Special Olympics New York President & CEO Applauds State Leaders for Choosing to Include

$150,000 in NYS Budget Supports Growth of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools

Albany, NY – Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman today applauded Governor Kathy Hochul, Disabilities Committee Chairman Senator John W. Mannion and their colleagues in the Senate and Assembly for renewing the state’s commitment to Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools.

The 2023-24 New York State Budget includes $150,000 for Special Olympics New York to support the growth of its Unified Champion Schools program, which offers students with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play on the same sports team. Participating students also lead events and activities throughout the year that encourage their peers to practice and value inclusion.

There are currently more than 200 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools in New York that directly engage more than 6,000 students with and without disabilities. At these schools, the program is reducing bullying and teasing, overturning negative stereotypes and spurring healthy social interactions among students.

“Thanks to dedicated leaders like Senator Mannion and his colleagues, the Special Olympics New York Unified Champion Schools program will continue to bring students with and without disabilities together as teammates and friends and – in turn – embed some of the nation’s most inclusive school climates within New York’s public schools,” said Hengsterman.

“Students participating in Special Olympics Unified Sports are changing the way people with disabilities are viewed in and out of school, ensuring that inclusion is the norm and not the exception in communities across the state.”

The Unified Champion Schools program is evidence-based. Drawing on activity from hundreds of participating schools in New York and 8,300 schools nationally, Special Olympics data shows an increase in respect for diversity and social and civic learning as well as better attendance and performance among students.

If you don’t have this at your school, you should! Learn more about how to get your school involved in Unified Sports HERE.


About Special Olympics New YorkSpecial Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 42,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 200 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.