ST. LOUIS - David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, Blues Chairman Tom Stillman and CEO Chris Zimmerman were among a group of Blues staff members who carried the Special Olympics torch down Market Street on Tuesday for the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America.
The passing of the torch, which will cover all 50 states over 46 days, began on May 26 in Washington D.C. and will end in Los Angeles, the site of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.
Opening ceremonies are set for July 25.
Josh Bender, the Blues Group VP of Ticketing and Guest Experience, carries the torch down Market Street on Tuesday as part of the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America.
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“It’s a small piece (that we’re doing today),” said Pietrangelo, who ran with the torch from Market Street to 14th and finally to Clark Avenue, where it was passed along on its way to Ballpark Village. “To see what the (Special Olympic) athletes are able to do and perform, it really is special. Whether you can watch the whole thing or just get a glimpse of it, it’s pretty inspirational and makes you feel privileged.”
“To see the smiles on faces as they go through this thing, and seeing the cars going by and everybody honking or giving us a high fives - it gives you a pretty good feeling,” Pietrangelo added.
More than 7,000 athletes, 3,000 coaches and 177 countries will be represented at this year’s Special Olympics.
“The Special Olympics is quite dear to my heart,” said Zimmerman, who has previously worked with the organization in Vancouver, New Hampshire and California. “The work they do is fantastic. I believe this is the first time there has been a cross-country torch relay heading into the summer games in LA, so for us to get involved and have a little piece of this event is really great.
“You just get a sense that there’s something very special about that torch,” he added. “The passing of it, what it means, you think to the iconic moments of great athletes that have carried the torch. This was our own little piece for the Blues to connect with.”
Other Blues celebrities participating in the event included former Blue Terry Yake, TV play-by-play broadcaster John Kelly and radio broadcaster Chris Kerber.
In addition, the group was accompanied by members of the Gateway Locomotives, a local ice hockey team for developmentally challenged kids and young adults.
“We couldn’t keep up with them to tell you the truth,” Backes said of the Gateway Locomotives. “They were zipping down 14th and down Clark Avenue. It’s awesome to see the smiles on their faces with them being part of this, and I get to tag along with them.
“This is home, this is where we love to be,” Backes added. “We love the people around here. To connect with the community, the ones that support us at the rink and make our job possible…giving back and connecting is something I think is necessary and something we love doing.”
“I live here full time and want to invest time into the community,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s such a great city, with such great people throughout the city. Any way I can contribute, either myself or the rest of my teammates, we’re all going to help.”