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Our Top 10 Moments of 2023

Happy New Year, friends!

We’d like to thank you all for your support by taking one last look back on 10 of our favorite moments from 2023. We look forward to making new memories with you in the year to come!

– The Team at Special Olympics New York


#10: Bocce Bonanza

With several¬†schools adding Unified bocce¬†(including our first-ever¬†Unified bocce league in New York City’s Public Schools), numerous¬†corporate events, and a fabulous showing at the¬†Governor’s DREAM Symposium, bocce was one of our most popular sports of 2023.

Click here to find a bocce club near you!


#9: An Array of Awards

We couldn’t pick just one! Our athletes, coaches, and volunteers earned numerous awards and honors, including the following…

–¬†Joe Bellini¬†(top left) won the¬†Special Olympics North America¬†Outstanding Coach Award
–¬†Will Smith¬†(top middle) named to the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games Board of Directors
–¬†Dr. Claire Watson¬†(top right) earned the Golisano Health Leadership Award
–¬†Justin Latimer¬†(bottom left) recognized for the LETR International Executive Council Athlete Award
–¬†Billy Seide¬†(bottom middle) became a Shoutcaster at the 2023 Gaming for Inclusion showcase
–¬†Matt Graham (bottom right) won the Al Fermet Achievement Award

And last but certainly not least, congratulations to Coach of the Year Linda Rainer and Athlete of the Year Erik Viscardo!


#8: 8 New National Banner Schools

New York State continues to add inclusive schools each year. Joining our ranks in 2023 were the following…

1. Arlington High School
2. Columbia High School
3. Dunkirk High School
4. East Aurora High School
5. Niskayuna High School
6. Northport High School
7. Pembroke Junior-Senior High School
8. Silver Creek High School

Congratulations to these outstanding communities! Learn more here.


#7: Floorball Debuts in NYC

Our newest sport, floorball, got rolling at the Javits Center in December. It’s an exciting, fast-paced game that promises competitive opportunities for athletes at the local level, in schools, and all the way to the world stage.

Look for our first state-level floorball competition at Winter Games in Syracuse in February! And learn more about floorball at this link.


#6: Big Time Tech Innovations

Whether it’s our¬†new coaches’ portal¬†or our¬†online volunteer process, we’ve been hard at work upgrading our technology.

P.S. If you haven’t updated your coach profile, contact your regional office¬†for the new year!


#5: Advances in Athlete Health

We know healthy athletes are successful athletes, which is why we’ve invested so much into our Health programs in 2023. Just look at these results:

– Offered nearly 2,000 health screenings and 400 referrals
РLaunched our Healthcare Provider Directory to centralize trusted provider contact information
РBegan our Virtual Health Forums, where athletes receive health tips from experts
РSaw some essential advocacy come to fruition

Hats off to our health staff and volunteers! And learn more about our Health programs here.


#4: Record-Breaking Polar Plunges

This year, we had SEVEN Polar Plunges with record-breaking revenue. They were…
  • Staten Island with $110,000
  • Ithaca with $112,000
  • Oneida Shores with $150,000
  • Lake George with $210,000
  • Fishkill with $228,000
  • Westchester with $265,000
  • Buffalo with $544,000
In addition, Iona Prep raised $85k at the Westchester Polar Plunge, which is the most by any Plunge team in the entire state! Take the Plunge here.

#3: Taking the World Stage

Nineteen delegates, five top-five finishes, and one amazing week in Berlin. The 2023 Special Olympics World Games may be over‚ÄĒbut we‚Äôve got memories to last a lifetime! See some of our favorites here.


#2: Recruiting Athletes All Over the State

We made some big promises in our¬†Strategic Plan, and we’re delivering. In 2023, we¬†reached 42,000 athletes¬†throughout New York State, which is a 32% increase and puts us on track to meet our goal of 71,000 by 2025.

In addition, we now have a record 10,000 Young Athletes registered in programs for children age 12 and under, including developmental sports for athletes with all abilities.

Click here to join out movement!


#1: A Historic Partnership with NYC Schools

In March, Mayor Eric Adams, Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, and Special Olympics NY President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman announced an expanded partnership to broaden access to Special Olympics sports in the country’s largest school district!

Find out more at this link.

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