Special Olympics Oregon and Nike Host 16th Annual Youth Games at Nike World Headquarters
500 young athletes and 400 Nike employee volunteers come together to inspire participants to achieve their potential through play and sport
This weekend, Nike and Special Olympics Oregon teamed up for the 16th year to host the Youth Games at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton. This one-of-a-kind event brings together nearly 500 young athletes with intellectual disabilities (ages 6 to 18) and their families, with 400 Nike employee volunteers and SOOR staff, all with the goal of introducing these young athletes to the power of sport by inviting them to experience basketball, bocce, soccer or track & field.
Blake Leeper – United States Paralympic athlete, eight-time Paralympic Track & Field international medalist, world-record holder and three-time American record holder – was also there to cheer the kids on as they learned the fundamentals of their chosen sport.
This year, SOOR and Nike expanded the playing field to include 3–5-year-old Indigenous youth with a special “youngest athletes” clinic for 35 pre-K children. SOOR partnered with the Nike Native American
Employee Resource Group and the Native American Youth and Family Center to recruit youth to participate and introduce them to Special Olympics Oregon.
Britt Oase, CEO at Special Olympics Oregon, remarked: “I can’t imagine where Special Olympics Oregon would be today without Nike as our partner. Our shared values and mission are what bring us together and our people continue to ensure that magic happens every year. This opportunity to invite children with intellectual disabilities and their families to the Nike campus to experience sport, often for their first time, is an incredible introduction to our mission. Because of Nike and their ever enthusiastic and caring employees, kids who are often excluded from traditional sport can discover what they CAN do and what it feels like to be cheered for and supported.”
Since 2007, Nike’s support of SOOR doesn’t start and end with Youth Games. Over the years, the company has also provided monetary, product and in-kind contributions to the organization. Nike matches employee donations to SOOR as well.
“As the biggest champion for athletes and sport, Nike believes that all kids — regardless of background, gender, ability or aspiration — should have the opportunity to play,” said Matt Geschke, Senior Director of North America Social & Community Impact. “The SOOR Youth Games is an annual highlight of our employee volunteer community, who loves to show up and cheer on these incredible kids as they try a new sport or have their debut sport experience. As a company founded by a coach and an athlete, this is the essence of Nike, and an incredible example of how we’re creating active and inclusive communities around the world through powerful partnerships like the one we’ve celebrated for 16 years with Special Olympics Oregon.”
Special Olympics Oregon offers programs year-round that help build active, inclusive communities throughout the state and get all kids moving toward a better future. Every day, Special Olympics Oregon helps children with intellectual disabilities become athletes and grow a strong, supportive community of advocates. Through year-round training and serious competition, Special Olympics participants journey along a proven pathway to better health, essential life skills and lifelong friendships.
Nike offers a suite of inclusive and free-to-download coaching tools, including Coaching for Belonging, created with insight from Special Olympics Oregon’s Vice President of School Partnerships and Youth Outreach, Jean Hansen.