Sports and Social Change

2012 will likely go down as the year disabled sports moved from the backstage to the mainstage in the grand arena of sport. The overwhelming success of the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer was the coming out party for some of the greatest athletes most had never seen. Record attendance, sold-out venues, thousands of hours of events streamed live over the web, royalty in the stands, world records shattered, all wrapped up in iconic style with a concert from one of rock's biggest acts, these games showcased "ability" over disability.

But once the lights went out at the venues in London and the highlights faded into the vast content pool of YouTube, questions emerged... How does someone who's disabled get involved in sports? Where does a man inspired by Oscar Pistorius go to learn about Track & Field for amputees? Where does a parent with a disabled child turn to get their son/daughter involved in Wheelchair Basketball? Where does a blind woman go to learn about Goalball?

Aaron Moffet, Kinesiology Professor at California State University San Bernardino, knew that without the opportunity to try a sport first-hand, many disabled kids and adults might never get the chance and would miss out on all the benefits sports has to offer. And so, the DisAbility Sports Festival was born. Held this past Saturday, Oct 6th, this free, annual event is now in its 6th year, and is a showcase of sports and recreational opportunities for people living with all types of disabilities, attracting over 3,000 people from across Southern California.

What makes this event unique are the opportunities for attendees to try over 20 different sports and activities available for the disabled, including Wheelchair sports like Rugby, Basketball & Tennis, as well as Archery, Golf, Swimming, Martial Arts, Dance, Kayaking, Soccer, Discus, Shot Put, Javelin, Sitting Volleyball and Goalball.


Also on hand this year were a trio of US Paralympians who spent time talking with prospective athletes and their families, giving tips and playing alongside future Paralympians: 2012 Sitting Volleyball Silver medalist Kari Miller, a US Army veteran who you might recognize from a Citibank TV spot that ran during the Olympic games; 2012 Discus Bronze medalist Angela Madsen, who also holds 6 Guiness World Records for Rowing and is the World Record holder for shot put and American Record holder in javelin; and sprinter Katy Sullivan, an actress and the first bilateral above-the-knee amputee to compete in International Track & Field and American Record holder in the 100m.

One young boy, a single leg amputee, and his parents were talking with Katy Sullivan about sports. Katy asked him what sports he plays, and his response was simple: "Video games." She smiled, shook her head and encouraged him to try some of the sports that day and find what he liked the most. His mom responded, "that's exactly why we're here today - to show him there are lots of sports he can play." And maybe one day we'll all be watching him run for gold in the Paralympics. Or maybe he'll just find a sport where he feels he can belong.

Check out more of our photos from the 2012 DisAbility Sports Fesitval on Facebook...

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We're honored to be a part of Conscience Cocktails, one of Los Angeles' top philanthropy event series. The team at Conscience Entertainment has done an amazing job bringing together the LA philanthropy community and introducing everyone to some amazing causes. Their upcoming event on Oct 3rd in Westwood, CA shines a light on Fight To Live. Here are the details...

Conscience Cocktails Charity Mixer presents Fight to Live
Wednesday, October 3, 2012  7pm - 10:30pm
X bar | Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
2025 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Conscience Cocktails is proud to announce they are partnering with Fight to Live for an evening of socializing on Wednesday, October 3rd at the X bar in Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. Join us from 7pm – 10:30pm as we bring together like-minded people, great food and cocktails while we raise money and awareness for Fight to Live.

This special evening will include:
• Appetizer Stations from 7pm – 8pm
• Drink and Food Specials all Evening
• Live DJ
• Raffle
• Body Art by Star Oakland
• Business Cocktail Attire requested

About Fight to Live:
Fight to Live is about saving lives - possibly saving your life, or the life of someone you love. With one in two men and one in three women being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, not including the possibility of being diagnosed with other deadly diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimers, most of us will be looking for a way to beat a deadly disease to live a long and fulfilled life. The Fight to Live Coalition is an effort to bring public awareness and drive FDA reform so that the current advancements in medicine will be available when you need them. Fight to Live is currently calling for support of the Patient Choice Act of 2012, (H.R.6288) that brings earlier access, safely, to promising new treatments that could potentially save thousands of lives. With the right reform, patients should be able to make an informed choice with their physicians when fighting a terminal disease.

Join the Fight to Live by following them on Facebook at and on Twitter at Meet, discuss and be heard.

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We're thrilled to be a part of an amazing global event next week! The folks over at Mashable will be full steam ahead with their annual Social Good Summit in New York this weekend, and a big part of that will be a "global conversation" on Monday 9/24 with groups around the world joining in. We've been asked by our friends at PictureHealing to lead a discussion for one of the LA events and get to share in the conversation around "how new media and technology can create solutions in your community" and "what can the world can learn from your community?"

And sports certainly represents community as well as anything. From little leagues and club programs all the way through pro sports, whether competing on a team or as an individual, every sport is a community and every participant helps to shape it and speak for it.

So if you're in Los Angeles, please come by and join us - it's FREE!; details/registration at as well as below.

And for those not in LA, there are plenty of other Mashable Social Good Summit Global Conversation events happening across the US, Canada and around the globe. Visit the Mashable Meetup Everywhere page and either find a Social Good Summit meetup in your city, or start your very own! The goal is to highlight the voices and ideas of people everywhere, both during and after the Social Good Summit event. The global social good community will become one by tackling the same question, exchanging information and sharing the same spirit with the hashtag: #SGSglobal.

Game on!





Mashable Social Good Summit & Global Conversation
Monday, September 24, 2012 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM (PDT)
Hotel Shangri-La Outdoor Courtyard
1301 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Mashable, PictureHealing and SocEnt.LA want YOU to join the global conversation with leaders and citizens from around the world. On September 24, people all over the world will be connecting through local Meetups. Join us for the #SiliconBeach Meetup! We've lined up some awesome Social Good peeps to come lead the discussion to help us answer two big questions!

1. How can new media and technology create solutions in your community?
2. What can the world learn from your community?

Discussion leaders:
Ryan Scott - CEO @CauseCast
@TarynSouthern - YouTube Sensation and rockstar do-gooder
Mike DeHart - Operations Guru @PictureHealing
Amber J Lawson - TWT Comedy
Jared Levy - Founding Partner @NeighborAgency
Howard Brodwin - Sports and Social Change
Bridget Hilton - LSTN Headphones & Jacks Soap
Ryan Zoradi & Raan Parton - @Apolis Global
Shivani Siroya - CEO/Founder @InVenture

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One of the quotes you may have seen around our site is from the late Coach John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches  of all-time in any sports discipline. His words "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do," amplify the overwhelmingly positive theme of the 2012 London Paralympic Games, which wrapped up this past weekend with a dynamic steampunk-esque closing ceremonies featuring British alt rock royalty Coldplay. These Paralympic Games featured everything a sports fan could ever want - passionate and determined world-class athletes at the highest level of competition, in state of the art venues surrounded by rabidly supportive fans, and a massive wave of digital content that carried all of it from London to points around the world.

Watching the Paralympic Games live from London and checking the comments alongside the streams, we saw words like "inspiring" and "amazing" and "impressive." But the word the seemed to resonate the most with us was "inclusion." If there's a legacy to come from the largest and most high profile Paralympic games of all time, it's that these competitors should be seen as athletes and the disabled are as able as anyone. Even British actor Simon Pegg weighed in, tweeting "Watching the #Paralympics, you realize what an utterly stupid term 'disabled' is."

While there will always be debate about what the "proper" term is - physically impaired, challenged, differently abled, - at the end of the day these are people. Sons & Daughters, Fathers & Mothers, Husbands & Wives. People who work, people who laugh, people who compete.

And what the Paralympics showcased were Athletes. Athletes who train, who sacrifice, who sweat, who battle, who win and lose, no different than any other athlete.

At the same time, it would be naive to ignore that the needs and support structure for disabled sports are different. The vast majority of sports programs for the disabled or physically impaired are run through nonprofit organizations or supported by foundations. And with the global economic woes, many of these programs are struggling to simply survive. These grassroots organizations are the lifeblood of the Paralympic movement. This is where recently disabled military service personnel take a big step in their rehabilitation through sports. It's where a physically impaired boy or girl gets a chance to realize they're no different than any other child. It's where the next Oscar Pistorius, Esther Vergeer, Bradley Snyder, Jessica Long, Natalie Du Toit and Matt Stutzman will come from.

Corporate funding for disabled sports has been hard to come by, but the success from these Paralympic Games could well be the catalyst as we've hit upon a rare moment when corporate sponsorship dynamics meet the rise of a new sports movement. Several international brands - Citibank, British Petroleum, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Panasonic - maintained a strong presence throughout the run of these games. But were these brands simply riding the wave of interest surrounding the Olympic Games a month prior, and hoping to enjoy the positive rub-off of an association with disabled sports? Are they wiling to support the movement at the grassroots level, where future Paralympians are first trying their hand at wheelchair basketball camps or blind judo clinics? There are some positive signs of longer term involvement, and the success of these games may well spur that to new levels.

















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(When music, sports and good causes meet it's bound to be a good time; and our friend Laura Ferreiro from Music For Good had a quick take on this weekend’s Paralympics closing ceremonies’ featured performer...)

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are winding down, and this year’s games have hosted the greatest number of athletes since the event kicked off in Rome back in 1960.

As a culmination of the nearly two weeks of competition in sports including cycling, swimming, sailing and archery by athletes who have a range of physical disabilities, Coldplay will perform at the game’s closing ceremonies on September 9 at London’s Olympic Stadium.

"Being asked to play at the closing celebrations for the Paralympic athletes in London is such a great honor for us,” Coldplay singer Chris Martin said in a statement. “Kim Gavin and Misty Buckley are working hard to put on a spectacular Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony for the athletes and spectators in the stadium, and everyone watching around the world, and we are so happy to be involved."

What’s more, Rihanna will reportedly join Coldplay on stage to perform “Princess of China,” a song featuring the pop star on Coldplay’s most recent album, “Mylo Xyloto.” She’s been spotted at “secret” rehearsals” in London leading up to the big event.

The closing ceremony is titled “Festival of Flame,” and several details are being kept top secret. However, it has been announced that Coldplay’s hit “Viva La Vida” will be played simultaneously by several musicians at outdoor venues across the United Kingdom on the day of the closing ceremonies.

Interestingly enough, Coldplay was also asked to perform at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, but declined in favor of playing at the Paralympic Games.

Coldplay is no stranger to supporting great causes. The British band has actively supported Oxfam for several years, advocating for issues including making trade fair to end injustices against poor farmers, and Oxfam’s Hope for Haiti Appeal, calling for funds to help those affected by the country’s severe 2010 earthquake. They also are huge supporters of Amnesty International and worked with Mercy Corps on a benefit album to provide aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Laura Ferreiro is the founder of Music for Good (, which promotes the connections between musicians and the good causes they care about most.





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Social Enterprise is an emerging field and one that we believe can have a tremendous impact on the sports and social change landscape. Simply put, a Social Enterprise (AKA "Social Entrepreneurship" to some) is loosely defined as using business practices to address social issues. Within our own sports industry, there are several companies effectively using social enterprise strategies including Senda Athletics, One World Futbol, Janji and others who have found ways to use sports business to drive change.

And next week, we have the unique opportunity to lead the conversation in the sports and entertainment community at the Social Enterprise Alliance Western Regional Summit, Thurs Sept 13-14 in Los Angeles.This event is co-hosted by SEA Los Angeles, San Francisco & Denver Chapters and features nearly two dozen workshops, panels and presentations, plus site visits and conversations with some leading social entrepreneurs.

We'll be moderating the "Media/Arts/Entertainment" breakout session and will explore how the arts and entertainment community is combining Social Enterprise practices and strategies with digital media tools to drive change through music, sports, film, theater, photography and art. Joining me will be some very smart folks from the entertainment and Social Enterprise space in Los Angeles: Bridget Hilton of LSTN Headphones, Chris Brereton of PictureHealing and Filmmaker Holly Mosher.

This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in the Social Enterprise space to learn the ins and outs of business models, funding strategies and resources, and best practices from visionaries such as Jim Fruchterman (Benetech), Mike Hannigan (Give Something Back) and Carla Javits (REDF) who will share their strategies for success in keynote presentations.

The conference takes place at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral conference center, on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. For more information and to register visit

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Unstoppable [uhn-stop-uh-buhl]
- that which cannot be stopped or surpassed; unbeatable:

The team at Black Train Films chose this as their theme when profiling and following several Paralympic athletes on their journey to London for the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games. Here's one of their clips, which introduces Juanjo Mendez, a Spaniard who will be competing in Track Cycling at the games...

This short film follows one of our main characters, Juanjo Méndez, on his victorious day at the Spanish Cycling Championships in Majorca this year, which was just one step in his journey to the 2012 London Paralympics. We also get to know Juanjo, hear his inspiring story and find out how he overcame his challenges to become a real unstoppable.

Unstoppables clip #3: "The First Unstoppable" from black train films on Vimeo.

The 2012 Paralympic Summer Games open tomorrow and we'll be watching all of the "unstoppables" - will you?

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The Olympic flame in London is out and the summer games are closed. So many great stories and moments over 17 days that it's hard to wrap it all up in a few paragraphs.

I've spent the past week digging a little deeper to find some of the "stories behind the stories" of these games that showcase how sports can drive change - on a personal level, a national level and even a global scale. Some are about athletes that were heavily featured on the broadcast coverage, while others flew a bit more under the radar. But in all, these were "glorious and happy games" as IOC President Jacque Rogge said. Hopefully, that spirit will carry on for years to come...

"Inspire a Generation" was the theme of the London 2012 games. Perhaps no one personified that more than Oscar Pistorius. He broke barriers, showed what was possible and represented his country with ultimate class and sportsmanship. And hopefully, he's opened everyone's eyes to what the Paralympic movement and adaptive sports are all about. The Paralympic Games start on Aug 29th and this could be the sea change moment to bring adaptive/disabled sports into the public eye.

Without question, these were historic games simply for the fact that for the first time, every competing nation sent female athletes. For Team USA, the women out-numbered the men, also a first. And the successes speak for themselves: The women of Team USA took home more Gold medals than the men. Team sports victories in Soccer, Water Polo and Gymnastics, and individual medals in Boxing, Judo, Fencing, Cycling, Rowing and Tennis well outclassed their male teammates. And a new World Record by the Women's 4 x 100 Relay team on the final weekend put a nice cap on the overall accomplishments of women at these games.

UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke noted “There were a number of notable occasions and initiatives before and during these 17 days of competition that contributed to the legacy that these Games will have in the long run. In particular, the inclusion of female athletes in all delegations, including Saudi Arabia, will help change mentalities and is a very encouraging step in the fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment in and through sport.”

At the same time, there were still moments where athletic achievement took a back seat to the stereotypical "guys like to watch hot chicks" mentality which put NBC in a bit of a bind. Athletes are often beautiful people, with well crafted physiques. However, the Olympics are a chance to showcase abilities rather than "attributes," and for women's sports to truly be viewed on par with men's, we as a viewing public - and those who feed us the content - have to get past this.

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Monday, 20 August 2012 16:12

Paralympians are Unstoppable

With the Paralympic Games only a few days away, this ad from the Canadian Paralympic Committee gives some perspective on what many of these athletes have gone through to get to London. The clips shows a runner with a prosthetic leg as he sprints through the challenges he's had to overcome, through physiotherapy, surgery, back to the horrible traffic crash that injured him. He is truly, "unstoppable."

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Earlier this week, I attended a Sports Marketing event featuring a panel of Advertising industry execs. There was some great discussion around marketing during the Olympics, debate over the pros/cons of marketing within the NCAA & College Sports space, and some insightful commentary on the overall value of sports marketing for non-endemic brands.

Seeing as we're one of the few in the industry who are actively engaged in Sports Cause Marketing, I decided to ask the panel what their thoughts were on the topic. I "tweeted" my question, which was read to the panelists by the moderator:
Why do you feel the sports biz has been slow to adopt cause marketing? Is it a budget issue or not understanding the space?
(I did realize it is tough to add some of the nuances and definitions of cause marketing in a 140 character question, but I thought they'd get the point)

The response was actually a bit of a surprise...

Of the three panelists, two declined to answer. Now, if they haven't had experience with Cause Marketing in general, I can certainly understand their reluctance to weigh in on the topic.

The third - a Sr. AD at a major ad agency - offered that "it may be layering too many messages to add causes in with sports" and that she hadn't seen anyone really connect the two.

I realize everyone may have their own definition of what a Cause Marketing campaign may be, but to say that it's "too many messages" and that no one has really connected the two was a bit myopic. Especially since during the past two weeks of the Olympics, there were 3 cause related campaigns tied to the games and the athletes - from Coca-Cola, Citibank and BP - that were in heavy rotation across the NBC TV properties and their online platform...

Gold Medal
Coca-Cola has run this ad during several Olympic games, which highlights their longtime support for the Paralympic Games and Special Olympics


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