Kaiser Permanente salutes Special Olympics with this year’s Rose Parade float. Kaiser celebrates the 7,000 international athletes coming to Los Angeles in July for the Special Olympics World Games.
“Our float will raise awareness of the 2015 World Games and the Special Olympics mission to promote acceptance and inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities by demonstrating and celebrating the joy, courage and determination of these remarkable athletes,” said Dr. Edward Ellison, executive medical director for Southern California.
The float will carry some well-known personalities, including Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson. He won gold and silver medals in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympics.
Johnson also served as USA team captain and flag bearer in the Rome games. In 1984, Johnson lit the Olympic cauldron to open the Olympics in Los Angeles.
But Johnson is also well known for his work with Special Olympics, beginning with the first games in California in 1969, he was on the original board of directors. Johnson served as president until July of 1992, when he was named chairman of the board of directors.
“It’s been an absolute joy to watch the Special Olympics grow over the years,” Johnson said. “I find the athletes totally inspiring, the way they embrace life and form long friendships through the Special Olympics. Their smiles seem to become broader every year I see them.”
Joining Johnson will be many Special Olympic athletes such as the intellectually disabled Charlene Jan of Hacienda Heights. Jan’s mother, Leelin Chen, is a registered nurse at Kaiser’s Medical Center in Baldwin Park.
“When I heard they were looking for special athletes, I applied for Charlene. We’re all so excited that she’s going to ride in the Rose Parade,” Chen said.
For more, read Rich Irwin’s story OLYMPICS.