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By: Marshall Meier, Senior Relationship Manager, Bank of America Nashville 

Bank of America’s decades-long support of Special Olympics is rooted in shared values. We are both committed to creating an environment where all teammates, including those with non-visible and visible disabilities, have an opportunity to succeed and achieve their goals.

Bank of America committed $5 million over three years to Special Olympics and other partners to support disadvantaged communities by providing holistic, wrap-around services to people with and without an Intellectual Disability, their families, and the broader community.

This grant allowed even more Middle Tennessee schools to be Unified Champion Schools —a program that promotes social inclusion with sports as the foundation. Currently, 127 Tennessee schools are participating. It creates school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities, and functions. By training and playing together, students quickly form friendships and understanding.

Before I got involved with Special Olympics Tennessee as a board member, I wasn’t aware of the magnitude or frequency of their services throughout the state. I attended my first Summer Games last year. My wife, two teenage daughters, and I volunteered at the Bocce Ball courts and took home an important lesson from the athletes. Unfortunately, the games were interrupted by rain. As volunteers, we were upset that the athletes had to miss out on more competition, but the athletes never complained and rolled with the punches. They didn’t let something out of their control interrupt their joy.

I still think about how the athletes handled that setback one year later. For them, it wasn’t about winning or losing, or even how many games you got to compete in. They found happiness in being together with their peers and cheering each other on. 

I’m thankful that Bank of America financially supports Special Olympics and many other causes, but I’m even more grateful they enabled and encouraged me to volunteer. Experiencing the games in person is unforgettable and makes you want to continue helping throughout the year.

Special Olympics Tennessee provides year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. These individuals thrive when given opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

I encourage everyone to join us for Special Olympics Tennessee’s Summer Games, May 16 and 17, at Lipscomb University. More than 800 athletes will compete in six sports and need our community’s support. It’s safe to say that you will be inspired.