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Guest Opinion: Help Idaho support inclusion through Special Olympics relay on Saturday

In 2009, nearly 2,500 athletes from 104 countries competed in the Special Olympics World Games in Boise. On Saturday area residents will have another chance to connect with Special Olympics through the Unified Relay Across America, which will pass through Boise.

About 200 million people worldwide have intellectual disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. Despite recent advances, this group is still faced with breaking down barriers and overcoming negative stereotypes.

Presented by Bank of America, the Unified Relay symbolizes the Special Olympics’ movement for equality. The cross-country event will deliver the Flame of Hope from Athens, Greece, to the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, where 7,000 athletes will compete in this year’s games. As the flame travels through every state over the course of 46 days, the Unified Relay will give people an opportunity to speak out about inclusion and respect for all by walking, running, skating, volunteering or simply cheering on the participants and athletes.

In our role as presenting sponsor, Bank of America is providing significant support to the Unified Relay, which is on track to be the largest fundraiser in Special Olympics history. Our partnership with Special Olympics has spanned more than 30 years and mirrors our commitment to communities across the nation, including Boise.

By focusing on building communities where everyone is included and respected while also addressing needs related to workforce development and education, community development and basic human services, we’re working to improve the economy and make financial lives better. That includes nearly $125,000 in grants from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to Idaho nonprofit community organizations last year, as well as almost 2,300 hours of volunteer work by our Idaho employees.

Given our longstanding commitment to the community and partnership with Special Olympics, we encourage every person, family and business to support the Unified Relay as it passes through Boise, in an effort to bring the message of inclusion to our community. Please let others know why this is so important and use your connections to help spread the word. There’s no reason why, in this day and age, people with intellectual disabilities should be overlooked and face barriers for equality. You can help us make a change.

Find out how you can get involved by visiting unified- relayacrossamerica.org/.

Kurt Walsdorf is Idaho State President of Bank of America

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