2014 Special Olympics USA Games

Toys“R”Us has a long history of supporting the special needs community, and we’re proud to be a Founding Partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and the Presenting Sponsor of the first-ever Young Athletes Festival, which will showcase the Young Athletes Program, an innovative play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities that helps kids develop critical early cognitive, social and motor skills.

Furthering our $1 million commitment as the first Founding Partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, Toys“R”Us has launched a nationwide in-store and online awareness program encouraging customers to support the athletes participating in the 2014 USA Games through a mobile giving campaign. Customers can make a $5 donation via their mobile device that will help Special Olympics athletes go for the gold at the Games being held in New Jersey from June 14-21.

In addition to being a Founding Partner of the 2014 USA Games, Toys“R”Us will also serve as the Presenting Sponsor of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, during which more than 100 law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states will take part in a multi-day torch run leading up to the Games’ Opening Ceremony on June 15.

To learn more about the company’s partnership with Special Olympics and the 2014 USA Games, please click here.

 


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Meet A Special Olympics Young Athlete

Toys”R”Us is proud to be a Founding Partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and Presenting Sponsor of the first-ever Young Athletes Festival, taking place during the 2014 USA Games. The company will be celebrating the future national games hopefuls of Special Olympics at the Young Athletes Festival at the 2014 USA Games, which will provide opportunities for children, ages 2 to 7, and their families to take part in Special Olympics' Young Athletes program, as well as free health screenings, and family seminars geared toward the future stars of Special Olympics. Special Olympics' Young Athletes program is an inclusive, innovative play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities that develops critical early cognitive, social, and motor skills and introduces kids to the world of sports. Each month leading to the 2014 USA Games, we’ll profile a Young Athlete and their family, showing the tremendous impact that participation in these programs has had on young lives:

Meet Jackson

Hometown: Rockaway, NJ

At five years old, Jackson is an aspiring baseball star who loves to hit the ball and run the bases! Through his participation in the Young Athletes program over the past year and a half, Jackson has grown to love playing most sports, and the camaraderie and “team” feeling he gets from joining the Young Athletes program activities. “Jackson is proud and happy when he participates in Special Olympics,” says his mom, Allison. “During the 2013 New Jersey Summer Games, he walked right onto the track for the Future Stars race and didn’t look back for me – he was secure and confident.”

When not playing baseball with other Young Athletes who have become his good friends, Jackson can often be found rooting for his favorite football player, Eli Manning, and his New York Giants as they take on a new opponent each week.

Jackson and his family are eagerly anticipating the 2014 USA Games and look forward to meeting even more athletes and wonderful families in just a few short months!

We invite you to cheer on Jackson and all the inspirational athletes of New Jersey who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!

 

Meet Cooper

Hometown: Moro, AR

Four-year-old Cooper has just completed his first year of participation with the Special Olympics Young Athletes program, after it was recommended to his parents Jeff and Tanya by the nurse at Cooper’s school.

Since getting involved, Cooper’s shown an affinity for any sport that involves a ball – from basketball to football to soccer! He even got a chance play t-ball when he was only three years old, and loved it!

Cooper and his family attended the Special Olympics Games in Arkansas in 2013, where he participated in the long jump – over and over and over again! As Tanya explains, “There was just something about getting to jump in the sand and having everyone cheer him on!”

When asked to describe their proudest moment, Jeff and Tanya recall a moment from the 2013 Summer Games. “We loved getting to see him just light up as he got to participate and as everyone cheered him on. When he was on the awards stand and received his medal, he looked so handsome up there.”

When not participating in athletics himself, you’ll find Cooper rooting for his 12-year-old sister Caitlynn, whom he calls “sissy,” at her basketball and softball games, and even watching her at cheerleading practice and games. Cooper is Caitlynn’s biggest fan, and the feeling is mutual – she’s always cheering him on, too.

When not playing sports, Cooper is often riding in style – whether it’s on his John Deere gator around the yard (just like his dad’s!) or his tricycle on the patio.

The Arkansas Razorbacks are Cooper’s favorite team – he loves anything Razorback, including his own basketball, football and soccer ball in the team’s colors, and his Razorback shirts help him show his pride in his favorite team.

We invite you to cheer on Cooper and all the inspirational athletes of Arkansas who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympic USA Games!

Meet Vollen

Hometown: Omaha, NE

At the age of four, Vollen has already been jumping, kicking, throwing, dancing and swimming at Young Athletes program activities for two years. “He absolutely LOVES to dance. If he hears any music, he immediately starts to dance and gets a big smile on his face,” say his parents, Casie and Vernon. “He also loves swimming – he really enjoys being in the water and kicking his legs.”

Vollen’s parents have already seen the tremendous benefit participating in Young Athletes has had for him and describe his experiences there as “invaluable.” In practicing listening and following directions from his Young Athletes instructors, he has become a better listener at home and with his teachers at school. Young Athletes has also helped Vollen learn how to take turns, wait patiently, cheer for his friends and count, according to Casie and Vernon.

Vollen’s favorite toy to play with is his bike. “I LOVE to drive it all over and go really fast!” he says. Vollen names his dad as his favorite sports hero. Vernon teaches him how to catch a ball and throw so the ball goes straight.

Vollen and his family root for the Nebraska Husker football team, and Vollen loves to yell “touchdown!” when the team scores.

We invite you to cheer on Vollen and all the inspirational athletes of Nebraska who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!

Meet Jake

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Seven-year-old Jake has been involved with the Special Olympics Young Athletes program for two years, which his mom Michele became aware of through his participation in other activities within the special needs community.

Jake’s favorite Young Athletes program activities include swimming (“because I’m really good at it!” he says) as well as bowling and baseball, where he can knock pins down and smash the baseball.

Michele likes that through Young Athletes, Jake gets the chance to play sports in a supportive and encouraging setting.

“He has learned to be part of a team. He also learned confidence in his skills such as running, throwing, etc.,” says Michele. “I think it’s helped his self esteem because he can excel there, whereas sometimes with all typical peers he can’t quite keep up.”

Michele is so proud of Jake when he yells “yes!” after running the bases and feeling like a champion!

As an avid baseball player himself, Jake loves to root on the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his favorite player on the team, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He also spends time playing with his Scooby Doo toys - he loves the Mystery Gang!

We invite you to cheer on Jake and all the inspirational athletes of Arizona who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!

Meet Eli

Hometown: Skidmore, MO

Five-year-old Eli has been participating in the Special Olympics Young Athletes program for three years. Eli became involved with Special Olympics when a Young Athlete program was started in the county where he lives.

Eli really enjoys participating in the track and field day where each Young Athlete takes part in the opening ceremony and three events. He says, “I really like track and field day because it is fun being on the track. I can go really fast in my wheelchair.”

“We love Eli’s smile and pure joy as he heads down the track. We are excited to see how proud Eli is when he participates in the opening ceremony while the crowd is cheering,” say his parents, Roger and Kathy.

Eli also enjoys playing t-ball, baseball and basketball, just like his older brothers. “I like catching the ball and playing with my friends,” says Eli.

Eli is a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Kansas City Royals, and his favorite sports hero is Billy Butler, the first baseman for the Royals.

Through the Young Athletes program, “Eli is able to compete like other kids and he feels important because of it. It helps him to not see barriers,” say his parents.

We invite you to cheer on Eli and all the inspirational athletes of Missouri who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!

Meet Sterling

Hometown: Ocoee, FL

Six-year-old Sterling has been involved in the Special Olympics Young Athletes program for just over a year. When Sterling was adopted by his parents Brian and Erin in 2011, he was malnourished, weighing 26 lbs. and wearing only size 2T clothing. After having open-heart surgery in July 2012 to correct a complete atrioventricular canal defect, Brian and Erin enrolled Sterling in the Young Athletes program to help him learn gross motor skills. His parents also hoped his participation would allow for better interaction with others as prior to his adoption, Sterling had spent most of his time indoors and not in outdoor/physical play.

“The Special Olympics Young Athletes program has made a huge difference to Sterling both physically and socially. In the beginning, following simple directions was a difficult task for him – let alone the physical demands that were requested,” said Erin, Sterling’s mom. “Sterling has learned so many things through the Young Athletes program, not only physical activities and skills such as how to run, kick, shoot a ball, or maneuver in, around or through obstacles, but also needed life skills such as how to listen, follow directions, wait his turn, share and engage with others socially.”

Sterling counts kicking and throwing games and relays among his favorite Young Athletes program activities. His dad, Brian, used to be a soccer coach, and Sterling and his dad often play soccer together. Sterling was introduced to basketball through the Young Athletes program, and especially enjoys watching the ball sail through the net. Sterling also loves to have fun on playgrounds and in his own bounce house at home, and has recently taken an interest in swimming, too!

At this year’s end-of-season event, Sterling scored several soccer goals on his own and even shot a few baskets!

“It was really great for him (and us) to hear all the volunteers cheering him on and telling him how awesome he was doing. He has come SO FAR in such a short time,” says Erin. “We are thrilled and thankful to the Young Athletes program and the local volunteers for their patience, kindness and love towards our son and our family.”

When not participating in Young Athletes program activities, Sterling and his family love to attend Tampa Bay Rays games and watch his favorite player, Ben Zobrist, play. During the games, Sterling and the rest of the spectators in Section 300 love ringing their cowbells to cheer on the Rays.

Sterling’s favorite toy is the Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Talkers Animal Sounds Zoo that plays music, makes animal noises and has lots of space for imaginative play.

We invite you to cheer on all the inspirational athletes from Florida who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!

Meet Fiona

Hometown: Succasunna, NJ

Three-and-a-half-year-old Fiona of Succasunna, NJ began participating in the Special Olympics Young Athletes program about a year ago, and enjoys making new friends through the program. Fiona’s mom Jackie identifies running and the obstacle courses as Fiona’s favorite Young Athlete Program activities. “She loves to just run and be free and feel the wind in her hair – and she likes to chase her sisters,” says Jackie.

Jackie describes her proudest Young Athletes program moment as seeing Fiona run in her first race with a huge smile on her face and being so proud of herself. “Participating in Special Olympics has given her confidence and the knowledge that she can do anything,” says Jackie.

When not participating in Young Athletes program activities, you’ll find Fiona cheering on her favorite sports team – the Yankees – and playing with her dolls (taking care of them like her mom does!) and reading books.

Fiona and her family are looking forward to the 2014 USA Games, and can’t wait to see Fiona interact with all of her new friends.

We invite you to cheer on Fiona and all the inspirational athletes from New Jersey who will represent their home state at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!