INDIANA — Building upon a long tradition of support spanning more than 40 years, Duke Energy and the Duke Energy Foundation will contribute a combined $125,000 to Special Olympics Indiana for 2021.
The funds include a $25,000 grant to support the 2021 Indiana Summer Games and a $100,000 corporate donation designated for the development of a Unified high school fitness challenge, the addition of Unified Swimming as a new Champions Together sport, and to help offset costs associated with sending Special Olympics Indiana athletes to the 2022 USA Games in Orlando.
The donation was formally announced last month by Duke Energy Vice President for Midwest Regional Support Cicely Hart during a special presentation at the Summer Games in Terre Haute, Ind. Hart, who also serves on the board of directors for Special Olympics Indiana, was among the many Duke Energy employees who volunteered their time to help run the organization’s largest annual event.
“We gain as much from Special Olympics as it gives to us,” she said. “Over our years of involvement, the organization has opened up our hearts and our minds to the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, and we have seen firsthand the transformative power that sports can have in their lives.”
In addition to renewed annual support of the Summer Games, Hart said that Duke Energy was particularly interested in supporting the organization’s school-based programming centering on Unified Sports, which is active in more than 650 Indiana schools, and on the advancement of its swimming programs as a means to addressing the fact that drowning poses a statistically higher risk to those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Swimming is also of interest to Duke Energy as longtime former CEO Al Barker, a noted philanthropist and swimming enthusiast, played an instrumental role in helping to establish the company’s continuing partnership with Special Olympics Indiana in the mid-1970s. Following a prolonged period during which the organization’s year-round programs and events were held virtually to help limit the spread of COVID-19, Special Olympics Indiana is now in the process of gradually returning to in-person sports and competition with health and safety protocols still in place.
“More than 1,200 athletes participated in Summer Games this year, making it our largest in-person event in nearly two years,” Special Olympics Indiana President & CEO Jeff Mohler said. “It’s thanks to the hard work of our volunteers and staff and the continued support of donors and sponsors, like our great friends at Duke Energy, that we are not only celebrating a return to Terre Haute this year but that the more than 18,000 individuals we serve can continue to look forward to brighter days ahead.”
Athletes across the state also are now vying to be among the select group who will represent the organization at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games next June, where a total of 51 athletes and 21 Unified partners will compete in a variety of summer sports, including swimming.
In recognition of Duke Energy’s many years of support, Indiana President Stan Pinegar will have the honor of announcing the next selections to Team Indiana via video streaming on Special Olympics Indiana’s Facebook page and YouTube channel Friday, July 23 at 12 p.m. E.T.
In total, the USA Games will bring some 4,000 athletes to the greater Orlando area to compete in a variety of sports, June 5 – 11. Hosted at some of the region’s top athletic facilities including ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, the Games will offer athletes, coaches, and families a week of national competition while surrounded by Orlando’s beauty and world-class attractions.
Learn more by visiting www.2022specialolympicsusagames.org.