Special Olympics Event at Marist

Special Olympics setup

Last Friday we were lucky enough to have Teresa Gilli of the Special Olympics New York-Hudson Valley Chapter post as a guest blogger on here. She was promoting a Special Olympics event that took place at Marist following the conclusion of the men’s basketball game against Elon University last Sunday. I was able to attend the event and came away really impressed with the various stations that were set up for raffle prizes, food and a Relay for Life table as well. The event was also a part of the capping project of fellow seniors, Melissa Meehan and Meghan Massaroni.

With that being said, speaking with Ms. Gilli was really what allowed me to see the Special Olympics from a fresh perspective of sorts after blogging about it on a weekly basis dating back to mid-September. It was refreshing to see and talk to someone who is so passionate about what they do. It was readily apparent from talking to her that Ms. Gilli feels very strongly about the Special Olympics and cares deeply about them and the athletes who participate in the various competitions that are held. She stood just outside the gym doors holding up a sign in an effort to promote the event that was about to be taking place. Her charisma and energy level really stood out with a constant smile on her face despite hundreds of people just walking by and not really paying much attention. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance getting to speak with Ms.Gilli and it allowed me to view the Special Olympics from someone who is so passionate about the games.

Here are some pictures from the event, be sure to take a look!

-Joe Fitzhenry

The food!

Food-SO Event

 

The DJ Table

DJ Table

 

Raffle tickets

Raffle Table

 

Myself, Rob King and Geoff Magliocchetti

Me, Rob, Geoff

 

Marist College Dance team showing their support!

MCDT

Advertisements

New Special Olympics CEO Interacts with Colleagues and Athletes

Up to this point, we’ve talked at great length about the unity of the Special Olympics and how sports have a way of bringing everyone together with open arms. Company softball games, social gatherings etc. are all commonplace in our world, but how often does the new CEO of a major organization such as the Special Olympics take time out of their already hectic day to interact with colleagues and a number of the athletes from the Special Olympics District of Columbia region? Well, folks, that’s precisely what happened on October 21 as Janet Froetscher, the newest CEO of the Special Olympics shot some hoops and ran relays with the afore-mentioned others last Monday in our nation’s capital.

To give you some background on where the newest CEO hails from, Froetscher was recently named the new CEO of the Special Olympics after years spent as the president and CEO of the National Security Council. Prior to that, she led the Metropolitan Chicago division of the United Way. During her time with the United Way, Froetscher played a key role in the merging of 54 separate United Ways into a single entity. Previous CEO Dr. Timothy P. Shriver will retain his Chairman of the Board position that he has held since 2003.

The way the day worked was that the roughly 100 officials and athletes on hand were split into teams that featured a mix of those that have intellectual disabilities and those that don’t. The chief objective for the participants was to shoot a basketball at a square white target and grab the rebound in order to record points for the individual to score points for his/her respective team. To me, the fact that Froetscher in her first day on the job took her time to compete, speak with and pose for pictures with the athletes really stuck out to me as what the Special Olympics are all about. As previously mentioned, I’ve discussed how important unity is for the Special Olympic organization and perhaps, there is no better way to show it than to have the new CEO participate in sports with and get to know the athletes and officials that all help make the organization run smoothly and allow it to grow as much as it has over the course of time. The day’s activities brought everyone together and signified the happiness and joy that can result from playing sports. For a day, the office work and other daily tasks were put on hold.

http://www.specialolympics.org/News_and_Stories/Stories2013/Janet_Froetscher_is_New_Special_Olympics_CEO.aspx

-Joe Fitzhenry

 

 

Let the Games Begin!

Image

With the 2014 Winter Paralympic games in Sochi Russia rapidly approaching, I think it is about time to start getting people excited for what to expect! To start out I think it is essential for everyone to be aware that this year the games will begin on March 7th and end on March 16th. There will be nearly 700 hundred Paralympic athletes competing over the nine days of competition and 72 sets of medals waiting to be earned.

While the Winter Paralympic games are not nearly as large as the Summer, they are still equally incredible to witness and stay informed on. The competitions are broken down into five categories including Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey and Wheelchair curling. This year the games are anticipating the debut of snowboarding which will be under the alpine skiing category. I think the most impressive aspect about these games is the speed and balance that is involved in some of these sports. Watching people who have trained for weeks and months be able to accomplish such dangerous sports is something that I truly commend each and every one of these athletes for. A lot of people (including myself), are afraid when they ski or snowboard due to the speed they gain and feeling of losing control; when I watched these athletes in video there was no sign of fear , instead nothing but pure determination

The Olympic Park in Sochi is also representing a first. This park is the first one since the Paralympics and Olympics have co-existed where the facilities are the same for both groups. Sochi Olympic Park is the most compact park that has ever been built and was specifically designed to consider the needs for the disabled. I have previously discussed the need for there to be more equality for the Paralympics and I believe this is a great step in the right direction. The athletes competing not only get to enjoy the same facilities but now have the convenience of easier access and mobility throughout the park. I cannot speak on the Paralympians behalf, but I can only imagine what a difference it must make from a physical standpoint for everything to be just a little bit closer. Olympic Park will also be able to hold over 70,000 visitors at a time to first hand witness records being broken, historical moments and intense battles to get on the podium.

What has made Sochi so accessible is the split between venues being held between two clusters. There are both coastal and mountain venues that have been designated as the select areas for particular sports to take place. The coastal venue includes more level facilities such as an ice dome, arena, and curling center while the mountain venue will host all skiing , bobsled, and downhill sports. The two are only separated by roughly thirty minutes to make travel easier on all spectators and each contains an Olympic village of their own.

The Sochi 2014 games should be incredible from a sports perspective but I believe it is going to make a big mark for the Paralympics. I think this year’s winter games will be making a statement that the Paralympics deserve to be considered more in the process of putting the games together. At the end of the day these athletes are also representing their country and deserve to be treated with equal respect and consideration. We have less than five months to go before skiers hit the slopes and skaters hit the ice, be a part of history and start thinking about the 2014 Paralympic games in Sochi!

To check out some more information on Sochi 2014 check out the following link!

http://www.sochi2014.com/en/games/places/objects/sea/

AND

Be sure to check out some of the U.S. slope starts

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w04wU46XwRk

Erika Schmid

A True Inspiration

Image

My post for this week is nothing shy of an absolute honor. I had the privilege to speak with U.S.A Paralympic rugby player Nick Springer. Before even sharing a little bit about his story, I can easily say that Nick emulates everything a role model should be and more. After conducting a brief interview, I do not think there is a single person that cannot learn a lesson from Nick; he is a fighter, he is determined, and he is a true inspiration to all.

For anyone who is unaware, meningitis is a dangerous bacterial infection that moves rapidly, covering areas around the brain and spinal cord. At the age of just fourteen Nick suffered from this disease while he was away at summer camp. To show just how fast paced this disease actually is, Nick collapsed on the floor the following morning with difficulty breathing, had pain throughout his entire body and entered a coma within an hour. Nick’s coma lasted over two months, during which he had both of his arms amputated from his forearm as well as both legs from the knee. He conquered his 10% chance at survival and has not looked back since.

Nick is a huge sports fan and always was; growing up he tried baseball and football but one sport in particular just clicked- Hockey. He even had plans to attend the all-male Archbishop Stepinac high school in White Plains, NY where he was expected to be a starter. Given everything Nick had faced at an early age, it would be easy to see how sports may no longer be his priority, but that was far from the case.

Rather than focus on the change his life was about to take, Nick embraced it. As Nick said in our interview, “I remember the first time I set foot on the ice, I just wanted to get back to my normal life.” With an army of support from both family and friends, he knew he was never going to be alone and failing would not happen. Nick was always an athlete and was not willing to let the change in his physical appearance prevent him from being the athlete inside him or who he was as a person.

To begin his new athletic start Nick dove right in to his hockey roots and gave the sport sled hockey a go for a few years. While he enjoyed the feeling of “the ice beneath him and smell of the stadium” as he put it, a teammate of his recommended that Nick take a go at wheelchair rugby. At the age of 17 and a senior in high school, Nick was a dual sport athlete for a few years but had to make a decision. Nick said, “I will always, always be a hockey player at heart”, but he had a future in Paralympic Rugby and made the switch.

A future was an understatement when describing his potential in Rugby. Since beginning the sport Nick has become a gold medalist in Beijing, 2012 bronze medalist, 8 time national champion and 2008 player of the year in the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (USQRA).  Recently Nick has taken a temporary leave from rugby but he plans to start attending some try outs this summer. When asked about one of his favorites moments Nick said, “winning the gold in Beijing was up there, it was awesome. But he probably has over 100 memories whether in sports or helping others that equally compare”. Aside from being part of a team, Nick loves rugby for the opportunities that it has created for him.

The sport has given him the chance to travel the world both as an athlete and meningitis advocate to spread awareness. As mentioned earlier meningitis is life threatening but there is a vaccine available to help prevent people from getting it. Nick travels all over the world to share his experience and knowledge and is currently trying to break into Africa to help yet another group of people. All of the effort Nick has put in to helping The National Meningitis Association and spread awareness is making rapid progress and he has people from all over the world interested in working with him to help send the message. Despite all that Nick has endured he said, “Everything gets back to normal, you have a future. The only thing that’s important is the fact that you survived”.

I would like to send out a thank you to Nick for taking the time to speak with me about his experience and amazing efforts all over the world.  PLEASE remember that meningitis IS extremely dangerous, and is not something that should be taken lightly. There IS a vaccine available so do not take the risk!

For more information please check out the National Meningitis Association website:  http://www.nmaus.org/

Help us spread Nick’s story and achievements by following us @Spiritinmotion3 on Twitter or our Facebook Page Spirit in Motion, Be brave in the attempt!

Sports Creates Opportunities For All-A Look at the Sports Played in the Special Olympics

Sports have a unique way of bringing together people from all walks of life and creating a bond between them that is often times unbreakable. Perhaps words can’t quite do it justice, but shared experiences in sports have a way of making a profound impact on people’s lives. For someone who may have a hard home life or just needs an escape from the pressures of our world, sports can represent that escape. At the end of the day, each and every person may have their own reason to play a sport, but one thing is for sure, it represents an opportunity for everyone. 

Prior to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, those with intellectual disabilities had no real way of competing in sports. Many of these same kids were treated unfairly and the thought of them competing in sports alongside those who didn’t suffer from an intellectual disability wasn’t taken too seriously. As described in last week’s post (https://kathyscapping1.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/a-special-olympics-pioneer/), Shriver played a key role in the development of the Special Olympics to become what they are today. Now a days, those with intellectual disabilities have the ability to participate in 32 Olympic Style, both individual and team sports that creates the equal opportunities for those with an intellectual disability. 

While I’d love to be able to take you through each of the 32 sports and the various nuances about each of them, that isn’t too realistic so we’ll take a look at a couple of them. Let’s start with Golf, a sport that is hard enough to begin with for those that don’t suffer from an intellectual disability. Trust me, my golf game leaves a lot to be desired, it’s not exactly a sight to behold. The version of golf that is held in the Special Olympics really only has a few slight differences in the rules of what you would see on Sunday at Augusta National. There is an individual skills competition, stroke play as well as unified and alternate shot team play competitions. Golf is a game that requires a great deal of hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and a certain level of focus for a rather lengthy period of time. In 2011, there were 22,940 Special Olympic athletes that participated in one of the golf competitions listed above. As I sit at my desk writing this post, I want to be able to put into words how remarkable that truly is, but the only one that is coming to mind is amazing. The fact that those with an intellectual disability can still play and succeed in as challenging a game as golf is, is truly amazing. 

Let’s take a look at another sport that really opened my eyes to what a great job the Special Olympics do to open doors to those with an intellectual disability and give them a chance to participate in a sport they love. Somewhat similar to golf in terms of the level of difficulty, tennis is a sport that requires a great deal of athleticism as well as an ability to think on your feet as one tries to figure out their opponent’s next move or recognize his/her strengths and weaknesses. Singles, doubles (mixed and unified) and individual skills competitions are all available for those Special Olympic athletes who wish to channel their inner Rafael Nadal. Ever since it was added to the Special Olympic program in 1987, tennis has done nothing but grow exponentially, especially over the majority of the past decade. Participation in tennis has increased by 237% since 2004. 

As a whole, each of the 32 Special Olympic sports has their own unique features that can appeal to various people with intellectual disabilties. Maybe more so than anything, adding more and more sports has given people a chance to participate in a sport that was likely nothing more than a pipe dream for them at one point in time. Granted there are different levels of intellectual disabilities, but the fact that they can still find a way to play sports was so eye-opening for me as I sit here and learn more about it. To the casual observer, the sports that we are so accustomed to watching on television are usually not thought of as something that could be held in the Special Olympics.

If you want to learn more about the various sports and competitions held in the Special Olympics, be sure to check out the link below for an in-depth look at just how they work!

http://www.specialolympics.org/sports.aspx

-Joe Fitzhenry

A Special Olympics Pioneer

A lot of what last week’s post talked about had to do with creating equal opportunity for those who suffered from some sort of intellectual disability. While not nearly as present now, there was a time when the intellectually disabled were treated terribly and in an unjust matter. The height of this movement occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most paying little attention to just how poorly this group of people was treated. That’s where it all changed when a certain someone noticed this and began to act on her vision right away. Many times it may seem like people have great ideas all the time, but they seemingly never come to fruition without taking the necessary course of action to act on your idea and beginning to implement it.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a true pioneer of the Special Olympics had a vision of equal opportunities being created for those who were intellectually impaired or disabled. She was deeply affected by the fact that not only were these children not treated the same as everyone else, but they didn’t even have a place to play. Shriver’s sister, Rosemary suffered from an intellectual disability and as stated earlier, didn’t have many options when it came to participating in sports among other things. Soon enough, she decided to act on her idea and held a summer day camp for children affected by intellectual disabilities in her own backyard. Shriver wasn’t interested in taking note of the limitations that these children had or the various obstacles they had to overcome, but instead trying to see what they were capable of doing not only in sports, but in a handful of other activities as well. More than anything, it presented these children with a place to play, an escape from the constant struggle of everyday life.

Shriver’s actions didn’t stop at the summer camp though as she became a force on the national scene, one of the primary players in the White House panel held by her brother, President John F. Kennedy on those with intellectual disabilities and assumed the role of director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. The foundation had been created in 1946 after Joseph, Shriver’s oldest brother had been killed in World War II. All three of the afore-mentioned events or happenings played key roles in helping the Special Olympics to be created and eventually become what it is today. Shriver herself was an athlete in college and through this, began to envision how sports had a way of bringing people from all walks of life together.

Following her death on August 11, 2009, many began to realize the true impact of Shriver’s actions. A decision was reached that something needed to be done to honor Shriver. This past Saturday, the 4th annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day was held, bringing together children, from all walks of life, some that are intellectually disabled and some that aren’t to participate in various sports and activities. The theme of the day was “Play Unified to Live Unified”. As I sit here and think about what it truly means, it becomes apparent that there is perhaps no better way to describe Shriver’s idea. Her whole vision started from a concept of allowing intellectually disabled children to participate in sports and other activities that they enjoyed while not feeling any sort of pressure from others. I think it’s safe to say that Shriver would be more than proud of what her actions have grown into, given not only the size of the Special Olympics and the number of participants but that the Day that honors her encompasses people from all walks of life, each with a unique story.

For more information on the extraordinary life of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, be sure to check out the links listed below!

http://www.specialolympics.org/Sections/Who_We_Are/Eunice_Kennedy_Shriver.aspx

http://www.specialolympics.org/EKShriver2011_2min_CBSbio.aspx

-Joe Fitzhenry

My Initial Thought, Forever Changed-

Image

While I hate to admit it, my initial perceptions of the Paralympics were entirely based on the visible. I associated the organization with a naive combination of words that included wheelchair, prosthetic and handicap. I failed to see that the Paralympics represent an amazing event in the sporting industry unlike anything else I have seen before. The athletes who participate in over twenty different sports are overcoming adversity in categories that include but are not limited to mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and cerebral palsy.

I think a lot of people do not understand that one of the most important elements of the Paralympics is competition. The athletes are presented with challenges but they want us to look past them and instead focus on the competitive spirit that is rooted in each and every one of them. They want to be seen as equals to non-disabled athletes who are known throughout the world and are role models to millions of kids. Those involved in the Paralympics are extraordinary athletes who are competing at a very high level and do not have the support they deserve.

The Paralympics has seen great growth since its creation in 1948 with new sports and more athletes due to an increase in competitive categories but by no means are they on equal footing with the Olympics. The accomplishments and records that have been set by these athletes represent achievements that hardly anyone has probably heard of. When taking this into account I cannot understand why there is hardly any television coverage and such a huge gap in funding compared to the Olympics.

Just as many people across the world, I love watching the Olympics but the lack of attention the Paralympics receives seems wrong. When looking at the adversity these athletes face I can only be amazed at the internal and external strength each one of them possesses. My initial thought about the Paralympics could not have been more wrong, and I am forever changed. If I were to go back I would replace my original three words with determination, strength and heart. I hope that this blog can spread awareness to help people realize just how incredible the Paralympics are and potentially assist the International Paralympic Committee in gaining support.

– Erika Schmid