INDIANAPOLIS, July 16, 2013 – USA Gymnastics and Right To Play, a global organization that uses organized sport and play to educate and empower children facing adversity, are partnering to bring gymnastics and the opportunity to play to children across the United States. Three of the USA’s well-known gymnasts – 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabrielle Douglas, 2008 Olympic horizontal bar silver-medalist Jonathan Horton and 2008 Olympic team silver-medalist Alicia Sacramone – will serve as Right To Play Athlete Ambassadors and co-chairs of National Gymnastics Day. Through special events, National Gymnastics Day, the Athlete Ambassador program and community outreach, the two organization’s mutual goal is to provide opportunities to children who would normally not have the chance to experience both gymnastics and the power of participating in sports.
Right To Play and USA Gymnastics share the mission of positioning sport and play as pathways for educating children and youth to overcome adversity in disadvantaged communities. Right To Play and USA Gymnastics plan to engage children and young adults throughout the United States in play-based learning and, in turn, encourage health, safety, leadership and teamwork skills through organized gymnastics activities.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this partnership can make a positive difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth in the United States," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "Gymnastics teaches the value of physical activity and many of the life skills needed to be healthy and achieve success. The gymnastics community has a history of using National Gymnastics Day as a way to support charitable causes, and the goals and mission of Right To Play match perfectly with those of our members – using sport and play to educate and improve the lives of today’s youth."
"All of us at Right To Play are honored and excited about our new partnership with USA Gymnastics, and we look forward to getting to work, bridging disadvantaged communities in the U.S. with opportunities to experience sport and play specifically through gymnastics," said Johann Olav Koss, a four-time Olympic gold medalist speed skater, as well as founder and CEO of Right To Play.
The key elements of the partnership, which extends through 2016, are as follows.
Right To Play Gymnastics Festival. The first joint event is the Right To Play Gymnastics Festival in Harlem, scheduled for Sept. 15 at the Harlem Armory. A fundraiser for Right To Play, the festival will provide children from throughout the New York metro area with a unique opportunity to learn gymnastics basics through the USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone, mingle with the three Athlete Ambassadors and other gymnasts, and experience the power and benefits of sport and play. The Right To Play Gymnastics Festival is expected to be an annual event.
National Gymnastics Day. Held annually, National Gymnastics Day is a celebration of the sport and provides gymnastics clubs across the country with a reason to host special events to promote gymnastics and support a charitable effort. In 2013, National Gymnastics Day is Sept. 21, and clubs across the country will host events to benefit either Right To Play or Children’s Miracle Network. Beginning in 2014, Right To Play will be the sole focus of the day’s charitable efforts.
Athlete Ambassadors. Douglas, Horton and Sacramone will join Right To Play’s force of 300-plus Athlete Ambassadors who support Right To Play’s mission and advocate the power of play through attending events and lending their celebrity to the cause. As co-chairs for National Gymnastics Day, the trio will also serve as spokespersons for the annual celebration and its efforts to promote gymnastics and the power of play.
"Becoming involved with Right To Play and National Gymnastics Day will help me achieve my goals of inspiring children to pursue their dreams," said Douglas, who is from Virginia Beach, Va., and trains at Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance. "I have learned in the months since last summer that I can have a positive impact on kids and show that if you have drive and determination, you can accomplish big things. And, these two efforts will give me an added opportunity to share that message."
Horton, who hails from Houston and trains at Cypress Gymnastics Academy, said, "I know first-hand how important sports involvement can be for young men and women in learning life skills, achieving success and following a vision. Helping children discover how play can make a positive difference in their lives will be a rewarding experience for me, and as a new dad, it will also be a valuable learning opportunity."
Sacramone of Winchester, Mass., who has retired from gymnastics and is a business owner, said, "I am excited about the chance to share what I have learned through sports with today’s kids who may not know how empowering sports can be. If we can positively impact the lives of children who are facing adversity or are challenged by their living circumstances, then we may have helped them find ways to chart their future path."
Right To Play is a global organization that uses organized sport and play to educate and empower children facing adversity. It was founded in 2000 by Koss, who is also a social entrepreneur and the 2013 recipient of the Henry R. Kravis Prize for Leadership. Right To Play’s organizing premise — that play-based learning can act as a powerful tool for a child’s social and cognitive development — has shown measurable results in 20 countries on four continents. Right To Play serves more than one million children every week in regular activities that promote health, conflict resolution, basic life skills, education, self-esteem, dignity and respect. These are children who have lost family members, have disabilities, are affected by HIV and AIDS, live on the streets and in refugee camps, and are former child combatants. Right To Play is supported by an international network of more than 300 professional and Olympic athletes from more than 40 countries.
"Johann has morphed his vision into an organization that has helped children with challenges worldwide, and we look forward to assisting him in expanding that impact to disadvantaged children here in the USA," said Penny.
USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics and group gymnastics. For more information, log on to www.usagym.org.
Brief athlete biographies
Gabrielle Douglas. Gabrielle Douglas, a member of The Fierce FiveAca