Special Olympics Florida Celebrates Its Annual Champions Gala

The red carpet will roll out on September 14 for the annual Champions Gala, an exciting event hosted by Special Olympics Florida to celebrate the organization’s athletes, coaches and community advocates. Taking place at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, several awards will be presented during an evening full of world-class entertainment.   

All event proceeds will benefit Special Olympics Florida, helping to support its ongoing mission to provide year-round sports training and competition, leadership development, health services and inclusive school engagement for more than 54,000 athletes across the state. Previous years have established the Champions Gala as one of the organization’s largest annual fundraisers and one of Central Florida’s most prominent local events.

“Each year, Special Olympics Florida looks forward to the Champions Gala as an opportunity to celebrate the talented and dedicated individuals committed to our organization,” said Special Olympics Florida President & CEO Sherry Wheelock. “We are proud to work with a statewide network of champions, who continue to inspire and support our efforts every day.”
Guests attending the Champions Gala will delight over a three-course formal dinner, musical performances from Rick Monroe and Caitlin McGrath, and both silent and live auctions. Also taking place that evening, the Special Olympics Florida’s Athletes Awards Ceremony will spotlight several outstanding individuals, recognizing an Athlete of the Year, Coach of the Year, Health Partner of the Year, and more.
Among honorees this year, Aquatica Orlando will receive the Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Award. This award is in honor of Ms. Shriver, the original founder of Special Olympics and the former Executive Vice President of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. It was Ms. Shriver’s mission to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities and celebrate their talents. The EKS award is given annually to an individual or group who goes above and beyond in their support of Special Olympics Florida athletes and dedication to inclusion.

“On behalf of Aquatica, Special Olympics Florida has an important place in our hearts, and we are honored to accept the EKS Award at the upcoming Champions Gala,” said David Heaton, Senior Leader of Aquatica Orlando. “It is our pleasure to support the Special Olympics community, and we look forward to our continued partnership for time to come.”

Aquatica is a longstanding advocate of Special Olympics Florida, dedicated to helping the organization and its incredible athletes through volunteer, fundraising and event efforts. This December, Aquatica looks forward to its 10-year anniversary as the host-partner for the Special Olympics Florida’s Polar Plunge in Orlando. This annual charity event provides funds for year-round training and services for Special Olympics athletes, a mission that Aquatica is proud to support.

The full lineup of this year’s award recipients will be announced at the Champions Gala on September 14. In addition to honoring these individuals, this exclusive event will also celebrate the growing success of the organization as a whole. Special Olympics Florida has more than doubled its athlete enrollment in the program since 2012 and has expanded its offerings across programs that cater to sports competition and training, athlete health exams, education and leadership, volunteer opportunities, and more.    Special Olympics Florida is also excited to welcome the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games to its home state. The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will mark the largest humanitarian event in Florida’s history. Additionally, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics Florida.