The Hartford, U.S. Paralympics Donate Fleet Of Sport Wheelchairs To Chicago Athletic Programs

May 07, 2009, 10:57 a.m. (ET)

(CHICAGO) – The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., (NYSE: HIG) and U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, announced today the donation of 100 new sport wheelchairs to community-based Paralympic sports programs in Chicago to support the city’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games and foster recreational and competitive sport opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

The Hartford and U.S. Paralympics partnered with Chicago 2016 and World Sport Chicago for The Hartford’s Paralympic Chairs for Champions – the Road to Chicago 2016, which will be held today in Daley Plaza to mark Paralympic Sports Day during Olympic Week in America. U.S. Paralympians Greta Neimanas and Paul Schulte will be among the elite athletes demonstrating the sports of judo, tennis, cycling, wheelchair basketball, and boccia today from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Hartford’s Paralympic Chairs for Champions is a collective effort by The Hartford (62 wheelchairs), U.S. Paralympics (25), Aon (five), CNA (five), Laurus Strategies (two), and Hartford Hospital (one). Invacare Corporation is supplying 100 Invacare® Top End® Transformer™ All Sport wheelchairs, the brand used by Paralympians around the world.

“We hope these 100 sport wheelchairs will inspire the athletic ambitions of scores of men, women and children with physical disabilities in the region and result in a new generation of U.S. Paralympians competing in 2016 Games in Chicago,” said Connie Weaver, senior vice president of marketing and communications for The Hartford, the founding sponsor of U.S. Paralympics. “Today’s donation furthers our mission of helping people of all abilities protect and grow their financial and physical well-being.”

“Our U.S. Paralympic Team is one of the strongest ever thanks to the support of corporate partners, such as The Hartford,” said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee. “The donated wheelchairs will not only offer more individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to experience Paralympic sport, they will also help athletes who aspire to someday compete as part of Team USA.”   

“Chicago 2016 and World Sport Chicago are dedicated to increasing participation in sport among Chicagoans, particularly youth,” said Patrick G. Ryan, chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016. “Even as a Candidate City for the 2016 Games, we have the opportunity to inspire youth to become involved in sport and bring the community together to make sport programs more accessible to everyone. We thank The Hartford for their continued support of U.S. Paralympics and for making such a positive investment in the sport community in Chicago.”

The 100 Invacare Top End Transformer All Sport wheelchairs will be presented to the following rehabilitation programs in a ceremony today at 12:30 p.m. in Daley Plaza:
•    Chicago Park District Special Recreation Program and Chicago Public Schools; Chicago (13 wheelchairs)
•    Fox Valley Special Recreation Association; Aurora, Ill. (three)
•    Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association; Lake Forest, Ill. (13)
•    Hines Veterans Hospital; Hines, Ill. (four)
•    Jesse Brown VA Medical Center; Chicago (two)
•    Lincolnway Special Recreation Association; Frankfort, Ill. (four)
•    Maine-Niles Association of Special Recreation; Morton Grove, Ill., and Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association; Northbrook, Ill. (four)
•    Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association; Addison, Ill. (three)
•    Northwest Special Recreation Association; Rolling Meadows, Ill. (four)
•    Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; Chicago (13)
•    Rockford Park District; Rockford, Ill. (13)
•    South East Association for Special Parks and Recreation; Downers Grove, Ill. (two)
•    South Suburban Special Recreation Association; Tinley Park, Ill. (two)
•    South West Special Recreation Association; Alsip, Ill. (three)
•    Western DuPage Special Recreation Association; Carol Stream, Ill. (13)
•    West Suburban Special Recreation Association; Franklin Park, Ill. (four)

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the city’s Paralympic Sport Club, will use the donated sport wheelchairs to launch a new competitive youth sports program this summer. Currently, it provides recreational opportunities to approximately 250 youths with disabilities through its Caring For Kids program.

“We are grateful for today’s donation from The Hartford and its business partners because it helps us to address the real need for competitive sports for our city’s 15,000 youths with physical disabilities,” said Mitch Carr, director of fitness, sports and recreation for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “Our goal is to have a city-based wheelchair basketball team competing against other regional teams this fall.”

In addition to marking the celebration of Paralympic Sports Day, it also marks the start of Disability Insurance Awareness Month. The Hartford is the leading U.S. seller of disability insurance, according to LIMRA International, a research and consulting firm focused on insurance and financial services (full year 2008).

“We created The Hartford’s Paralympic Chairs for Champions because we understand that you need the right resources and support in order to harness your abilities and reach your fullest potential,” said Ron Gendreau, executive vice president of The Hartford’s Group Benefits Division.

The Hartford has a long-standing history of helping people of all abilities through its products, services, research, and philanthropy. The Hartford recently renewed its founding sponsorship of U.S. Paralympics through the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. In 2003, The Hartford became the first company to forge a multi-year agreement exclusively with U.S. Paralympics, resulting in the most significant corporate commitment to the Paralympic movement in U.S. history.

About Chicago 2016
Chicago 2016 is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to seek the privilege of hosting the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Chicago. The committee’s board consists of business, civic, athletic, cultural and academic leaders representing Chicago and the surrounding Midwest region. Patrick Ryan serves as the organization’s chairman and CEO.

About World Sport Chicago
World Sport Chicago (WSC) is an Illinois not-for-profit working to enhance the image, awareness and participation in Olympic sports across Chicago and to extend Chicago’s international outreach through and for sport and youth. Focused on promoting the development of recreational and competitive sport to the area’s youth, WSC works closely with Chicago 2016 and Chicago’s 2016’s Athlete Advisory Counsel (AAC) to provide sport expertise and athlete insight to the execution of these sporting events. WSC intends to aid Chicago in developing a sustainable, international sporting legacy as a real agent of social change for the city. William Scherr, an Olympic medalist in wrestling, is chairman of the board and Scott Myers serves as the executive director.

About U.S. Paralympics
U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is dedicated to becoming the world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and to promoting excellence in the lives of persons with physical disabilities. Visit the U.S. Paralympics website at

About The Hartford
The Hartford is one of the nation's largest financial services companies and a leading provider of investment products, life insurance and group benefits; automobile and homeowners products; and business property and casualty insurance. International operations are located in Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and Ireland. The Hartford's Internet address is


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