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Country’s Largest Special Olympics Chapter Celebrates 50 Years of Sports & Inclusion

Albany, NY – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has proclaimed tomorrow, March 6, 2020 “Special Olympics New York Day” across the state as the nonprofit organization marks the 50th anniversary of its founding.

“For 50 years, Special Olympics New York athletes, and those who support them, have cultivated a climate of inclusion that continues to grow throughout New York’s schools and communities,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “We are so grateful to Governor Cuomo for recognizing the impact of our movement and encouraging New Yorkers to reflect on the value of including people with intellectual differences on ‘Special Olympics New York Day.’”

Attached Photo Caption: President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman and Athletes (from left) Matt Graham, Kevin Brown and Ed Lawless receive “Special Olympics New York Day” proclamation.

The Governor’s Proclamation reads as follows:

Whereas, we all recognize the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyles and the benefits of lifelong fitness and exercise for everyone;  since 1970, Special Olympics New York has been providing training in a variety of Olympic-style sports for children and adults with special needs and intellectual differences, giving them the opportunity to participate in challenging competitive and recreational events; and

Whereas, Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country and the sixth largest in the world; the nonprofit organization serves more than 67,000 athletes, including children, youth, and adults, from all over the Empire State, providing them with an opportunity to compete in 22 sports, throughout the year; and

Whereas, in addition to these athletes and their devoted fans and families, the Special Olympics New York community includes more than 40,000 dedicated volunteers and more than 8,000 students in more than 220 Unified Champion Schools, where teams of students, both with and without intellectual disabilities, play competitive, inclusive, interscholastic Unified Sports; and

Whereas, this year, Special Olympics New York celebrates a remarkable 50 years of giving athletes not only the opportunity to play and enjoy a sport, but to become a champion; in the summer and winter, qualifying athletes come together for Olympic-style competitions at the exciting Special Olympics New York State Games that recognize a participant’s determination, training, goal-setting, and achievements and can even lead to the USA Games and the World Games; and

Whereas, today, on behalf of the people of the State of New York, I commend President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman, the Board of Directors, the hard-working staff of Special Olympics New York, the athletes, coaches, families, volunteers, partners, and all supporters on celebrating the milestone anniversary of the founding of this dynamic agency which will long continue to instill motivation, confidence, and wellness in aspiring athletes with special needs, now and in the generations to come;

Now, Therefore, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, do hereby proclaim March 6, 2020 as Special Olympics New York Day throughout the Empire State.

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About Special Olympics New York

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 68,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 220 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

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The Special Olympics New York Winter Games are coming to Rochester on February 21 and 22 with more than 1,000 athletes and coaches from around the state going for the gold in six sports: Alpine & Cross Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Floor Hockey, Snowboarding, and Snowshoe.

To celebrate, we’ve collected nine inspiring stories from each of our nine regions. Congratulations and best of luck to all competing!

Miguel Rivera – Western

When he was just 24 years old, Miguel Rivera was voted Team Captain of the Friends United floor hockey team. Now at 26, he’s hoping to lead his team to gold at the 2020 Winter Games.

Hailing from Akron, NY, Miguel has played numerous sports over the past eight years. He’s supportive by nature, which is part of the reason his coaches and teammates elected him.

“I like to help people,” Miguel said. “I can help my teammates learn the sports we play. We are a family and I love being a part of it.”

Miguel and Friends United will compete in our Floor Hockey competition.

Rory Palmer – Genesee

For Rory Palmer, skating isn’t just a sport. It’s a huge part of her life!

Rory has been a Special Olympics NY athlete for four years, during which time she’s competed in Figure Skating and Track & Field. In addition, she’s a member of U.S. Figure Skating and participates in dance figure skating and synchronized skating. She enjoys both self-improvement and helping her friends become better.

Rory will compete in Figure Skating at Winter Games.

Steve Williams – North Country

When it comes to Special Olympics NY events, Steve Williams has done it all.

In addition to competing in Snowshoe, Basketball, Softball, Track & Field, Golf, and Bowling, Steve also volunteers for Law Enforcement Torch Runs, Polar Plunges, Cops on Top, and most other events happening in the North Country. In all, he’s been a Special Olympics NY athlete and supporter for over 25 years.

“I enjoy participating in Special Olympics New York programs because it is a lot of fun and it keeps me going,” he said. “I enjoy it the most when you get to see other athletes compete, and hang out with them. Plus the coaches and volunteers are fun to be around too.”

Steve will compete in Snowshoe at Winter Games.

Omar Barry – Southern Tier

Omar Barry (left) may just be 17 years old, but that doesn’t mean he’s new to our competitions. He’s already been an athlete for six years!

Omar loves the comradery of team sports and enjoys meeting new friends from other regions. His best advice for competitors at Winter Games: “You got this.”

Look for Omar at our Alpine Skiing competition.

Vincent Femia – Central

Vincent Femia’s love of sports competition began with a phone call.

When his middle school teacher informed him about an upcoming Special Olympics NY Alpine Skiing competition, Vincent jumped at the opportunity. Within his first year, he became a gold medalist.

Now three decades later, Vincent is still competing and still earning gold medals. He’ll be on the slopes of Rochester this month, and don’t blink. If you do, you just might miss him!

Charlie, Lucas, and Joshua – New York City

Charlie Wint commutes over one hour to practice with his teammates. Lucas Perez is loving his first year of organized sports. And Joshua Delacruz is a vital member of his team, despite being just 17 years old.

Together, these athletes play for the P177Q-Panthers. They began this season with a gold-medal performance…and they’d like to end it with another! Look for them at Floor Hockey.

Liza Ambrosini – Capital District

Liza Ambrosini has been a Special Olympics NY alpine skier for nearly a decade. But she admits she wasn’t always ready to plunge down the mountain.

“I don’t like trying new things but my parents thought it would be a good idea to join Special Olympics,” Liza said. “I was very nervous…Now I love it. I love practicing with my teammates and have made new friends…Skiing is my favorite sport in the winter.”

Liza will compete in Alpine Skiing.

Curtis Waller – Long Island

For Curtis Waller (right), sports are all about steady improvement. He started training in Snowshoe just four years ago, yet he’s already advanced from the 25 meter event to the 100M. He’ll be competing in Snowshoe at Winter Games this year, and he can’t wait.

“I like everything about Special Olympics,” Curtis said. “I like Bocce and I like Snowshoe racing. I like my team and I like my coach.”

Louis Jost – Hudson Valley

For Louis Jost, Special Olympics competition has led to success on and off the field. As a five-sport athlete with 15 years of experience, he’s earned more than 80 medals at various competitions. As a member of his community, he works as an assistant sous chef in Hastings, NY.

Find Louis at Floor Hockey, where he hopes to add another medal to his collection.

Good luck athletes!

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If you would like to support our athletes with a donation, please do so here.

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Fans Who “Give $10, Get 10” on Social Media Entered To Win VIP Experience at Falcon Park

AUBURN, NY – The Auburn Doubledays today announced a fan contest to help bring back Special Olympics New York State Fall Games. Fans who donate $10 to the campaign and challenge 10 friends to donate $10 on social media using the hashtag #DOUBLEDAYSGIVESBACK will be entered to win VIP Experience including throwing out the first pitch, autographed team ball, $50 Doubleday Gift Card and 4 tickets to an Auburn Doubledays game. With each $10 donation with the hashtag #DOUBLEDAYSGIVESBACK, the fan will receive two vouchers for a game during the Doubledays 2020 season.

Special Olympics New York Fall Games were eliminated four years ago due to a lack in funding, leaving 19,000 fall sports athletes without an opportunity to compete at the statewide level. The organization, which serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities, aims to bring back Fall Games as it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020.

“This is a great opportunity to bring the Special Olympics New York Fall Games back and provide opportunities for athletes to participate and compete along with establishing lifelong friendships,” said Auburn Doubledays General Manager Adam Winslow.

“The absence of Fall Games has been a significant disappointment for our athletes, families and coaches, and has resulted in a decrease in overall participation in our sports programs, which can be life changing,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “We’re so thankful to the Auburn Doubledays and its fans for supporting our campaign to bring back Fall Games, returning this vital opportunity to our athletes in 2020.”

To be entered to win, fans are asked to “Give $10, Get 10” by copy and pasting or personalizing the posts below into their status on social media:

Facebook
I just donated $10 to bring back Fall Games for @SpecialOlympicsNewYork athletes. Now I challenge these 10 people to do the same! Friends, after you make your donation, copy/paste this to your status and tag 10 friends of your own to Give $10 Get 10. http://bit.ly/Give10_Get10 #SONY50 #DOUBLEDAYGIVESBACK

Twitter
I just donated $10 to bring back Fall Games for @SpecOlympicsNY athletes, and I challenge these 10 people to do the same! Friends, after you make your donation, copy/paste this to your status and tag 10 friends of your own to Give $10 Get 10. http://bit.ly/Give10_Get10 #SONY50 #DOUBLEDAYSGIVESBACK

Instagram
I just donated $10 to bring back Fall Games for @specialolympicsny athletes. Now I challenge these 10 people to do the same! Friends, after you make your donation, copy/paste this to your status and tag 10 friends of your own to Give $10 Get 10. Link to donate in @specialolympicsny bio. #SONY50 #DOUBLEDAYSGIVESBACK

Special Olympics New York fall sports include: bocce, bowling, cross country running, cycling, equestrian, flag football, golf, soccer, and softball. All donations are tax-deductible.

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 170 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

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Member of New York State Law Enforcement Also Recognized for Outstanding Achievement

Aurora, CO – Athletes and a law enforcement partner representing Special Olympics New York earned several distinguished awards and recognitions at last week’s Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) International Conference in Aurora, Colorado. The statewide Special Olympics New York program earned the most prestigious fundraising award, the Diamond Award, for raising $2.1 million in 2019.

Athletes Kayla McKeon, of Syracuse, and Ed Lawless, of Albany, received the LETR International Executive Council Athlete Award, the highest honor bestowed upon an athlete by LETR recognizing those who positively impact both LETR and Special Olympics. Three athletes from across the country receive this award annually.

Additionally, retired Captain of Yonkers Police Department and current New York State LETR Director Joe Barca earned the John Carion Unsung Hero Award. Statewide Volunteer Photographer Ken Smith, of Cheektowaga, won the 3rd Place Professional Award for a photo he took at the 2018 Peter Aquilone Memorial Floor Hockey Tournament.

New York’s leadership was a centerpiece of the international conference, as Special Olympics New York Athlete Kevin Brown addressed participants and spoke on behalf of the 6 million athletes across the country who benefit from LETR programs. Brown was selected last year as a member of the LETR International Executive Council and serves as a member of the Special Olympics New York Board of Directors.

“Each year, we are fortunate to work with more than 6,000 law enforcement members across the state on activities and fundraising events that engage tens of thousands of New Yorkers in support of our athletes,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “New York’s LETR team is the best of the best; and Joe, Ed, and Kayla each bring their own strengths to the program. Our sincerest congratulations to each of them on these international recognitions, and thanks to all of our LETR partners throughout New York for their continued support.”

“I have learned a great deal from participating in Special Olympics,” said Ed Lawless during his acceptance speech. “Not just how to play the game, but things like physical fitness, strength, confidence, determination, competition, sportsmanship, pride, independence, acceptance, friendship, and courage.”

“I am so very honored and humbled to accept this award,” said Kayla McKeon during her speech. “I have to give so much credit for my life achievements to Special Olympics. It was at a Special Olympics event that I did my first speech and found out how much I really liked it. It led me to speak to schools, colleges, and now all over the nation as the first federal registered lobbyist with Down syndrome.”

“I accept this award on behalf of all torch runners across these United States and the world,” said Joe Barca during his speech. “You all out there do the same thing that I do, just going out and doing what we can for the athletes.”

The LETR International Conference is the signature award presentation for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which is Special Olympics’ largest national fundraiser. Law enforcement who volunteer for LETR are the ceremonial Guardians of the Flame, carrying the Flame of Hope throughout our country to local, regional, state, and national competitions. The International Conference, this year held in Aurora, CO, is LETR’s way of thanking those who make their runs possible.

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 150 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers.  Learn more at www.specialolympicsNY.org and #SpecialOlympicsNY.

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Monday May 6, 2019

ALBANY, NY — Special Olympics New York Unified Basketball season is underway, with games beginning in high schools throughout New York state last week.

A complete schedule of Unified basketball games is here.

More than 6,000 students from more than 150 schools in New York currently participate in Unified Sports, where an approximately equal number of students with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team. In addition, youth leaders who participate in Unified sports are creating inclusive school communities where students of all abilities are accepted and celebrated.

Media planning to attend a game are encouraged to confirm with the host school, as games are subject to scheduling changes.

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest statewide Special Olympics chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with nearly 150 schools statewide to offer unified sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are provided at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. Learn more at www.specialolympicsNY.org and #SpecialOlympicsNY.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Robyn Armando, Vice President Marketing & Branding, (518) 930-4890, rarmando@nyso.org

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Offers Statewide Sponsorship of 2019 Torch Run Season

Schenectady, NY – Members of law enforcement from more than 470 agencies and offices throughout New York State are teaming up with Special Olympics New York athletes, families and supporters again this year to carry the “Flame of Hope” through communities in every region leading up to Special Olympics New York Summer Games, which will be held in Dutchess County June 14-15.

Members of the public are encouraged to join the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) in their local community as a show of support for Special Olympics New York and the message of inclusion that the statewide organization represents.

#FollowTheTorch: A complete schedule of Torch Runs is available online here.

LETR originated in Kansas City in 1981, when a police chief sought to have his department more involved in supporting the special needs community. Today, LETR is the largest public awareness and fundraising group to support Special Olympics worldwide. More than 6,000 members of law enforcement partner with Special Olympics New York annually.

As a sponsor of the Special Olympics New York Law Enforcement Torch Run, a $10,000 investment, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que will support all 56 legs of the Torch Run in 2019 throughout New York.

Members of the public who cannot attend a Torch Run but would like to support the event with a monetary donation may do so at: https://www.specialolympics-ny.org/FollowTheTorch/.

The next leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run will be held Saturday, April 27, at Niagara University in Western New York.

 

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving nearly 68,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with nearly 150 schools statewide to offer unified sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers.  Learn more at www.specialolympicsNY.org and #SpecialOlympicsNY.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Robyn Armando, Vice President Marketing & Branding, (518) 930-4890, rarmando@nyso.org

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