STAMFORD, Conn. — WWE was proud to cheer on Special Olympics Connecticut athletes and law enforcement officials in a rally on Friday as they carried the “Flame of Hope” across the Nutmeg State to Southern Connecticut State University for the 2014 Summer Olympics Connecticut Summer Games Opening Ceremonies.
“WWE's mission is to put smiles on people's faces the world over, whether we do that through our incredible form of entertainment or we do it through community service,” said WWE Chief Brand Officer and Honorary Chairperson for Special Olympics Team Connecticut Stephanie McMahon. “The athletes of Special Olympics, their courage, their dedication, their passion, the way that they encourage one another to compete and compete as a team, is nothing short of inspiring and completely supports one of WWE's key community service pillars of diversity and inclusion.”
McMahon continued, “It's one of the reasons why WWE is so incredibly proud to support Special Olympics — both here as the sponsor of the Torch Rally in support of the Summer Games and also as a Founding Partner of the USA Games next week.”
The torch run rally was held right in front of WWE World Headquarters in Stamford, where law enforcement officers passed off the torch to runners in the neighboring town of Darien. Joining McMahon and WWE employees in applauding torch-bearers were WWE Superstars Triple H and Titus O’Neil, WWE broadcaster Renee Young and “Total Divas” star Natalya.
”We can win championships, we can perform in front of 70,000 people, but to touch somebody’s life personally and help them to be inspired, that’s beyond rewarding. It might be one of the most important things I do in my life,” Natalya told WWE Community. “I’m looking forward to meeting the athletes, taking pictures with them and hearing their stories. I’m sure tonight [at the Opening Ceremonies], Titus and I are going to get bombarded in the best possible way.”
Officials in attendance for the torch run rally included Special Olympics Connecticut President Beau Doherty, Congressman Jim Himes, State Senators Scott Frantz and Carlo Leone, Stamford Mayor David Martin and Stamford Director of Public Safety, Health and Welfare Ted Jankowski.
”WWE, it’s incredible for our organization to be affiliated with you,” Doherty said at the rally. “The social media presence of what you do, the talent, the Divas, the Superstars, what they mean to our athletes universally — not only in Connecticut but throughout the world — is an amazing thing.”
For Special Olympics Connecticut athlete Michael Hendrick — who will compete in multiple events at this weekend’s Summer Games — coming to WWE World Headquarters to rub elbows with his heroes was “a dream come true.”
“To me, this partnership is the best thing that Special Olympics can do,” said Hendrick of WWE and Special Olympics’ powerful tag team. “For athletes to see WWE Superstars at competitions, it’s just fantastic.”
From June 14 to 21 in New Jersey, Connecticut’s Special Olympics athletes will be among the 3,500 national competitors participating in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, which will celebrate the Special Olympics movement, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“These are the most courageous and diligent athletes on Earth,” O’Neil said in reverence of Special Olympics competitors. “Being an athlete my entire life, I understand the dedication and determination and the trials you have to go through, but these are day-to-day living heroes that consistently train and work hard to not only be outstanding athletes, but outstanding representatives of what humanity should be.”
WWE will serve as the Official Production Partner of the Special Olympics USA Games, recording the Opening Ceremonies as well as producing daily recaps of the sporting competitions and special events throughout the games. Superstars and Divas will play a special role at the USA Games, cheering on athletes and taking part in medal presentations, as well as joining the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
WWE will also be part of all of this weekend’s Special Olympics Connecticut events in New Haven, with Superstars, Divas and employees volunteering their time for the organization’s empowering message.