Special Olympics Oregon and Nike Celebrate 15th Annual Youth Games at Nike World Headquarters
300 young athletes and 400 Nike employee volunteers came together in person, for the first time since 2019, inspiring participants to achieve their potential through play and sport
This weekend, NIKE, Inc. and Special Olympics Oregon teamed up to host the first in-person Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) Youth Games since 2019. The event brought together more than 300 young athletes with intellectual disabilities (ages 6 to 18), their families and more than 400 Nike employee volunteers to experience the power of sport through basketball, bocce, soccer or track & field at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton.
They were joined by an inspiring roster of Nike athletes, including Paralympic triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, Olympic sprinter/hurdler Gail Devers, professional beach volleyball player Sara Hughes and Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper — as the participants learned the fundamentals of their chosen sport.
This year also marked an extra special edition of the Games, celebrating not only an end to its over two- year in-person hiatus due to the pandemic, but also the 50th anniversaries of both Special Olympics Oregon and Nike. For five decades, the two Oregon-grown organizations have shared a belief in breaking barriers and providing opportunities for all kids to achieve their potential through play and sport, which is one of the many reasons SOOR has been a long-time Nike community partner.
Said Britt Oase, CEO at Special Olympics Oregon: “I can’t imagine where Special Olympics Oregon would be today without Nike as our partner. Our shared values and mission are what brings 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 enthusiastic employees, kids who are often excluded from traditional sport are able to discover what they CAN do and what it feels like to be cheered for and supported.”
Since 2007, more than 6,800 athlete participants and 4,700 Nike volunteers have experienced the magic of the SOOR Youth Games, with many of the young athletes experiencing sport for the first time. It’s also provided thousands of family members and caregivers an opportunity to connect and learn about resources and services that provide support to individuals who experience disabilities.
Nike’s support of SOOR does not start and end with the Youth Games. Over the years, they’ve also provided monetary, product and in-kind contributions to the organization. Nike matches employee donations to SOOR as well.
“This is Nike’s 15th year hosting these Games, and we will be forever grateful to Special Olympics Oregon for allowing us the incredible opportunity to help introduce so many kids with intellectual disabilities to sport – including my son, Davis,” said Sarah Mensah, VP/GM of Nike North America, who volunteered at the event, alongside her son. “At Nike, we strive every day to break barriers through our athletes, inclusive coaching tools, product innovation, commitment to accessibility for our employees and community partnerships around the world. We believe all kids are made to play, and with community partners like SOOR we’re taking action to create a better, more inclusive world by expanding sport for a new generation and making sport accessible to everyone.”
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.
About Special Olympics Oregon
Special Olympics Oregon brings year-round sports training and competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Through the challenges and triumphs of real competition, they serve Oregon’s largest disability population by celebrating their abilities. And by competing, athletes experience life-changing opportunities to improve physical fitness, learn everyday life skills and connect more closely to their communities.
About Social & Community Impact at NIKE, Inc.
Nike believes in the transformative power of sport to help move the world forward and create change. To help create a more equitable and inclusive world, they’re tackling systemic inequality through their commitment to getting kids active and building inclusive communities. They’re empowering adults to welcome all kids to play through community partnerships and coaching resources. And they’re teaming up with organizations and our employees around the world — to rewrite the playbook so everyone can win in life. Learn more about our Social & Community Impact work as part of Nike’s Purpose.