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2026 Special Olympics USA Games Calls New Champions to its Board of Directors

First Lady of Minnesota, business executives, nonprofit leaders and star athletes appointed to help oversee milestone sporting event in Minnesota

Partner Forum - Adam Hjerpe, Greg Epperson, First Lady Gwen Walz

MINNEAPOLIS, March 21, 2024 - Special Olympics today appointed seven new leaders to the organization’s 2026 Special Olympics USA Games Board of Directors to help oversee the national celebration of inclusivity that will bring together thousands from all 50 states to Minnesota. The First Lady of Minnesota joins a notable list of business executives, nonprofit leaders and star athletes, including former Minnesota Twins shortstop Roy Smalley, who have been called to champion the milestone sporting event.

“We are thrilled to add seven new members to our existing board of directors who are dedicated to leading the 2026 USA Games with the same joy, excitement and inclusivity our athletes demonstrate each time they compete,” said Adam Hjerpe, Board Chair, 2026 Special Olympics USA Games. “This winning team captures the essence of our vision as an organization through their personal interests and philanthropic passions, and we can’t wait to see their teamwork create positive and lasting change in Minnesota.”

The First Lady of Minnesota attended the announcement of the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games at the University of Minnesota and credits the positive energy, hopefulness and clear mission for motivating her to think about what she could do to help make the 2026 USA Games a success. Joining the board also surfaced a notable memory for her.

“When Governor Walz was in the U.S. Congress, I met a young staffer who was involved in supporting Special Olympics. Her name was Molly and she shared that her work with Special Olympics was the most important thing she did,” said Gwen Walz, First Lady of Minnesota. “She told me that what she got back from helping was so much greater than what she could ever give. I am so grateful for an opportunity to be involved in this way. ”

As CEO of the Special Olympics World Games hosted in Minnesota in 1991, it was a natural decision for Roy Smalley to join the board that will oversee the 2026 USA Games. The former Minnesota Twins shortstop continues to be inspired by the organization’s mission to champion inclusivity through the power of sports.

“As a former professional athlete, I know how it feels to play to win and build a legacy worth celebrating,” said Roy Smalley, American baseball player. “The 1991 World Games was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and the mission of this organization is stronger than ever today. I look forward to helping the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games Board of Directors ensure the 2026 USA Games leaves a lasting and memorable legacy within our community and beyond.”

The seven new members appointed to the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games Board of Directors are:

  • Gwen Walz: Gwen is the First Lady of Minnesota, a former English teacher and lifelong Minnesotan. She is a passionate advocate for educating Minnesota’s children and has spent her life working to build a more just and equitable world. From teaching at prisons and promoting criminal justice reform to advocating for the LGBTQ movement, Gwen’s desire to learn from and work with others to advance meaningful change is her guiding principle. She looks forward to bringing this unparalleled perspective and influence to the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games.
  • Roy Smalley: Roy is a former professional baseball shortstop who played in Major League Baseball for 13 years for teams including the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox. He is currently a financial advisor and senior partner in the Smalley Muldowney Group and serves as president of the board of Pitch In For Baseball, a nonprofit organization that supplies baseball and softball equipment to underserved communities. As former CEO of the 1991 Special Olympics World Games in Minnesota, Roy is excited to reignite his passion for the organization.
  • Travis Anderson: As a shareholder at Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron P.A., Travis brings deep legal expertise representing a variety of clients in various industries and categories – from public and private companies to large cap and middle market private equity sponsors and other private capital investors – to the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games Board of Directors. Travis looks forward to supporting the team to ensure legal best practices are maintained across the organization and 2026 USA Games.
  • Meka White Morris: Meka will conclude her senior leadership tenure with the Minnesota Twins in April to become the new executive vice president of revenue and CBO for the Chicago Bears, where she will oversee corporate sponsorships, revenue optimization, strategic planning and innovation for the franchise. Meka is an influential executive and leader for inclusive sports as a former college athlete who believes that all people should have access to play and compete at the highest level, including those with disabilities. She looks forward to joining the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games Board of Directors to showcase the warmth, care and love that defines Minnesota by transforming a once divisive perception into a symbol of collective strength and inclusivity.
  • Amanda Brinkman: As a supporter of Special Olympics Minnesota for 20+ years and CEO and chief creative officer of Sunshine Studios, Amanda is a sought-after public speaker known for her ‘Do Well By Doing Good’ philosophy. She is a passionate volunteering advocate who is excited to encourage others to get involved with the Special Olympics USA Games, whether as a spectator, sponsor or volunteer. In her role on the 2026 USA Games Board of Directors, Amanda plans to use her creative platform to shine a light on the resilience and spirit of the Special Olympics athletes while making the 2026 Games a beacon of positivity and inclusivity.
  • Greg Epperson: As the regional president and managing director of Special Olympics North America, Greg has been involved with every USA Games event since the movement began in 2006. His involvement with the organization started in 1986 when he first volunteered as a coach. To this day, Greg enjoys coaching high school baseball and fishing. With a keen understanding of the organization and its mission, he looks forward to ensuring the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games create a legacy for not only Special Olympics Minnesota but the entire global movement.
  • Judy Vijums: Judy is the chief financial officer for the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games. As the co-founder of a Minneapolis-based private equity firm with a resolute focus on undervalued, privately-held companies that are often overlooked by others, her financial expertise will guide the team to ensure best financial practices are maintained within the organization.

These leaders join the existing board members of the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games, including Adam Hjerpe, board chair; Christy Sovereign, CEO, 2026 Special Olympics USA Games; Terry Clark, co-presenting partner, United Healthcare; Caroline Jones, co-presenting partner, Jersey Mike’s Subs; Dave Dorn, president, Special Olympics Minnesota; Wendy Blackshaw, CEO, Minnesota Sports and Events; Jon Steadland, chief of staff, office of the president, University of Minnesota; David Booth, athlete representative, Special Olympics Minnesota; and Will Smith, athlete representative, Special Olympics of New York.

About Special Olympics USA Games
The 2026 Special Olympics USA Games—scheduled for June 20-26, 2026, across Minnesota’s Twin Cities with sports competitions at the University of Minnesota and the National Sports Center in Blaine—is a national celebration of inclusivity, changing perceptions and the ability of the human spirit rising above limitations. The USA Games will be one of the biggest U.S. sporting events of the year, drawing tens of thousands of fans to celebrate the ability of over 4,000 incredible athletes from all 50 states as they compete in approximately 19 Olympic-type team and individual sports. As a state with a long history of championing diversity, equity and inclusion, the USA Games now bring an unrivaled opportunity for Minnesotans to spark new energy around the Special Olympics movement and create a lasting legacy of positive change.


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