“So everyone reach up, put your hands together/Don’t give up, climb forever.” 

It was these uplifting lyrics that officially kicked off the 2015 Special Olympics World Games during the Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles. 

Marc Roberge, his O.A.R bandmates and Cody Simpson hit the stage with Bree Bogucki and Canada’s own Madison Tevlin- rock stars in their own right. The group performed in front of thousands at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during an opening ceremony that was also broadcast live on ESPN.

It was a show that was months in the making, which captured the hearts of all who watched and ultimately that served as a truly inspiring message to all Special Olympics athletes.


Don’t Give Up, Climb Forever

“I’m hoping people were inspired and know that anyone can do what they put their mind to," an elated Bugucki said after rejoining her friends and family in the stands. "I mean, this is the Special Olympics World Games... It’s amazing!” 

Sitting in the stands, watching the decorated Special Olympics athlete with autism and Tevlin, a YouTube singing sensation from Toronto with Down syndrome, perform alongside two professional musicians was an overwhelmingly emotional experience. While Simpson and Roberge may technically be “the famous ones”, it was really the girls who stole the show. They were naturals interacting with the audience, putting both hands up and encouraging the crowd and athletes everywhere to "reach up" for inclusion and acceptance. 

The performance was the icing on the cake after a weekend full of events and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The girls had recorded "Reach Up" with Simpson and Roberge in May. After that it was a whirlwind of promotion and preparation for the big show in Los Angeles. The group became ambassadors for the Special Olympics and Coca-Cola, appearing on Good Morning America and ESPN and spreading their #ReachUp message via social media. 

The Land of Stars

Leading up to their big performance, Bree and Madison had some down time with the Coca-Cola crew to take full advantage of being in one of the world’s fashion capitals. After all it is L.A., and not taking the time to enjoy this shopper’s paradise would almost be a fashion crime. Soon enough they picked out their concert outfits which seemed to perfectly compliment the two girls’ respective personalities. Bogucki went for more of an all-American girl look with a plain white t-shirt and jeans, and Tevlin decided to go full-on rock diva with rhinestones, studs and leather leggings.

All decked out on the Opening Ceremony red carpet Saturday afternoon, the girls rubbed elbows with celebrities and influencers from around the world. Unfazed by the hype surrounding many of the stars, the "Reach Up" singers went around taking selfies with their new famous friends.

They managed to grab pictures with Justin Bieber, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls, Cody Simpson’s family and sister Ali Simpson, just to name a few. According to Tevlin, everyone was “super supportive” and “awesome” backstage.

Once all the red carpet selfies were taken, it was time to for the group to mentally prepare for the performance. Led in a pre-show chant by Cody Simpson it was all hands in and “One, two, three… REACH UP!” 

Show time. 

‘And Then I Reach Up, Because I’m a Champion’

By the end of the night everyone in the stadium, athletes and spectators alike, felt like champions. The inspirational mood that Madison and Bree had help set was undeniably infectious.  Hands were raised to the sky as faces lit up with excitement while smiles were shared and tears were shed. The girls' families were outwardly emotional as well. Tears streamed down their proud faces as they watched their little girls shine for the world.

This is the first year the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony was broadcast on live TV, with the "Reach Up" anthem kicking off the prime-time festivities. 

“I liked being on stage with everyone. I walked out and was like… ‘okay I’M ON!’" Bogucki shared. "All I could think was, 'this is so much fun!' It was like a bunch of friends getting together and singing. I know they’re famous, but I just look at them like, 'oh you’re one of my friends.'”

The rest of the night was unforgettable. From beginning to end, the ceremony was more spectacular than one could have imagined. The athletes carried themselves with such grace, exuding positive energy as they proudly marched in with their respective country. And the speakers were phenomenal. Eva Longoria, Tim Shriver, Maria Shriver and others each shared what Special Olympics meant to them. 

Ultimately the evening hit its crescendo when First Lady Michelle Obama took to the stage and finally said the words the whole world had been waiting for, "Let the 2015 Special Olympics World Games begin!"