Nonprofit leaders to represent RVA in Austria at Special Olympics Winter Games alongside Jason Mraz

Nonprofit leaders to represent RVA in Austria at Special Olympics Winter Games alongside Jason Mraz

SPARC will direct youth from across the globe in a performance with Jason Mraz and Grace VanderWaal at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

Photo: Special Olympics

Members of Scott’s Addition-based SPARC and organization’s creative leadership team will travel to Austria to direct the Special Olympics International Global Messengers and Austria’s Schladming youth choir at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games March 18th. Members will join Richmond native Jason Mraz for a performance of his hit single “I Won’t Give Up” and America’s Got Talent winner, Grace VanderWaal.

The Special Olympics World Games are held every two years and demonstrate sports excellence, which promotes equality, respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Nearly 2,700 athletes and coaches from 107 nations will attend the Opening Ceremony, which will be held at the Planai Stadium in Schladming, Austria and will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 2:00 PM.

SPARC’s Special Olympics World Winter Games team will include Erin Thomas-Foley (Director), Brendan Kennedy (Assistant Director), Daniel Clarke (Music Director), and Mraz, who has served as an artistic advisor and funder for SPARC’s “LIVE ART” program since its inception in 2012. The team will have three days to train this group of youth–both with and without disabilities–who speak many different languages, to create the performance.

“We are truly humbled and honored to be a part of the Opening Ceremony for the Special Olympics,” Erin Thomas-Foley, SPARC’s Senior Director of Education, said in a statement. “We hope the performance will be a powerful merging of Special Olympics’ amazing mission of empowering people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities and “LIVE ART’s” message of inclusion and acceptance through the performing arts.”




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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.