Partner Spotlight, Swire Coca-Cola: Christopher Friend
The engine behind Special Olympics’ Oregon’s ability to serve over 5,000 athletes throughout Oregon lies with the support of corporate partners like Swire Coca-Cola.
Christopher Friend, Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs for Swire Coca-Cola, said the company originally got involved with SOOR through the national organization.
Christopher then took the baton and ran with it, inspiring a company polar plunge team in Oregon after initially seeing a plunge in Bellevue. “I asked my colleagues if they wanted to do Polar Plunge, and they all said ‘heck yes, let’s do it!’”
Swire Coca-Cola brings the fun to the Polar Plunge Portland event, showing up with product donations for participants and runners of the 5k which takes place prior to the plunge, and the Coca Cola bear shows up to rub fur with the Special Olympics Oregon Polar Plunge bear. “It’s a family event,” said Christopher, “a lot of employees bring their kids. That’s what makes it so compelling to participate!”
Why is it important for Swire Coca-Cola to give back to the community by being involved with Special Olympics Oregon? Said Christopher, “It’s our company’s mission to be a true advocate for our community. We want to live the vision of that mission. Consumers have an emotional tie to our products. Grandparents celebrated as young people with a Coke Classic or Sprite, and (that tradition has spanned generations) – celebration is community.”
Christopher has a deeply personal connection with the Special Olympics mission as well. His mom was a special education teacher in Washington for over nine years; he would hang out in her classroom before and after school. “Early on in my life I’ve had a natural tie to the community,” he said, “and I was an allied athlete with Special Olympics athletes in high school, working with all types of abilities and disabilities. Our family went to cheer on the students every weekend.”
Said Christopher,” I have the best job in the company, being able to distribute money for good.”