Local Special Olympics New York Athlete & Coach Earn National Honors

Special Olympics North America Selects Athlete Will Smith as USA Games Board Member,
Joe Bellini as Coach of the Year

Hudson Valley, NY – Special Olympics New York today announced that a local coach and athlete have each earned national honors from Special Olympics North America.

Will Smith, 34, of Brewster, NY was selected as an athlete representative on the 2026 USA Games Board of Directors. In this role, Smith will assist the board in planning the USA Games to be hosted in Minnesota. The USA Games will bring together 4,000 athletes, 1500 coaches and 10,000 volunteers as they compete in 19 sports at the University of Minnesota and other premier locations across the Twin Cities.

Joe Bellini, 57, of Katonah, was selected as the 2022 Outstanding Coach of the Year. The annual recipient of this award is selected from nominees by Special Olympics chapters throughout the country. Bellini was nominated by Special Olympics New York after being named the state’s 2022 Coach of the Year. A broadcast-quality video with Bellini’s athletes, including Will, can be viewed here.

“Will and Joe have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the many years they have been a part of our movement,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “We are proud to have them representing New York’s athletes, coaches and programs at the national level.”

Smith has been an athlete with Special Olympics New York since 1998. He competes in Track & Field, Basketball, Volleyball, Floor Hockey, Bowling, Golf and Softball. He is also an employee of Special Olympics New York, serving as Program/Development Specialist in the Hudson Valley Regional Office.

In addition, Smith is an athlete/staff liaison on the Statewide Athlete Leadership Council (ALC). He’s certified to officiate in Track & Field, and he also represented Special Olympics New York at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando, Florida as an Athlete Coach for Track & Field.

Bellini has coached Special Olympics New York athletes for more than 25 years in numerous sports, including volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, track and field, swimming, softball, and bowling. He’s coached at almost every level of competition, including two stints at the Special Olympics World Games. He also carried on training athletes virtually during the health pandemic to help them stay fit physically, socially and emotionally.

“I’ve known Joe for as long as I’ve been involved with Special Olympics,” Smith added. “Joe has seen me grow up from a shy kid, always scared, always crying, but he never gave up in me. I don’t really look at him like a coach. He’s one of my best friends.”