Thursday, June 6, 2019

Leaders Aim to Set Statewide Model with Program Growth in the Capital Region

ALBANY, NY — Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman and SEFCU President & CEO Michael J. Castellana today announced a partnership to expand the Special Olympics New York Young Athletes program in the Capital Region. Young Athletes provides inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities, ages 2 to 7.

As official sponsor of the Special Olympics New York Young Athletes Program in the Capital Region, a $25,000 investment, SEFCU will support new programs that open to the community in 2019 while also setting a statewide model for growing the program in regions throughout New York.

The partnership was commemorated by a check presentation yesterday at an Arbor Hill Elementary School Young Athletes event.

“It is an absolute honor for SEFCU to support the development and expansion of the Special Olympics New York Young Athletes program. Along with giving children with intellectual disabilities opportunities to have fun, develop motor skills, and connect with the peers through sports, we are showing them from an early age that they can achieve success in any arena,” said Castellana. “I look forward to seeing this program – and the athletes in it – grow and shine brighter than the gold medals they’ll win when they’re ready to compete in Special Olympics.”

“Families with children who have intellectual differences are challenged to find social networks where their children have the opportunity to play, learn, and have fun alongside their peers,” said Hengsterman. “Young Athletes answers this issue and brings awareness and understanding to the next generation, preparing all kids for a better quality of life at an early age. We are so grateful to SEFCU for recognizing the importance of inclusive play and supporting its growth in the Capital Region.”

Parents of children with and without intellectual disabilities say the Young Athletes program is a great way to keep kids active while also introducing them to new friends.

“Having sports activities geared towards young children with disabilities in Albany has been a great resource for our five-year-old son who has Down syndrome,” said Amarit Rosin, of Arbor Hill. “The support and structure that the staff provide gets the kids moving and energized, plus it is always a nice way to see old friends and meet some new ones. We hope to make it to more Special Olympics New York events as he gets older!”

“Young Athletes is a great program that builds confidence and skills in budding athletes and gives families the opportunity to gather and connect,” said Angela VanDerwerken of Arbor Hill. “My son William is in Kindergarten and always looks forward to coming and playing with together with friends.”

Young Athletes engages children with and without ID in activities important to mental and physical development. It teaches skills such as running, balance, throwing/catching. Children learn to share, take turns, follow directions, etc. – practices that promote inclusion. As with all Special Olympics New York programming, Young Athletes is provided at no cost to athletes, families or caregivers.

Children with intellectual disabilities who take part in Young Athletes develop motor skills more than twice as fast as those who do not. The program also exposes them to Special Olympics programming at an early age, preparing them to experience the benefits of participation when they become eligible at age 8.

To successfully implement Young Athletes, Special Olympics New York works with a partner organization, school, group or individual who wishes to provide the program. The organization delivers education and training on program content, strategies, and techniques; and a qualifying exam is conducted by Special Olympics New York before the program can be launched.

Organizations interested in launching a Young Athletes program, or parents seeking to get their child involved, should contact Special Olympics New York Director of Program Ryan Miller at rmiller@nyso.org.



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 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.


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