While on their way home from school in early 2015, Breanna Bogucki’s mom turned on a song by rock group O.A.R. on the car radio.

“Do you know them?” Mary Ellen Bogucki asked her 17-year-old daughter, who nodded yes. “What about Cody Simpson?” Another enthusiastic nod. “Well, you’ve been invited by Coca-Cola to record a song with them for the Special Olympics World Games,” she said.

For Breanna, a talented singer who goes by Bree, this offer was an absolute dream come true. Born with autism, she has competed in nine consecutive Special Olympics state championships.

In March, Bree flew to Los Angeles to meet O.A.R. lead singer Marc Roberge, Australian pop singer Cody Simpson and Madison Tevlin, a 13-year-old Toronto native with Down syndrome who just that year had become a viral sensation on YouTube. They teamed up to record “Reach Up”, an uplifting anthem encouraging people of all abilities to never give up.

Stream it on Spotify here, or watch the music video below.

Roberge, who wrote the song with Nathan Chapman and Kevin Kadish, was inspired by Tevlin’s YouTube cover of John Legend’s “All of Me,” which to date has racked up nearly 8 million views.

“For me, this covered so many bases of why I love to write and record songs,” said Roberge, who has a family member with Down syndrome. “It was a no-brainer, and an exciting challenge to put together a song that could accomplish so many things.” 

The lead track from O.A.R.’s 2014 album, The Rockville LP provided the basis for “Reach Up.” Conceptually, the song was inspired by Special Olympics Unified Sports – a program that brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to compete on the same team. 

Breanna Bogucki (left) and Madison Tevlin teamed with Cody Simpson, Marc Roberge of O.A.R. and Coca-Cola to record 'Reach Up', the anthem for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

“When they described what they were looking for with ‘Reach Up’, I felt the music of ‘Two Hands Up’ was perfect,” Roberge said, “but the lyrics needed to be rewritten.”

During the early stages of rewriting the lyrics of the song, Roberge’s wife offered tremendously insightful advice. “She kept saying, ‘Don’t write a song for Special Olympics… write it for Madison, Bree, you and Cody. Write something that will make you happy and inspire others.’ That was a big turning point because I realized that when you project honestly, others will see it that way, too.”honestly, others will see it that way, too.”

Once in the studio, everything clicked for the group.  Personalities hit it off immediately and musically the artists immediately meshed, with each member contributing their own unique stamp to the song. 

“We gave it a different shape and a different reality,” Roberge said. “What began in Nashville with O.A.R. took on a new life with Madison, Bree and Cody in L.A.”

Madison asked to record her vocals first. Initially she was nervous however her collaborators – and her mom – quickly put her at ease enabling her to open up and sing.

“I remember her mom saying, ‘Madison just be yourself,” Roberge recalls. “Have fun, smile and do it the way you’d do at home.’ After that, she seemed to almost forget there was a microphone in front of her… she was singing for the love of singing. I remember watching her and having a smile I couldn’t control. By the end of the day, my cheeks were tired. It felt like Thanksgiving.”

Tevlin, who takes singing lessons from a vocal coach, has grown up in a very positive musical environment. She said she sings to “show the world who I really am.”

“Music makes me feel happy inside,” she adds. “To me, music is love, life and family. I want to inspire everyone to believe they can make their dreams come true.”

Bree and Madison were fast friends, and it was their seemingly perpetual sunny and positive outlooks that drove the team through some of the tougher days in the studio.

“Without Bree or Madison, there would be no ‘Reach Up,’” Roberge said. “When we’d get tired, Madison would do something to make us all smile and keep us going. And Bree is such a positive person who’s up for any challenge and wants to be part of something bigger than herself.”

When asked what she thought the message behind “Reach Up” was, Bree had this to say: “Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something, and don’t let anyone judge you. Reach up and show everyone you can do it.”

Mary Ellen Bogucki, Bree’s mom, tributes Special Olympics with boosting Bree’s confidence and welcoming her into a community of openhearted friends and supporters. Previously Bree didn’t spend much time away from home due to a range of sensory issues, that all changed however when she joined Special Olympics at age 9.

“When you find out your child has Autism, the first thing you want to do is protect them, but that’s actually the worst thing you can do,” Mary Ellen said. “We realized we needed to constantly challenge her so she could grow. Special Olympics has literally changed her life.” 

The Boguckis were obsessed after attending their first Special Olympics competition as a family. “You cannot be not happy at a Special Olympics event,” Mary Ellen said. “It’s the only time and place where your child will not be judged.” 

The entire group returned to Los Angeles on July 25 to perform “Reach Up” at the Special Olympics World Games – the city’s biggest gathering since the 1984 Olympic Games. More than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries competed in the games, attracting over 400,000 spectators. 

See more studio shots in this behind-the-scenes photo gallery.

“When you see a montage of Special Olympics athletes, their hands are usually in the air… they’re celebrating,” Roberge said. “We want to make sure everyone identifies this song with that image and these inspiring athletes who face challenges head-on and beat them through joy, hope and achievement.”

The Coca-Cola Company is the founding partner and global sponsor of Special Olympics. Since 1968 – Special Olympics’ inception – the company has maintained a deep commitment to the organization and has provided more than $190 million in support of its programs through product, equipment, donations and marketing support.