TORONTO, Feb. 5, 2019 /CNW/ - Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, Toronto Maple Leaf Defenseman Jake Gardiner and Women of Influence Co-CEO Stephania Varalli today advanced the promise of the Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games (IYG) to "Unite the World". This unlikely trio came together to officially launch the Draft an Athlete campaign, calling upon businesses, communities, schools and Canadians coast to coast to rally behind the effort. An estimated $2M will be required to successfully draft upwards of 2,000 athletes from across Canada, the US and the globe who are hoping to attend the games May 14-17 in Toronto. The IYG are among several events marking the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics worldwide. These games will break new ground, hosting athletes with and without intellectual disabilities who will compete against and alongside each other.
The Draft an Athlete campaign offers several ways to participate in the draft throughout the qualifying stages for a "to-be-named athlete or team" or for an athlete or team from Canada, the US or around the globe that has already qualified. The Draft an Athlete website also gives donors the options to fully or partially draft an individual or team, along with options based on the sporting event and home base/country of the participating athlete(s) and team(s):
- Draft an individual: $1,000* per athlete for track & field
- Draft a team: $5,000* for basketball and bocce teams or $10,000* for floor hockey and soccer teams
- Support and individual or a team with a partial donation toward their draft total (from both Canada and around the world)
IYG organizers aim to draft all eligible athletes by mid-April. They will join Jake Gardiner's five drafts: Jada Clarke, Julian Fabbri, J'yquan Lawrence-Sappleton, Louis Osawaru and Maitri Patel, Track & Field, Central Etobicoke High School, Etobicoke; Trinity Earl, Soccer, J. Clarke Richardson CI., Ajax, drafted by The Women of Influence, and Joshua Nwachukwu, Track & Field, Central Etobicoke High School, Etobicoke drafted by Chief Mark Saunders, the IYG Honorary Games Chair.
Qualifying is actively underway and will continue through to April in time for the games. Campaign organizers estimate the final draft will include over 200 teams and 300 individual athletes including from across Canada [name other countries here]. All sports will offer two types of team divisions: a traditional division (in which all athletes on the team have an intellectual disability), and a unified division (in which athletes with and without an intellectual disability will have the opportunity to compete on the same team).
Jake Gardiner: "Sport brings us together. The very nature of these games will elevate that tenfold. It's an honour to support the draft and encourage fans and all Canadians to join in."
Chief Saunders, Toronto Police Services (TPS), Honorary Games Chair: "This will be the first time that athletes with an intellectual disability will represent their school and country on an international stage. You're doing much more than drafting them to an event, you're helping fulfill a dream that will carry these athletes a lifetime."
* Donations over $20 are eligible for tax receipts.
Stephania Varalli, Women of Influence: "During our 25th Anniversary year, we can think of no better time in history to back a movement centred on inclusion and the pursuit of personal excellence. We each can contribute. Every donation matters."
The Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games, held in Toronto May 14-17, 2019, will unite 2,500 student athletes (ages 13-21), with and without intellectual disabilities, from around the world, and their coaches. Hosted by the Toronto Police Service, with the support of the Province and the City of Toronto, the #YouthGames2019 will create a worldwide sporting and communal legacy during the 50th Anniversary year of the Special Olympics movement.
*Note to editors: Photos of drafted athletes and bios are available
SOURCE Special Olympics Ontario