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

These inspiring lyrics officially kicked off the 2015 Special Olympics World Games during the Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles.

Marc Roberge and his O.A.R bandmates and Cody Simpson hit the stage with rock stars Bree Bogucki and Madison Tevlin. The fab foursome performed in front of thousands at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The performance was also broadcast live on ESPN.

It was a performance months in the making. A performance that captured the hearts of all who watched. And a performance with an inspiring message to all Special Olympics athletes.

Opening Ceremony

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 reuniting with her family in the stands. "I mean, this is the Special Olympics World Games... It’s amazing!” 

Bugucki's hopes came true.

Sitting in the stands, watching the decorated Special Olympics athlete with autism and Tevlin, a viral singing sensation from Canada with Down syndrome, perform alongside two professional musicians was an overwhelmingly emotional experience. Technically speaking, Simpson and Roberge are “the famous ones”, but the girls truly stole the show. They were naturals. Both hands up, encouraging the crowd and athletes everywhere to "reach up" for inclusion and acceptance.

Opening Ceremony

The performance was the icing on the cake after a weekend full of events and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The girls recorded "Reach Up" with Simpson and Roberge in May. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of promotion and preparation for the big show in Los Angeles. The group h become 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, the girls had some down time with the Coca-Cola crew to… well, just be girls. And what do girls do best? Shop! After all, it is L.A. It’s almost a fashion crime not to take full advantage of this shopper’s paradise. They picked out their concert outfits. Bogucki went for more of an All American look with a t-shirt and jeans, and Tevlin decided to go full-on rocker chic with rhinestones, studs and leather leggings. The looks complemented their personalities.  


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.

Opening Ceremony red carpet
Left to right: Bree Bogucki, Entertainment Tonight host Nancy O'Dell, Madison Tevlin and Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussy Cat Dolls

They snapped pics with Justin Bieber, Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussy Cat Dolls, Cody Simpon’s family and sister Ali Simpson, plus more.

Wait. Justin Bieber? Oh yes. You better belieb it.

According to Tevlin, everyone was “super supportive” and “awesome” backstage. Oh and of course, now they are all fans of hers. How could they not be? One hug from Tevlin and you’re hooked. 

Once all the red carpet selfies were taken, it was time to mentally prep for the performance. And that meant one thing for this crew: a pre-show chant led by Simpson.

All hands in. “One, two, three… REACH UP!”

Show time. 

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

Everyone in the stadium felt like a champion that night. It was obvious. It was infectious.

Hands raised to the sky. Faces lit up with excitement. Smiles were shared and tears were shed.

The girls' families were outwardly emotional. Tears streamed down their proud faces as they watched their little girls shine.

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

Bogucki and Tevlin

“I liked being on stage with everyone. I walked out and was like… ‘okay I’M ON!’" Bogucki said. "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.'”

Tevlin, on the other hand, looked less than thrilled. At this point I had developed a special bond with the girls. I could immediately tell something was wrong. I held her close. 

“It’s over,” she said, trying to hold back tears. “It’s all over.”

The words stung. It was over. Well, almost.

She had a wonderful experience performing on stage. Simpson and Roberge mean everything to her. But now that the performance they had been working towards for months, was done. It begged the question, now what? You could see the uncertainty in her eyes.

"It’s not over," I assured her.

Like every great moment, it must come to an end. But like every great friendship, the bond will last forever. The words rang true. It was the reassurance she needed. The reassurance, I needed.

She cheered up. The rest of the night was unforgettable. From beginning to end, the ceremony was more spectacular than one could imagine. 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.

Michelle Obama

Then First Lady Michelle Obama brought down the house at the end when she finally said the words the whole world had been waiting for, "Let the 2015 Special Olympics World Games begin!"