Continuing its long-term commitment of promoting and supporting the abilities of individuals with physical disabilities, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Simsbury, Conn., has announced that it is extending its sponsorship of U.S. Paralympics, the division of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) dedicated to recruiting and training elite athletes with physical disabilities.
The Hartford’s ground-breaking alliance with U.S. Paralympics, which began five years ago, now extends through the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. In 2003, The Hartford became the first company to forge a multi-year agreement exclusively with the Paralympics, resulting in the most significant corporate commitment to the Paralympics in U.S. history.
“Our partnership with U.S. Paralympics in 2003 established The Hartford as a true ‘Ability’ company, and the first – and only – disability carrier to pledge support to U.S. Paralympics and its 800 athletes,” said Ron Gendreau, executive vice president of The Hartford’s Group Benefits
Division. “We are proud to continue our strong partnership and together continue to change people’s lives.”
“The Hartford has been a consistent leader in the Paralympic and disability movement,” said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics, USOC. “The company’s continued support reinforces its commitment to assist future generations of Paralympic athletes in pursuing their dreams, while also ensuring persons with physical disabilities have enhanced opportunities to achieve success in life.”
The partnership between the elite athletic organization and the leading U.S. group disability insurance seller is a natural fit. “U.S. Paralympic athletes embody our Ability Philosophy – our conviction that success is possible by focusing on abilities instead of physical limitations,”
Gendreau said. “As active, productive members of society and the U.S. workforce, they are powerful, positive role models for our disability claimants.”
“We’re so pleased to renew our strong involvement with such a worthy cause,” said Connie Weaver, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of The Hartford. “Closely tying our corporate citizenship goals and philanthropy activities with our business initiatives is an important
strategy for our organization. The Hartford is proud to be involved with a number of causes that align with our business, including our support of the Wounded Warrior Project and Casting for Recovery.”
Swimmer Erin Popovich, who won four gold and two silver medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, said The Hartford’s support helps make athletes’ dreams a reality. “This sponsorship provides me with coaching, competition opportunities, and the ability to focus my energies on being
the best I can be,” she said. “Plus I’m proud to work with a company that helps people every day get back to work after a disability.”
As part of the partnership, The Hartford sponsors and organizes more than 200 events featuring U.S. Paralympic athletes throughout the United States annually. A majority of these events are educational programs to promote awareness among Americans – particularly within the business community – about the value that employees with disabilities bring to the workplace.
The Hartford also hosts Paralympic Experiences, where able-bodied business professionals use adaptive equipment and compete against each other in Paralympic sports, such as wheelchair basketball. By getting into the game with Paralympic athletes, these professionals can better appreciate what it is like to live with a disability.
“Time and again when Paralympic athletes have interacted with our business partners, the Paralympians have positively impacted the way they think of people with disabilities,” Gendreau said.
The Hartford’s long history of support for the Paralympic community includes more than 15 years of sponsoring programs, organizations and world-class athletes with physical disabilities.
“Through these events, thousands of men, women and children have learned new skills, regained their confidence, and taken important steps on the road to recovery,” Gendreau said. “We are happy that we can make a real difference in the lives of people facing disabilities.”
The Paralympic Games are the Olympic equivalent for athletes with physical disabilities and take place two weeks following the Olympic Games in the same host city and athletic venues. More than 4,000 athletes competed in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. For more information on U.S.
Paralympics, visit www.usparalympics.org.