The 500 Festival has named a pair of Hoosier college students as grand marshals for the 2018 IPL 500 Festival Parade. The organization says Abby Abel from Purdue University and Mitch Sonar from Ivy Tech Community College were chosen based on their efforts in the world of unified sports.
Abel and Sonar are high school friends who were a part of their school’s Unified Track and Field team, which puts people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team to compete. They have worked to help eliminate the stigma against people with intellectual disabilities.
Abel is a junior at Purdue and a member of the university’s omen’s basketball team. She organizes the Play Unified Basketball Tournament at Purdue, a 4-on-4 tournament that pairs Special Olympics athletes from Tippecanoe County with Purdue students and student-athletes on teams, which is now in its third year.
Sonar, who was born with cerebral palsy, travels throughout Indiana as part of the Champions Together program, which is a partnership between Special Olympics Indiana and the Indiana High School Athletic Association. He speaks to high school students about the importance of unified sports.
"Abby Abel and Mitch Sonar are true catalysts for social change," said Bob Bryant, chief executive officer of the 500 Festival. "Their tireless work to ignite change within our community is inspirational. Their ability to use sports to give a voice to everyone is remarkable and the work that they have done and continue to do will change the world. We can’t wait to join the crowd of 300,000 to celebrate their friendship and their commitment to making a difference. Their legacy and impact will be felt for countless years to come."
This year’s parade will take place May 26 in downtown Indianapolis. The theme for the parade is "Illuminate. Innovate. Indianapolis." You can learn more about the parade by clicking here.