“What fuels you?” is a question that we always ask the people we work with. When it came to our partnership with the New York State chapter of the Special Olympics, we knew the answer from the start: changing people’s lives. This year, Death Wish sponsored the organization's rUNDEAD zombie themed 5k, by releasing a limited edition mug that, thanks to our incredible community, sold out in hours raising over $17,000 for the organization. Rob Rogers Jr. a Special Olympic athlete, coach and advocate was an integral part of the success. "The Special Olympics has changed my life by bringing me out of my shell and my shyness," he says of the organization. "My dream is that people could learn that having a disability is nothing to be ashamed about. There’s nothing wrong with being different."
If you want to help out with the Special Olympics visit specialolympics-ny.com
Below read what Carolyn Braunius, Associate Director of Development for New York State Special Olympics says about the organization, the rUNDEAD event and what it’s like to work with incredible and inspiring athletes.
Can you tell us about the organization and how it works?
We provide free athletic training and competition to over 67,000 athletes in New York State. New York State also has the Unified Sports Program which is where people in high school who have intellectual disabilities can play on sports teams with people who don’t have intellectual disabilities. It’s been a great way to reduce bullying and encourage everyone to participate in school activities.
What is your role within the organization?
I moved back to New York and had the opportunity to work with the Special Olympics as a fundraiser and it was a ton of fun. I worked with people who have intellectual disabilities before I switched over to fundraising. Now, I am the Associate Director of Development and my job is to work with different organizations like Death Wish Coffee to help raise money for Special Olympic Programs. Everything we provide is free. Whenever they go to games or competitions we cover the hotels, food, and travel.
What is the rUNDEAD event?
Special Olympics is funded mainly by events like rUNDEAD which is 5k/ color run where folks get to dress up like zombies. This year, the zombies are going to be throwing color at runners in different zones. It’s been a great fundraiser for us. It’s a ton a fun, it’s a great way to let adults have the kind of fun that we used to have kids.
Why did you want to work with Special Olympics?
People with intellectual disabilities often feel segregated from society. Special Olympics creates a place for them to come out and celebrate what they can do. Everyone who participates has trained as a team or individual for 8 weeks leading up to our local regional and statewide events. They do everything from bowling to downhill skiing to track and field. We have so many opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to get out there and show off what they can do. Most of their lives people are focusing on what they can’t do and for some of the participants, it’s a life-changing experience. We have an athlete that can run a marathon in under 4 hours.