Special Olympics Flame of Hope Arrives at Toyota Mississippi

Blue Springs, Miss., June 10, 2015 – Toyota Mississippi today celebrated Special Olympics athletes at its Blue Springs, Miss., production facility. Local athlete Justin Rosenthal, who will be competing in golf at this year’s world games, participated by cheering on Toyota team members and Vice President Sean Suggs as they carried the Flame of Hope in a one-mile torch run on its way to the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

“Being a part of the Unified Relay Across America is a truly gratifying and humbling experience,” said Suggs. “It is because of our team members’ commitment to diversity and inclusion that Toyota has strong community-based partnerships. We look forward to growing our relationship with Special Olympics and continuing to celebrate the abilities of its athletes in Northeast Mississippi.”

Today’s Mississippi ceremony is part of an ongoing celebration from Toyota as the Official Automotive Sponsor of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, taking place in Los Angeles from July 25 to August 2. With more than 7,000 athletes, 177 represented countries and 30,000 volunteers, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event this year.

In addition to torch stops, Toyota dealers nationwide are supporting Special Olympics USA athletes and coaches in their journey to the Games through a fundraising program. Toyota’s Blue Springs facility added to that with a $5,000 donation to support local programs in Northeast Mississippi.

“Toyota really stepped up to show their support for Special Olympics Mississippi and our athletes,” said Tony Bahou, President and CEO of Special Olympics Mississippi. “We are thankful for their leadership and commitment to helping develop our athletes and create communities of inclusion for our most vulnerable citizens.”

The athlete from Lee County, Mississippi, represents the state and country in the golf competition this summer, and is living his dreams to compete in the World Games.  

"I had to overcome having open heart surgery, but Special Olympics has changed my life by meeting new people, going places I've never been and having experiences with my family,” said Justin Rosenthal, Special Olympics athlete competing in golf at this year’s world games. “My dad plays alternative shot with me and my family is always there to support me."

Production Control Team Member Jennifer Mangles knows firsthand what Special Olympics means for many individual in Mississippi and across the country and was honored to be able to run in the torch relay.

“Special Olympics hits close to home for me, because I have three family members with special needs,” said Mangles. “I go to Indiana and participate in Special Olympics with my nephew every year. Running in this relay gave me another opportunity to support my family and celebrate the unique abilities each of them possesses.”

In 2014, Toyota Mississippi produced nearly 180,000 Corollas and recently produced its 500,000th Corolla, a production accomplishment that was achieved faster than any other Toyota plant in the U.S. – a testament to the 2,000 hardworking team members who have answered increasing consumer demand since the plant opened in 2011.

The Special Olympics event complements Toyota’s local investment in employment, philanthropic efforts and environmental responsibility. To date, Toyota has donated more than $700 million to non-profits across the U.S. In Mississippi, Toyota has contributed more than $2 million to organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Mississippi; Catch Kids, Inc.; Habitat for Humanity; Mississippi BEST Robotics; NAACP; Regional Rehabilitation Center; The Family Resource Center of Northeast Mississippi and Tree of Life Clinic.

About Toyota.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands.  Over the past 50 years, we’ve built more than 25 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 42,000 people (more than 33,000 in the U.S.).  Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.67 million cars and trucks (more than 2.35 million in the U.S.) in 2014 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.  

Diversity and inclusion are long standing priorities for Toyota, grounded in our core values of respect and continuous improvement for people. Diversity and inclusion are central to all aspects of Toyota - our customers, employees, dealers, suppliers and the local communities where we operate. For more information on Toyota's commitment to diversity and inclusion, visit www.toyota.com/usa/diversity.  For more information on Toyota's commitment to improving communities nationwide, visithttp://www.toyota.com/community.

About the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015
With 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games – being staged in Los Angeles July 25 - August 2, 2015 – will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. The 2015 Special Olympics World Games, with the unparalleled spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork, joy and displays of courage and skill that are hallmarks of all Special Olympics events, will feature 25 Olympic-style sports in venues throughout the Los Angeles region. The Opening Ceremony, to be held July 25, 2015 in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games, is expected to attract 80,000 spectators. On April 30, 2014, LA2015 and ESPN announced a global programming deal that will see ESPN bring coverage of World Games to millions of fans around the world. LA2015, the Games Organizing Committee, is a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information on the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visitwww.LA2015.org and on social with #ReachUpLA on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

About Special Olympics USA
Special Olympics USA will send a 482 member delegation of athletes, coaches and official delegates to represent the United States at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, being held July 25-August 2, 2015, in Los Angeles, California.  The “home team” will include 344 athletes and Unified Partners, representing all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Athletes will compete in 17 sports, including aquatics, athletics (track & field), basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, golf, gymnastics (artistic and rhythmic), kayaking, powerlifting, sailing, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball.  The team includes several Special Olympics Unified Sports® teams, where people with and without intellectual disability compete together, as teammates. Special Olympics USA is supported by 96 volunteer coaches and 42 volunteer sports and management team members. Official sponsors for Special Olympics USA include Finish Line, Toyota, Champion, The Coca-Cola Company, American Federation of Teachers, Tommie Copper, Midwest Trophy Manufacturing, KPMG – Golf team sponsor, Mattel – Cycling team sponsor, and Speedo USA – Swimming team official supplier. To learn more and to follow the team, visit http://www.specialolympicsusa.org/, Facebook - www.facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsUSA, Twitter - @SpecialOlyUSA, Instagram - SpecialOlympicsUSA.
Media Contacts

Emily Wilemon-Holland, Toyota, 662-507-5148
Laura Zilverberg, Allison+Partners, 612-240-4034