Just as the 2014 Winter Olympics gets underway, another Olympic movement begins.
The Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne, 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, has been named a Global Ambassador to the Special Olympics in a ceremony on Friday.
Delle Donne will support Special Olympics’ efforts in promoting acceptance, inclusion, respect and dignity for people with intellectual disabilities and will kick off her involvement with a special assembly at Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School in Flossmoor, Illinois. She will discuss the importance of activating youth to promote inclusion in schools via Unified Sports® such as basketball.
She will also host a Facebook chat later in the day from her page at Elena Delle Donne at 5:00 p.m. EST.
Unified Sports pairs players with intellectual disabilities with players without intellectual disabilities to play together. Students from the school and from around the world will welcome Elena in real time by tweeting her using #WelcomeElena, and will also be able to ask her questions about her role as a Global Ambassador and involvement with Special Olympics.
“I’m so proud to serve as a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics given their mission is so important to me,” said Delle Donne. “My sister Lizzie has an intellectual disability and I’ve always loved working with Special Olympics and being able to get on the court and see young people with and without intellectual disabilities passing the ball and playing together.”
As part of her role as an Ambassador, Elena will invite Special Olympics athletes to join her at her De11e Donne Skills Academy and will work to promote basketball development within Special Olympics, particularly among girls and promote social inclusion through Unified Sports®.
Additionally, she will participate in upcoming NBA All-Star Game activities and take part in key initiatives for Special Olympics including Spread the Word to End the Word Day® on March 5th and the Motor Activities Program (MATP), in which her sister has been an active participant. MATP provides specialized training for athletes in skills that may lead to participation in a traditional Special Olympics event.
Following the assembly, Elena will host a unified basketball clinic with Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s varsity girls’ basketball team and local Special Olympics’ athletes. Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School is part of Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, an education-based program that uses the sports and education initiatives of Special Olympics to activate youth to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the goal of the program is to foster respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. Since 2009, more than 35 U.S. state programs have engaged in the mission of Project UNIFY to engage students and schools in a host of core activities like Unified Sports®.
Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics International, extended her congratulations, “Elena Delle Donne is a great addition to our Special Olympics family. Our goal is to raise awareness about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Through sports, we showcase the skills and dignity of our athletes. Elena is a powerful force that will help us deliver this mission around the world. Not only is she a highly skilled athlete, but her passion for our organization shines and I know she will help us reach many more athletes.”
Delle Donne joins a prestigious list of Global Ambassadors including Her Serene Highness and former Olympic swimmer Princess Charlene of Monaco, gymnast Nadia Comaneci, figure skating champion Scott Hamilton, Irish golfer Padraig Harrington, speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, and swimmer Michael Phelps, Vanessa Williams and Zhang Ziyi.
International board members who have expressed their warmest welcome in a video include: 1976 Olympic gymnastics gold medalists Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci, figure skating champion Michelle Kwan, Olympic short track champion Yang Yang and Olympic/Houston Rockets basketball legend Yao Ming.