$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.


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, 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


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.


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


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!


If you would like to support our athletes with a donation, please do so here.


Monday, June 17, 2019

A Passing of the Torch at the Canadian Border on Rainbow Bridge on June 18

NIAGARA FALLS, NY – The Law Enforcement Torch Run to raise awareness and support for Special Olympics New York will host the Badges on the Border International Run bringing the United States and Canadian Law Enforcement together as they light the Special Olympics Flame of Hope cauldron – two flames into one – signifying unity for all athletes of Special Olympics.

2019 marks the 5th Annual Badges on the Border International Torch Run. This Torch Run will be the Final Leg in New York State as the Flame of Hope is handed over to our Canadian Brothers and Sisters as they carry it throughout Ontario into their State Games.

Members of the law enforcement represented by Federal, State and Local agencies from the United States and Canada will participate as follows:

Date:               Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Time:              10:30am
Location:       New York Torch Run Departs from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center (200 Robert Moses Parkway N.– free parking at the Niagara Falls Aquarium when you mention the Torch Run) 11:00 AM –  International Lighting of the Cauldron – Rainbow Bridge

ALERT: Media requires Niagara Falls Bridge Commission permission in advance to access the property.  Please contact Stephanie Dafoe in advance at 905-354-5641 / 716-285-6322 Ext. 4120.  Stephanie will reach out to both CBP and CBSA media liaison and notify them of any media presences.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a time honored tradition of more than 30 years, led and orchestrated by the “Guardians of the Flame,” which includes more than 6,000 law enforcement personnel from 470 agencies throughout New York whose raise funds and awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics New York.


About Special Olympics New York
Special Olympics New York provides year-round sports training and competition in 23 Olympic-style sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities at no cost to the athletes, their families or caregivers. There are 67,000 athletes and unified partners that train and compete with Special Olympics New York, the largest Special Olympics program in North America. For more information please visit  #SpecialOlympicsNY