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More Than 200 Athletes and Unified Partners from US and Canada Set to Compete

Lynchburg, VA – The Long Island Yankees and Genesee Valley Splash are ready for a competition like no other: the 2022 Special Olympics North America Softball Championship. 

Held in Lynchburg, VA and hosted by Special Olympics Virginia, The Coca-Cola Company, Virginia Moose Association, Sheetz, and Lynchburg Parks and Recreation, this four-day event features 15 teams and more than 200 athletes and Unified partners, all representing states and provinces in the United States and Canada.

“We’re thrilled to send two of our best teams to this competition,” said Stacey Hengsterman, President and CEO of Special Olympics New York. “We know they will show everyone how hard teams from New York work to achieve their best.”

The Long Island Yankees will send 14 players to the championship, along with four coaches and one chaperone. Their roster includes multiple-time State Games gold medalists and Athlete Leadership Council members, plus Special Olympics Global Messenger Daniel Fletcher. In addition to being a softball player, Fletcher has competed in powerlifting twice at USA Games. He also appeared in the highly publicized Be Brave apparel campaign featuring celebrity photographer Nigel Barker.

The Genesee Valley Splash will send several athletes ranging from 18 – 40 years old, along with their coaching staff. They established their training club in 2016, though some athletes have been competing with Special Olympics as far back as the 80s. This team showed their unparalleled resiliency in 2018, when they lost a teammate on the eve of a major tournament. After a vote, every player decided to play, including the twin brother of the deceased. Since then, the team has dedicated every game to her memory.

This is the first Special Olympics North America Softball Championship since 2019; the interim years were postponed due to Covid. Teams will arrive today, compete on the 16th and 17th, and conclude with awards on the 18th.

For members of the media seeking interviews with athletes upon their return, please contact Casey Vattimo at cvattimo@nyso.org.

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 31,000 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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For the first time in our 52-year history, Special Olympics New York is celebrating the Summer Showcase Series. 

Centered around the fall season sport of equestrian, the Summer Showcase Series includes the Saratoga Horse Show in the Capital District Region, HITS Saugerties in the Hudson Valley Region, and the upcoming Hampton Classic in the Long Island Region. Though these are not Special Olympics competitions, they remain meaningful and high-profile events. 

But why is equestrian such a unique and rewarding sport for our athletes? New York City Region staff Lauren Reischer explains more in this video: 

@specialolympicsny NYC staff Lauren goes in-depth on Special Olympics NY equestrian. 🐎 #specialolympics #fyp #sportstok ♬ original sound – SpecialOlympicsNY

“We are proud to be offering our athletes this unique opportunity to showcase their talent at the most elite equestrian competitions in New York,” adds Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “Thank you to each venue for including Special Olympics in their respective events.” 

These competitions will serve as excellent preparation for our Fall Games on October 21 and 22 in Glens Falls. Wishing the best of luck to all our athletes!

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Students Met with Members of Congress to Request Federal Funding to Benefit People with Intellectual Disabilities

Newark, NY – Four Newark High School students and their Unified Sports coach joined Special Olympics New York leaders this week for 2022 Capitol Hill Day, advocating for federal funding to support Special Olympics Unified Sports and Inclusive Health programs.

Newark Coach Matt Groot and students Ammorette Laws, Sara George, Coty Coons, and Elijiah Malach shared their stories with Representative Joseph D. Morelle and with staff from the offices of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Representative Ritchie Torres, and Representative Claudia Tenney. Special Olympics New York Athlete Alfred Ha, of Manhattan, also participated.

“When we meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, the people they really want to hear from are the athletes and students who benefit from our programs,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “So we called in some of the best of the best, and the team from Newark High School definitely hit it out of the park. We are fortunate to have such excellent athlete leaders advocating for Special Olympics.”

“I’m so proud of what this team has accomplished, on and off the court,” said Coach Groot. “Unified Sports is a student-led movement that has completely changed the culture at our high school. Today, Newark is one of the most inclusive schools in the state not only because of our partnership with Special Olympics New York but because of students like Ammorette, Sara, Coty, and Elijiah who have led us in the right direction.”

Special Olympics International CEO Mary Davis joined the New York delegation for its meeting with Senator Schumer’s office. She said, “For more than 50 years, Special Olympics athletes and youth leaders have defied expectations, broken barriers, and shattered stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. Their continued work to build truly inclusive communities is only possible with critical funding from the U.S. government, which is complemented by private support.”

Special Olympics athletes, organization leaders, and supporters from across the United States participated in Hill Day, including more than 400 delegates representing 47 states and the District of Columbia. Typically, Special Olympics U.S. Programs travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with their state’s Members of Congress in person. However, due to COVID-19, all meetings were held virtually this year.

Special Olympics educated lawmakers and their staff about the stigma faced by people with ID, and how high-impact and cost-effective Special Olympics programming in sports, health, and education can reduce discrimination.

In nearly 7,500 Unified Champion Schools across the country and more than 250 in New York, Special Olympics has trained and mobilized youth leaders and educators to create more inclusive schools by including students with ID in all aspects of school life. Special Olympics also offers critical health programming where Special Olympics athletes receive free health screenings and year-round health and fitness interventions, and where health professionals are trained to treat people with ID to increase access to quality care for people with ID in their communities.

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About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 51,000 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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Happy New Year! Before we look ahead to 2022, let’s look back at 2021. We enjoyed countless amazing moments, but here at 10 of our absolute favorites. Enjoy!

#10: Be Brave Launch

In September, our athletes rocked New York Fashion Week with the launch of Be Brave, a partnership with Special Olympics, the Parsons School of Design, and fashion photography icon Nigel Barker. Be Brave is functional, fashionable sportswear designed for athletes of all abilities.

The team also created Be Brave gear anyone can buy. All proceeds go to our athletes! Find it here.

#9: Amsterdam Earns National Banner Status

Also in September, Amsterdam High School earned National Banner status! This distinction marks the highest level of achievement for Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools in the nation. Click here to meet Amsterdam Unified.

#8: Our First-Ever Esports Season

Three leagues, 26 teams, and 108 total participants. What a way to kick off our first-ever Esports Season! After that successful launch in March, we ran it back in June with a two-part livestreamed finals. Relive all the amazing competition here! And if you’d like to join the 2022 season, please contact your regional office for details.

#7: SEFCU Donates for Every Olympic Medal

In August, SEFCU pledged to donate funds for every medal won by Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. That became a $43,200 donation, which will help us send New York’s largest USA Games delegation yet to Orlando in June! Learn more here.

#6: Health Screenings at the Javits Center

152 medical volunteers, 146 medical screenings, and follow-up care for 22 athletes whose conditions might have gone undetected if they weren’t screened. That’s the impact we had at Javits in December! This was the first time we had all five health disciplines at an event in more than a year. Thanks to the volunteers who made it possible, and here’s looking forward to our next screenings at Winter Games in February! Learn more about our Health Programs.

#5: John’s Crazy Socks Surpasses $100k in Donations

Founded just five years ago by Special Olympics New York Athlete John Cronin and his father, Mark, John’s Crazy Socks has made a huge impact on our organization. Learn more about their amazing November milestone below, and see why there would be no John’s Crazy Socks without Special Olympics. Thank you, Game Changers!

#4: If You Don’t Have This at Your School…You Should!

Last January, we launched a video campaign that highlights the unparalleled impact of Unified Sports in schools. 90,000 views later, our fans still can’t get enough of it. Share the campaign with your school administrators to bring Unified to your school in 2022! Contact unified@nyso.org for more info.

#3: Fundraising Frenzy

Whether it was the May One Mile, Go for the Gold, the Summer Social, the Buffalo Sun Bowl, or the classic Polar Plunge, we had a blast with fundraising all year. Our sincerest thanks to everyone who made these unforgettable events possible! Click here to keep the fundraising going.

#2: USA Games Athlete Surprises

We never get tired of seeing reactions like this. Kathleen, Jonathan, and so many more Special Olympics New York athletes were thrilled to learn they’re going to USA Games in Orlando. Let’s go, Team New York! Relive all the surprises at this link.

#1: The Return of Fall Games

Not only was October’s Fall Games the first state-level competition since the pandemic began—it was our first Fall Games in six years! There’s no feeling like being #BackInTheGame.

 

Thanks so much for making 2021 an unforgettable year! Looking forward to many more amazing moments in 2022.

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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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