FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 16, 2014
BlazeSports announces the passing of Executive Director, Jon McCullough
A loss to the Paralympic Movement
Atlanta, GA – It is with great sadness that BlazeSports, through its Board of Directors and staff, announce the passing of its Executive Director, Jon McCullough. On August 13, 2014, Jon ended his valiant fight against cancer at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, where he was undergoing treatment. Surrounded by family and friends, he fought the good fight as only Jon would.
More than a leader, Jon was a friend and mentor to many, teammate, and a champion for Paralympic sport on and off the field of play.
Jon joined BlazeSports just shy of one year ago, with 17 years experience in the Paralympic Sport Movement as an elite athlete, advocate, educator, and fund developer. His connection to the legacy organization of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games came long before joining the organization as he marched in the opening ceremonies in August 1996 as an athlete, a stalwart defender on the USA Paralympic National Soccer Team. Upon joining BlazeSports Jon said, “Becoming part of this organizational fulfills a dream.”
“Jon will be remembered by BlazeSports for his contagious smile, positivity and uplifting spirit,” said Dan Holland, Chairman of BlazeSports Board of Directors. “We will carry on his legacy and vision for the organization, the way that he would want us to. We are deeply saddened and our thoughts and prayers are with Jon’s family”
Tributes and condolences are being shared by the larger Paralympic family.
Sir Philip Craven, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President said, “The whole Paralympic Movement is deeply saddened by this tragic news and our thoughts are with Jon’s family and friends as this terrible time.
“Jon was an unbelievably inspirational and popular man, an absolute joy to be around, and a huge advocate for the Paralympic Movement.
“He had boundless energy, a permanent smile on his face and always made an impression where ever he went. He will be sorely missed by us all.”
Todd Nicholson, IPC Athletes’ Council Chairperson, said, “Jon was a great friend of so many athletes, and the Paralympic Movement has lost a true friend. He always put athletes first and foremost and he will be sadly missed by so many, especially all of us on the IPC Athletes’ Council.
“Jon always was a fighter, and he fought the cancer until the end. His fighting spirit will be continued by each and every one of us as we ensure his legacy lives on.”
United States Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Scott Blackmun said, “The USOC is extremely saddened to learn of Jon McCullough’s untimely passing. Jon was a true champion of sport who made a tremendous impact on both the Olympic and Paralympic movements. As a Coast Guard veteran, two-time U.S. Paralympian in soccer and as a leader, he made great contributions to sport development in the U.S. and around the world. Both within and outside of the sports world, he impacted countless lives with his positive attitude and passion for life.”
Ann Cody, former BlazeSports staff, Paralympian, and member of IPC Governing Board said “Jon, you are a force of nature. I can’t believe you are gone. I will remember fondly our many strategy sessions and dreams for a more just world. I have no doubt you will guide us as we fulfill this dream.”
A U.S. Coast Guard veteran, where he served as a rescue diver, McCullough represented Team USA in soccer for 12 years, which included the Paralympics in Greece and the 1998 World All-Star Game as well as ParaPan American Games competitions in Chile and Brazil. Beginning in 1999, Jon mixed competition with leadership roles. Increasing his involvement in international sport, McCullough served as vice chair on the USOC’s Athlete Council, chairman of U.S. Soccer’s Athlete Council and on the board of directors for U.S. Soccer.
McCullough was chosen by his peers to be an Athlete Coordinator for the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, the 2005 Innsbruck Winter World University Games, the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games and the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. With the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, McCullough developed a conflict resolution program first implemented in the former Yugoslavia with youth from different sides in the war. The soccer games, which had former foes working together on the same teams, were broadcast on national television and featured in the World Bank film, Transcending Sport.
In South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, McCullough was a facilitator and keynote speaker for the Man-Up Summit, a week-long gathering of 150 international delegates seeking to develop domestic initiatives to halt violence against women and girls, using sport and music as tools. While in South Africa, he was a facilitator and keynote speaker for FIFA’s youth initiative, Football for Hope. Before joining BlazeSports, he was also deputy director for Man-Up.
McCullough had an undergraduate degree in international health from The American University in Washington, D.C., and was certified in International Sports Leadership as part of the first Leadership Summit of the International Paralympic Committee.
About BlazeSports America
BlazeSports America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, that changes the lives of children and adults with physical disabilities worldwide through sport. Formed in 1993, as the direct legacy of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Paralympic Games, BlazeSports programs and services encourage lifelong health, build leadership skills, foster independence and inclusion, and promote an inclusive society. BlazeSports is the member of United States Olympic Committee – Multi-Sport Organization, the High Performance Sport Organization for Boccia, USA Member of the Boccia International Sport Federation and the USA Member Organization of Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association. For more information about BlazeSports, visit http://www.blazesports.org.