Mrs. Esther Jegede, a proud mother of one of those who flew the Nigerian flag at the just concluded Special Olympic Games watches in admiration as her son, Samuel dances to the beats booming from the speakers. Words cannot express her feelings right now as tears of joy roll down her beautiful cheeks. Finally, Samuel who many has always described as liability and a no- good is now a superstar, all thanks to his remarkable performance at the just concluded Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, United States of America.

While recounting how Samuel’s father left her to tend to him alone, after saying he could never have fathered such a child, Mrs. Jegede with tears of joy rolling down her cheeks said, “He told me Samuel was not his, as no one in his family has a disability. I was left alone to tend to him and his other siblings. Because he was not very sound in school, I tried enrolling him in several technical schools to learn handicraft, but Samuel had a mind of his own. He was passionate about playing basketball. At some point, I had to let him be.

‘’Today, I thank God that his passion has led him to where he is now. Today, my son is a superstar signing autographs everywhere he goes.” She narrated, at a grand reception put together by Coca-Cola Nigeria to celebrate Team Nigeria’s heroic victory at the 2015 games.

Having been the only one responsible for the wellbeing of her son, one could imagine how relieved Mrs. Jegede must be to have Special Olympics Nigeria (SON) and Coca-Cola support her son’s dream. “I thank SON and Coca-Cola for all the support. They have wiped my tears and that of my son. These tears are tears of joy and it is only persons and families who are affected by my son’s condition that can truly appreciate how much difference this opportunity has made in our lives.” She stated, wishing also that the Federal Government could be more proactive in enacting policies that support the inclusion of persons living with disability.

For her part, another parent, Pastor (Mrs.) Chineyere Ezeama, mother of Chukwudi Wisdom Ezeama, the highest goal scorer in the Unified Soccer tournament, while sharing her ordeal raising Chukwudi, encouraged parents of disabled children to see them as special gifts from God. “It is not a mistake that I gave birth to Chukwudi and he has proven it. Children are a gift from God with special talents, regardless of their conditions. I always told Chukwudi to look beyond his physical disability and focus on the talent God has deposited in him.”

From a backyard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities to a global movement, the Special Olympics alongside Coca-Cola, its founding partner, has been in the forefront of fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people since 1968.

In Nigeria, where it is also actively involved in the Nigerian affiliation of the games, Coca-Cola Olympics Nigeria has greatly impacted on the skills and performances of the athletes.

Speaking at the reception, Managing Director, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Adeola Adetunji noted that, Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the Special Olympics is in tandem with the company’s mission, which is to inspire optimism and make a difference in communities.

In his words, “Coca-Cola Nigeria is committed to advancing an inclusive society, where everyone can achieve his or her dreams. One of our ongoing campaigns, ‘A Billion Reasons to Believe’ speaks volumes of this commitment. No doubt, the Special Olympics has empowered and inspired thousands of persons with intellectual disabilities to believe in their abilities and reach their dreams. We are happy to be part of this movement inspiring belief.”

Corroborating the Adetunji, Chairman, Special Olympics Nigeria Board of Directors, Victor Gbolade Osibodu expressed gratitude to Coca-Cola Nigeria, even as he described the beverage giant as a reliable sponsor, whose steadfast support has grown in leaps and bounds over the years.

Perhaps, what makes Coca-Cola’s support for the Olympics particularly interesting is that beyond monetary support, Coca-Cola also offers resources and volunteer support that facilitate Special Olympics competition around the world.

Two of Coca-Cola’s employees, George Osadalor and Emmanuel Ekomabasi were volunteer members of the Unified Soccer Team that stole the show at the 2015 games. The team beat their Russian counterparts 4-3, to clinch the Gold medal in a highly competitive match that dragged into a penalty shoot-out.

Commending the two volunteer employees, Adetunji said, “Our excitement at this particular victory is enriched by the fact that our representatives contributed in their own way to bring us the Soccer Gold Medals. We are extremely proud of these Coca-Cola Ambassadors.”

In his response, Ekomabasi remarked that he had a great time playing together with his team members who he described as highly talented. “I learnt a lot from these amazing guys. It was not difficult working with them because they are very selfless, talented and inspiring. More so, I also learnt from them how to communicate using sign language.” He quipped.

With two medals to his credit, Samuel who suffers from speech impairment recapped the excitement of Los Angeles. “Everywhere I went, everyone wanted my autograph. I am glad that I was focused and believed strongly in my dreams.” 

The 42 member Nigerian contingent to the Special Olympics World Games participated in seven sporting activities, including Table Tennis, Athletics, Badminton, Aquatics, Basketball, Cycling, and Unified Soccer grabbing a whopping 71 medals made up of 36 Gold, 26 Silver and 9 Bronze medals. This is the highest any Nigerian contingent to any global event has ever gotten. It is hoped that by 2017, when the next games will hold, Team Nigeria would surpass the number, especially if they get support from everybody, including the government.

 

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About Coca Cola Nigeria Limited

Coca-Cola Nigeria, an active citizen of the community and one of the most respected companies in Nigeria, is a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company, the world's largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands.  Led by Coca-Cola, one of the world's most valuable and recognizable brands, our Company's portfolio features 17 billion-dollar brands including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitamin water, Powerade, Minute Maid, Simply, Georgia and Del Valle. 

Globally, we are the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, ready-to-drink coffees, and juices and juice drinks.Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy our beverages at a rate of more than 1.9 billion servings a day.  With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, our Company is focused on initiatives that reduce our environmental footprint, support active, healthy living, create a safe, inclusive work environment for our associates, and enhance the economic development of the communities where we operate. Together with our bottling partners, we rank among the world's top 10 private employers with more than 700,000 system associates. 

 

 

 

 

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Kenneth Eze

Kenneth.eze@quadrantcompany.com 

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