 Leos and 35 Lions Clubs volunteers. The relationship between Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International continues to grow in all corners of the world through our expanded “Mission: Inclusion” partnership, inspiring Lions and the communities they serve everywhere. The Lions and Leos of MD 322 are just one example of many Clubs that are integrating Unified Sports as part of “Mission: Inclusion”.

It didn’t take long for the Leos of MD 322 to decide that they wanted to become part of the Unified generation. Following the event, Leos and their parents met with Past International Director Sangeeta Jatia to think about ways that they can engage others and continue participating in Unified Sports on a long-term basis.

“What was most touching was the expression and reaction of Special Olympics athletes and Leos alike. Their faces glowed and reflected so much contentment. It’s difficult to express,” said Past International Director Lion AP Singh, one of the principle architects of the partnership shared between Special Olympics and Lions Clubs in West Bengal. “We, as Lions, are ready to implement more of these activities for our youth, of all ability levels, and serve as host. It is a model to be replicated!”

“We are so proud of our Special Olympics athletes- and most grateful to the Lions and Leos of West Bengal for their continued support of our Movement and mission”, said Special Olympics Bharat CEO, Air Marshal Denzil Keelor, “We are happy to welcome the Leos of the Lions Club to our program. For both of us, it will be a unique experience and a further extension of our very special relationship with the Lions Club. We look forward to many more such events and the enriching of our partnership in the days ahead”.

“Together, we are helping to show the larger community that social inclusion is not only critical, but can also be a valuable and fun experience.”

Leos in Bharat and around the world are already playing crucial roles in activating youth and creating more inclusive communities. Over the next few months, they will continue to answer the call to action to Play Unified in many new countries, including Bangladesh, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa and Australia.

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