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$100,000 Donation from J. Michael & Alice Smith Inspired by Tom Golisano

Funds to Support Next Generation of Special Olympics Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities

Rochester, NY – Special Olympics New York today announced that it has received the largest individual gift the organization has ever received in its Western New York or Genesee Regions: a $100,000 donation inspired by the friendship of Tom Golisano, founder and chairman of Paychex, Inc.

In making the gift, J. Michael and Alice Smith, of Rochester, expressed their thanks for the friendship that Golisano has extended to them over the years and their admiration for what he has done, and is doing, for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s difficult to find a way to thank Tom for all he has done for us personally and what an amazing impact he has made on behalf of the special people in our world,” said Mr. Smith. “In this small way, we try.”

“I cannot think of a more meaningful reason to support our inclusive community than a gift inspired by friendship,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “Special Olympics New York is honored to work with Mike and Alice to thank their friend, Tom Golisano, by creating more opportunities for children with and without intellectual disabilities to meet new friends and grow together.”

The Smiths’ gift will be used to support the next generation of Special Olympics New York athletes through the expansion of the Young Athletes Program, which provides inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities, generally ages 2-7. The program engages children with and without intellectual disabilities in activities important to mental and physical development, such as running, balance, and catching, while also teaching inclusion at a young age and preparing athletes for Special Olympics training and competition when they become eligible at age 8.

Tom Golisano is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader who has demonstrated an ongoing dedication and commitment to building innovative businesses, supporting numerous non-profit organizations (including Special Olympics New York), and advocating for inclusive health and several civic issues. The Golisano Foundation is one of the world’s largest foundations that award grants to organizations providing opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities. Golisano’s philanthropic contributions, both personal and through the Foundation, exceed $300 million.

The Golisano Foundation has been a steadfast partner for Special Olympics New York over the years and continues to be the largest non-governmental supporter of the organization’s Unified Champion Schools Program, which brings school-age students with and without intellectual disabilities together as teammates.

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About Special Olympics New York

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 about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. 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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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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By Savannah Taylor

I spent Saturday, February 21st as a volunteer on the Emergency Medical Staff for the 2020 Special Olympics New York Winter Games. And let me say, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I was there from a little before 7 a.m. to a little after 10 p.m. Although it was a 15-hour day, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Because, now that I’m home and able to reflect, there’s one fact I now recognize as true: Special Olympics truly is what the name says. It’s special!

I witnessed athletes who care about more than the game. They care about the passion, drive, and character they put into it. I also worked with many volunteers who helped remind me what EMS is really about: Serving the community.Savannah Taylor

I can honestly say I would spend money to watch Special Olympics competition rather than watch any high school, college, or professional sports for free. Here’s why.

First off, I witnessed the most kind and caring people I have ever seen. In one game, I witnessed an athlete who kept falling down, yet a member of the opposing team helped him up every time he fell. The idea of helping someone on the opposite team astonished me. It’s rare to see that at the high school level. I was glad to see the caring nature of the athletes.

Secondly, every interaction I had with any athlete was lovely. They thanked me for volunteering, asked me questions, and were genuinely interested. Many athletes approached me just to express how happy they were to attend the Games. Honestly, seeing how happy they were made me realize how happy I was to be there.

And lastly, the group of volunteers I worked with taught me many invaluable lessons. I learned so much about creating a kind, friendly, and caring atmosphere, as well as new methods of doing paperwork and new ways of doing things to get around barriers.

It was amazing how this wonderful group of people took time out of their lives and jobs just to help the community. The volunteers had a positive demeanor with the athletes, coaches, and other staff throughout the event. They took their time and did everything they could to get the athletes back on the field as soon as possible. Many of the volunteers I worked with also reminded me why I love EMS and why I should never leave it.

All in all, Winter Games was amazing, and I can’t thank those who gave me this opportunity enough. It was so rewarding to be a part of Special Olympics New York.

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Will Kick off This Year’s Regional Spread the Word Inclusion Campaign

Rochester, NY — The Golisano Foundation, Special Olympics, and Best Buddies are joining together to host the first ever Festival of Inclusion on Sunday, March 1. The inspirational day of fun and games is free and will be held at the new Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College, 4245 East Ave in Rochester from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The new event will kick-off the annual Spread the Word Inclusion campaign.

Ann Costello, Golisano Foundation Executive Director said, “We are proud to build on our annual Spread the Word Inclusion campaign making an even bigger impact to stop all types of discrimination against people including those with intellectual disabilities. This new Festival of Inclusion will celebrate the impressive shifts we have made over the last decade and promote what still needs to be done. We’re asking for organizations to get involved and for people to take the pledge and show us how they will more inclusive in their schools, workplaces, and community. Working together we can inspire acceptance and advocate for respectful words and actions in all aspects of our lives.”

Festival of Inclusion Event Highlights

  • Sports activities including “East vs. West” unified basketball tournament, pickleball, cheerleading, and tennis
  • Music & dance fun with dance troops, singing groups, DJ and dance party
  • Photo booth
  • Community inclusion stations featuring interactive and creative activities and demonstrations from 40+ regional organizations. Organizations interested in participating can apply by February 14 online by visiting: golisanofoundation.org/Festival-Inclusion-2020-Sign-Up.aspx.
  • A pep rally
  • Food trucks located outside the Golisano Training Center entrance
  • Tours of local department fire trucks, police cruisers, and other emergency vehicles

This year’s Spread the Word Day of activation is Wednesday, March 4. The campaign was created and reimagined by youth, and is intended to engage schools, organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support of inclusion and to promote respect and acceptance of people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

David Quilleon, Best Buddies Senior Vice President and Festival of Inclusion official emcee said, “I live my life each day to make an impact in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by promoting the power of friendship. Inclusion is important in this idea as it cultivates friendship and diversity while creating a more empathetic and welcoming culture. Inclusion unites the authenticity of all of us. With a commitment to an open heart, we celebrate the abilities and contributions of everyone in our world.”

Stacey Hengsterman, Special Olympics New York President and CEO said, “Special Olympics New York athletes and Unified partners have emerged as the leaders of a global movement to inclusion, one that is supported by community events such as the Festival of Inclusion and the annual Spread the Word campaign. We are proud to partner with the Golisano Foundation and Best Buddies once again to share the Special Olympics message of inclusion and continue our work to make New York the most inclusive state in the country.”

Hengsterman will deliver a brief speech at the Festival. In addition, Special Olympics NY will host several athletic exhibitions, including a bocce experience, a Unified Basketball scrimmage, and a basketball skills session. There will also be information on becoming a coach and joining hiking clubs.

More Information on the Festival of Inclusion and Spread the Word Inclusion Campaign

For complete details of the event visit golisanofoundation.org.

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About the Golisano Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. dedicated to making the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Foundation is devoted to opening doors to opportunity, changing negative perceptions and stereotypes, and forging unprecedented partnerships to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have pathways to personal dignity, independence and the best possible expression of their abilities and talents throughout their lifetimes. Founded in 1985 by Tom Golisano—entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader, and founder and chairman of Paychex, Inc. —the Foundation “imagines the possibilities,” advocating for families, fighting for their dignity and giving people with IDD the opportunity to thrive in their communities. With more than $55 million in gross assets and awards about $3 million annually to non-profit organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida.

About Special Olympics New York – Celebrating its 50th anniversary, 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.

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

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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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When one thinks of Special Olympics New York, hiking probably isn’t the first event that comes to mind. However, it’s just one of the many fitness opportunities we’ve helped develop throughout New York State that encourages our athletes, friends, and fans to stay healthy between (and even during) sports seasons. Take the Genesee Region’s Unified Hiking Club as an example.

The Unified Hiking Club features 17 hikers who walk together every Tuesday. Their goal is simple: be active, make friends, and enjoy the outdoors.

The club began with a grant from Special Olympics International. Since then, it’s expanded into a year-round activity. Participants are encouraged to attend at least six sessions, but the club is ongoing, even during traditional sport seasons. For those involved, it’s an amazing opportunity for both fitness and socialization.

“My favorite part of the hiking club is meeting new friends and enjoying new adventures at the park,” said Jordan, a Special Olympics NY athlete and Unified Hiking Club member.

Other regions are seeing the benefits of clubs like this as well. For example, Athlete Congress Members from our New York City Region have created a hiking club of their own. They too meet weekly, and they hike to encourage fitness and friendship.

To be clear, these hiking clubs are not competitive events. Unlike our teams and training clubs, members are not preparing for local, regional, or super-regional competition. The hiking clubs are, however, cooperative activities that foster comradery and good physical health—much like our core 22 sports. So though they’re not our main focus, activities like these hiking clubs are definitely within our wheelhouse.

Said Betsy Mihm, Director of Program in the Genesee Region, “Our Unified Hiking Club brings together Special Olympics athletes, friends, and family members to learn about hiking and healthy lifestyle habits.”

Here at Special Olympics New York, we’ve made the health and wellness of our athletes a priority for 2019 and beyond. Ongoing initiatives such as the Genesee Region’s Unified Hiking Club, the NYC Region’s hiking club, and Fit 5 NY help keep our athletes fit and active for their sports seasons, and for life.

“New York has historically led on issues that threaten inclusion and equity for its citizens,” wrote Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman in a 2018 article. “Working to prevent health disparity for people with ID [intellectual disabilities] is an issue we can no longer afford to sit back and watch on. It’s time for New York to get in the game.”

Programs like the Unified Hiking Club prove that we’re serious about these objectives.

If you’re interested in starting a similar activity in your area, contact your regional office. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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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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Local Entrepreneur Michele Liddle Named as First Special Olympics New York “Athlete Health Champion”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

ROCHESTER, NY — Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman and The Perfect Granola Founder Michele Liddle today announced a partnership to promote athlete health in the Greater Rochester area. 

As part of its official sponsorship for the Special Olympics New York Winter Games, which will be held in Rochester Feb. 22-23, the company will provide 2,000 of its signature gluten-free granola bars to athletes. The bars will be handed out as athletes finish their competitions – encouragement to refuel after burning their energy on the ski slopes, skating rinks, or floor hockey courts.

“When Michele and I got to talking about her sponsorship of Winter Games, we quickly agreed that there was so much more we could do together to promote health and wellness among our athletes in Rochester,” said Hengsterman. “As Special Olympics New York’s first official ‘Athlete Health Champion’, Michele will be exploring new and innovative ways to help our athletes lead healthier lives not only during this major competition but year-round. We are grateful to have fans like Michele who know, like we do, that it’s harder to compete if you’re not healthy.”

“We are so excited to form a long-term partnership with Special Olympics New York as an Athlete Health Champion,” said Liddle. “Eating well is so important for overall health and wellness. We look forward to supporting the Winter Games and developing new programs throughout the year we support this wonderful organization.”

The Perfect Granola began in Michele’s family kitchen as a way to feed the hungry, preparing food that could be given away to help those in need while also empowering the underserved. Today, The Perfect Granola gives thousands of pounds of food and support to hundreds of organizations. Its products are pure and simple and don’t just feed your body, but nourish your soul. To learn more, visit www.theperfectgranola.com.

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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 & Communications, (518) 588-3459, rarmando@nyso.org

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