Former Kansas State University footballer and current Riverdale star Charles Melton has signed onto a new project: representing the Special Olympics as the Games’ newest Global Ambassador. The role is one that resonates deeply with the actor and athlete, who credits sport with fostering community and inclusion.
"I grew up with sports, and sports has been a strong cornerstone in my life as far as building relationships and having a community," he told People just after the announcement about his involvement was made.
"In this role, I want to bring awareness to the Special Olympics and what they believe in, which I believe in as well, which is the power of what sports can create and how sports can create a more inclusive world where people feel accepted and safe."
Back in 2018, Melton (who plays Reggie Mantle on Riverdale) paid a visit to a high school just outside of LA. It was there that his connection to the Special Olympics originated.
The school was home to a Special Olympics Unified Champions Program designed to boost social inclusion and provide leadership opportunities for students. The school Melton visited had one of the top-performing programs in the US, news he got to break to its students.
"They were screaming, yelling at the top of their lungs. They were just so happy, it was just such a great experience," Melton said. The actor went on to host Unified Champions Program students at film screenings for his movie The Sun Is Also A Star and will be participating in an upcoming Polar Plunge challenge for Special Olympics Kansas.
“I'm going to do what I can to bring awareness and create a more inclusive world with sports and community," said Melton. "If I can use my voice and one person can hear, then that's a win."
While his current focus is to take the UCS program to more schools across the US, Melton also hopes that he can be part of promoting the next Winter Games set to take place in Russia in 2022 or the Summer Games in Berlin in 2023. The list of past Special Olympics Ambassadors includes Avril Lavigne, Yao Ming, Brooklyn Decker, Dale Moss, Michelle Kwan, and Michael Phelps.
"I believe we all have a voice and a story to share,” Melton explained, “and things in life that we feel called to do, and it's good to be intentional and purposeful in the things we believe in. Special Olympics is one of those things that I believe in.”
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