Time for a Change

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a video pertaining to attitudes of the disabled and was extremely inspired. Today I am not only posting the video but am also writing a short piece to make sure people understand the message that lies within. Francesca Martinez is a writer, actress and comedian living with cerebral palsy who has shown that having a disability does not mean that you cannot be successful. While I hate to say it, I think it is relatively common for abled bodied individuals to have a quick laugh or giggle at someone who is disabled. I firmly believe the reason that this happens is not because we actually think it is funny but because it is a defense mechanism to make ourselves feel comfortable. I commend Francesca because I think her understanding and acceptance of this point has really helped her career. Rather than let people make her upset for her disability, she is able to laugh at herself and find a little humor in a situation that most individuals are rightfully sensitive about.

One quote that stood out during this video was when Francesca said, “My biggest fear was being pitied”. When I think about the Paralympics I think this is one element that almost every athlete competing can agree on. The Paralympics is an intensive athletic event that requires all athletes to undergo serious training and practice. I think the last thing any of the athletes would want would be to have people look at them and say “Wow, it is a real shame they have a disability”. The athletes want to be appreciated not for their handicap but for what they are able to accomplish in their specific sport. We all admire the winning streaks of Tiger Woods or the highlight real dunks by LeBron James so why shouldn’t we be impressed with Paralympians. If people sat down and really read about or watched videos they would be absolutely mesmerized by the skill and level of competition that exists.

Another point of this video that I feel is important to mention is what we define as “normal”. Every single person on this planet is raised in a way that is slightly different then the neighbor next door or person half way around the world. At the end of the day we all have lives where what is normal changes for everyone. Just as Francesca mentioned, normal for her is living with cerebral palsy and earning money by making people laugh with her incredible attitude. I think far too often we fail to think that people with disabilities do not wake up every day and realize that they are any different from a majority of us. Just as people get used to using crutches or putting contacts in, the athletes in the Paralympics become accustomed to their disabilities and develop their own unique routines for their own normal lives. I can only hope that people like Francesca can help change the perceptions about the disabled and that Sochi 2014 can help gain major positive support for all of the athletes!

By:Erika Schmid


Marist Men’s Basketball KIckoff Party to benefit Special Olympics NY – Hudson Valley Region on Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hello everyone!

My name is Teresa Gilli and I am the Director of Development for Special Olympics NY – Hudson Valley Region.  I am responsible for raising the necessary funds to keep our mission alive!  What is the Special Olympics mission? The mission of Special Olympics is:

To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-style sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of skills and friendship with their families, Special Olympics athletes and the community. Through their participation in Special Olympics New York athletes gain confidence and build a positive self-image, which carries into the classroom, the home, the workplace and the community.

We currently serve over 3,500 Athletes in the Hudson Valley Region alone.  In the state of NY, we currently have over 61,000 Athletes and growing!  This is just FANTASTIC!

When I was approached by seniors, Melissa Meehan and Meghan Massaroni that for the Capstone Project, they wanted to do a fundraiser for Special Olympics NY – Hudson Valley Region, I was thrilled and honored.  We sat down, had a great lunch, and they came up with a plan.  They did their homework then proceeded to setup a date, setup a location, make appointments, visit local businesses, made phone calls, and so much more!,  After their hard work, I am pleased to announce that the fundraiser event is a Party and his being held this coming Sunday, November 10, 2013!  The fundraiser party is right after the Marist Men’s Basketball Game, Marist vs. Elon (Game starts at 5PM and you can purchase tickets to the GAME by going to http://www.goredfoxes.com and then clicking on tickets).  The fundraiser party will be held at the McCann Center, Grey Gym, starting at 7PM, right after the basketball game.  Party Admission is $10 for Adults and $5 for Students (accept all major credits cards, checks or cash).  This party is for ALL AGES and families are encouraged to attend.  We will have food, games, DJ, other entertainment and so much more. Melissa and Meghan didn’t stop with this fundraiser party.  They also worked on something else that was very exciting.  This past Wednesday, November 6, 2013, they had Applebee’s give 10% of all proceeds to Special Olympics NY – Hudson Valley Region when they presented a coupon during their meal.  Amazing!

Melissa and Meghan should be commended for all of their hard work and dedication.  I cannot wait till Sunday and look forward to a fun-filled evening!  The best part, is 100% of all proceeds raised at the party go to our Athletes.  Also, all donations are 100% tax deductible.  It cannot get better than this!

I also want to thank Joe Fitzhenry and Erika Schmid for letting me post on this blog.  They should also be commended for setting up this blog for Special Olympics and the Paralympics for their Capstone Project!  It helps in so many ways, including helping us “spread the word”.  Just love seeing the comaraderie, caring, support and dedication from the wonderful students of Marist.  What they do for the Non-Profits in our area, like Special Olympics is priceless!

For those who cannot make the fundraiser party this Sunday and would like to support Special Olympics, we would be honored.  You can mail a check made out to Special Olympics NY to

Special Olympics NY, Attention, Teresa Gilli, 1207 Route 9, Suite 1C, Wappingers Falls, NY  12590 (tgilli@nyso.org)

If you prefer to donate by Credit Card, then please call our office 845-765-2497 between 9AM – 5PM.  Remember, all donations are 100% tax deductible.

From the bottom of our Athletes’ hearts, thank you for supporting Special Olympics NY!  Look forward to seeing you ALL on Sunday!


We have a regional facebook page that is updated on daily basis.  So, please stop by when you get a chance!



Here is the flyer the talented ladies put together for this Sunday:


Enjoy the photos!

Below is a photo of one of our Athletes at our Spring Games west at West Point held every year in the Spring!


Here is a photo of one of our Athletes, Jermain Edie, who got to meet Will Smith while heading to World Games!


Here are some photos from our Young Athlete Programs:




The best part of my job – to see the Athlete’s face after they won a medal:

ATHLETE OATH:  “Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.”


Here are some random photos of our Athletes:

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IMG_9358  untitled

Love from an Athlete Ann Hertel with Ricky Miller

Andrew, Will, Jon, Tim, Chris and Nick  Plenty of PEP

Finally, here is a video I LOVE to share!  It’s FANTASTIC!

Unified Flag Football: Tuscaloosa Style

The eyes of the college football world will be on Tuscaloosa, AL Saturday night. More specifically, those eyes will be fixed on Bryant-Denny Stadium as the two-time defending National Champion #1 Alabama Crimson Tide take on the rival #13 LSU Tigers, a team that is built to and has given the Crimson Tide problems in recent seasons. The game is being televised nationally on CBS and is sure to draw a large audience given the potential implications on the SEC and BCS races. Few games on the schedule capture the amount of attention that Alabama-LSU does, over the last five years in particular. Each team is a perennial powerhouse nationally, features two of the game’s best minds in Nick Saban (Alabama) and Les Miles (LSU) along with a number of players that will soon be spending their time playing on Sunday afternoons.

However, there is a certain other event taking place in Tuscaloosa on Saturday that is not garnering nearly as much attention or publicity. That said event is a unified game of flag football featuring students from both Alabama and LSU as well as Special Olympic athletes from the Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge areas. College football is king in the south and for those Special Olympic athletes that have grown up surrounded by Saturday afternoon SEC football and tailgate parties, but never got to play the real thing, this could be a dream come true to do so on the campus of the favorite team of the Special Olympic participants from Tuscaloosa. No disrespect to Auburn, but if you live in or around Tuscaloosa, I’m not sure it’s acceptable to say anything other than “Roll Tide”, as cringe worthy as it may sound (Sorry, still a little bitter about Notre Dame’s loss to those same Crimson Tide in the national title game last season). Anyways, back to the task at hand and the amazing opportunity that is there for the taking for Special Olympic athletes in the surrounding area of both schools. It’s going to be a big deal too, the Special Olympic participants will get a taste of what it’s like to play in front of a large crowd. Alabama governor Robert Bentley along with members of the Million Dollar Band are expected to be on hand for the Unified Flag Football game as well as about 1,000 or so other spectators.

The game will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the University of Alabama recreation center. It will be early on a Saturday morning, but the atmosphere will feel like anything but. A lot of these Special Olympic athlete have probably grown up watching sports and in particular, their favorite players and team giving it their all in front of roaring crowds. This may sound cliche, but these type of stories are why we love sports. 50 years ago, perhaps even 40, the concept of college students taking the same field and playing on the same teams as Special Olympic athlete was nothing more than a mere afterthought and many would have immediately dismissed it upon hearing the idea. Saturday should be a special day in more ways than one as the Special Olympic participants take to the field alongside people who they can look up to as role models, as a guiding light and above all else, as a friend.


-Joe Fitzhenry

The Engine Behind the Special Olympics

In my previous posts, we have talked about just how much the Special Olympics have grown over time and the amazing opportunity they have created for those who suffer from an intellectual disability. With that being said, the true size and for that matter, global reach of the Special Olympics didn’t really occur to me until now as I sit writing this post on the volunteers behind the Special Olympics. One of the main points made on the volunteer section on the website is that there are 220 locations worldwide where one can volunteer. Similar to how volunteers work for just about everything else, the Special Olympics may not be able to go on as planned if they didn’t have the volunteers that make everything go. As written in the title, they are the engine behind the Special Olympics.

The quote written at the top of the volunteers section really stuck with me “Volunteers are the backbone of the Special Olympics movement. They are coaches, trainers, officials, event organizers, fundraisers and managers. They can also be unified partners — playing alongside athletes with intellectual disabilities — or fans cheering in the stands.” (Special Olympics). Going off of what that quote says, the volunteers are of all ages and the level of commitment depends solely on the amount of the time the potential volunteers can give to the Special Olympics. You don’t have to do it forever, you can do it just for a morning or afternoon to see if you like it first. There is something for everyone to do based off of someone’s particular interests. Not to sound cliche, but every little bit of help will be appreciated.

One of the main reasons that the volunteers are so crucial to the Special Olympics organization is due to the fact that there are competitions going on around us everyday. While we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our own busy lives, somewhere in the world, a Special Olympics competition is being held. For something that was a mere afterthought just about 40 years ago to have been able to reach that level is nothing short of extraordinary. I stated it earlier in this post, but there are volunteer opportunities available in 220 countries! That’s more than the amount of countries in which McDonald’s has opened a location. To me, that made me truly realize just how big the Special Olympics are. McDonald’s is the one restaurant chain that people think of having in every country. The signature Golden Arch is recognized globally. There’s no true way to know for sure, but I think it’s safe to say that Eunice Kennedy Shriver never really fathomed the thought of having the Special Olympics take part on a daily basis in over 200 countries, all starting with the engine behind the Special Olympics.



-Joe Fitzhenry


“Special Olympics: Our Volunteers.” Special Olympics. N.p., 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. <http://www.specialolympics.org/Sections/Who_We_Are/Our_Volunteers.aspx&gt;.