(Washington, DC) JULY 24, 2012 - Special Olympics is leaving viewers "Speechless" with its powerful new television public service announcement (PSA) that has begun airing throughout the United States. The spot focuses on Special Olympics athlete and golfer Susie Doyens. Born with Down syndrome, Doyens remained practically mute for most of her childhood due to social pressure and anxiety. In "Speechless," she literally shatters those fears and attributes her transformation to the confidence gained through Special Olympics.
At thirty-four years old, Doyens is an accomplished athlete in ten sports and has collected more than 180 medals during her twenty-six years in Special Olympics. But golf is her passion. In fact, her family chose to relocate from Illinois to Rotonda West, Fla., in 2011 primarily for the community's five golf courses.
For most of her childhood, Doyens communicated almost exclusively with her mother and through written notes. Then in 2001, Doyens shocked everyone when she asked to participate in a Special Olympics' Global Messenger training - a program that teaches public speaking to Special Olympics athletes. It was a life-changing decision: "I used to never really talk, ever. I was scared and shy…I was afraid that I would say something wrong, and everyone would laugh at me," said Doyens, "I've learned a whole lot more than just golf. Special Olympics helped me find my voice."
Doyens is just one of four million Special Olympics athletes who shows the world every day how Special Olympics has the transformative power to reveal the champion in each of us. The organization impacts not just the athletes, but also their families, says Susie's mom, Lynda Doyens: "Special Olympics is our purpose in life. When I look at her now, I'm the one who's speechless."
"Sadly, people with intellectual disabilities, the largest disability population on earth, are all too often conditioned to believe that their opinions are not important, that others are better suited to speak for them, or worse, they believe they don't have the right to be heard. This misunderstanding often leads to isolation and inactivity, and can even lead to bullying," said Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics. "We believe this PSA tackles the challenges head-on. Our goal is for viewers to see the spot, be inspired, and choose to help athletes like Susie."
The PGA of America will support the release of the "Speechless" PSA throughout its widespread media properties. "Since 1988, The PGA of America has been a proud advocate of Special Olympics golf. Through the years, I have had the privilege to witness first hand the powerful impact that golf can have on athletes with intellectual disabilities," said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. "Their joy in playing the game, cheering on each other's good shots, and celebrating their victories is infectious. We're pleased to help promote the 'Speechless' PSA and continue our ongoing support of Special Olympics golf, including next month's annual Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament in Arizona. I know that many of my colleagues around the country are helping athletes just like Susie Doyens prepare for the tournament and look forward to an exciting three days of competition."
More than 200 golfers from 18 Special Olympics North America programs will compete in the 13th annual Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz., Sept. 6-9, 2012. KPMG, The PGA of America, USGA and PGA Tour are presenting sponsors of the 2012 tournament.
The Special Olympics golf program began in 1988 with the assistance of The PGA of America and USGA. Since then both associations contribute to the growth of the program with grassroots training, rules education, tournament administration and national program financial support. The PGA Tour also provides ongoing financial support to the program. PGA Tour player Padraig Harrington and LPGA Tour player I.K. Kim are global sport ambassadors for Special Olympics, helping to implement golf programs and initiatives designed to spread respect for people with intellectual disabilities.
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Doyens' tale of transformation was first depicted in a short video called "Words,"produced in 2010 by director Martin Rodahl, owner of production company 71 Degrees North. Rodahl, who had maintained a professional relationship with Special Olympics in Illinois for several years, saw the potential for Doyens' story to inspire even more people and immediately seized the opportunity to direct, produce and edit the "Speechless" PSA: "It's an honor to work with Special Olympics and the individuals that this wonderful organization touches, whether it's an athlete, volunteer or staff member. I have a sister with special needs so the subject is very close to home."
According to Barbara DiGuido, director of communications for Special Olympics Illinois, "In a short PSA, Martin was able to capture the essence of Susie's powerful story in a dramatic and compelling way that leaves a lasting impression about the power Special Olympics has to change lives."
Tom, Dick & Harry Creative of Chicago, IL, provided support for the concept, spearheaded by creative director Amy Markley and art director Taylor LeCroy. The PSA relied heavily on its postproduction team, including visual effects by Chaos Studios, color by Optimus, sound design and mix by NoiseFloor, and music composition by Audiocastle.
"Speechless" can be found on Special Olympics' website and YouTube channel.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly four million athletes in over 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 53,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at http://www.specialolympics.org.
Director, Marketing and Communications
Special Olympics North America
PGA of America