Prince Harry: our disabled servicemen are worth cheering for, too

Prince Harry’s kind donation to #FillTheSeats for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio will benefit local children and will affirm that athletes with disabilities are worthy of an audience.

Eight-year-old boy from the Cantagalo 'favela' community, who have very little opportunity to see the Games live, watch the Olympic Rugby 7's on August 2016 in Rio. 

The 2016 Olympics may be over, but the Rio Paralympics begin today! And thanks to an undisclosed donation from the dashing Prince Harry, a number of local Brazilian children will have the chance to join the fun and see the Games.

Greg Nugent, the London 2012 Games marketing director, launched #FillTheSeats, a crowdfunding campaign that aims to sponsor Paralympic tickets for 10,000 children, just two weeks ago. As of today, #FillTheSeats has raised more than $61,000 and garnered nearly 15,000 Facebook shares.

Perhaps his generosity should come as no surprise, as Prince Harry, a former soldier, founded the Invictus Games, a Paralympics-type competition for men and women who have been injured during their military service, in 2014. This year’s competition took place in May at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. “Prince Harry is following closely the Invictus Games champions who are competing in Rio and this is one way he is lending support to their efforts,” said a Kensington spokeswoman.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 04: Prince Harry meets former soldier and Paralympic athlete Derek Derenalagi during his visit to the Aquatics Centre where he watched the swimming heats on day 6 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on September 4, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prince Harry meets former soldier and Paralympic athlete Derek Derenalagi during London 2012 Paralympic Games on September 2012 in London. Stefan Rousseau | WPA Pool | Getty Images

On Monday, Prince Harry wished the Invictus Games competitors taking part in the Paralympics good luck. “To those Invictus Games competitors representing your five nations, all I have to say to you is what an incredible achievement—well done for your selection,” he said via multiple Twitter posts. “You have trained harder than ever, but the fight to the finish line won’t be easy. You all know this better than anyone. Cherish this moment as you get to serve your country again. Absorb the applause and atmosphere for inspiring millions, but most importantly—have fun!” Prince Harry’s donation will benefit local children and also send a message to the athletes that they are worthy of an audience.

According to the Rio 2016 organizing committee, only 12 percent of the 2.5 million Paralympic tickets had been sold at the close of last month. Luckily, sales have taken off in the last two weeks, but Prince Harry’s donation is still a valuable symbolic gesture. But don’t think Prince Harry is the only one who can open his checkbook and make a difference. Coldplay has already backed the campaign and you can, too. Check out the campaign here and consider making a donation or sharing this story to raise awareness. The Rio 2016 Paralympics run now through September 18. Let the Games begin!

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