Special Olympics Torch Run

We have all seen and heard about the story of the Olympic Torch and watched it be carried into the stadium during the opening ceremonies where it remains lit for the duration of the games. Likewise, we have watched the flame be put out during the closing ceremonies. Several months before the start of the Olympics at Olympia, Greece, the site of the ancient Olympics, the Olympic Torch is ignited and culminates on the day of the opening ceremonies and is typically carried into the main stadium by a sports celebrity from the country that is hosting the games. Said individual uses the torch to start the afore-mentioned flame and this signals the true start of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Torch passes through various cities and towns and is often mentioned on the news in the days and months leading up to the Olympics.

However, what many people are not aware of is the Special Olympics Torch Run which is officially referred as the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). The LETR has a primary goal very similar to that of this blog, raising awareness of and in their case, money for the Special Olympics brand. Since its inception in 1981, the LETR has raised over $400 million for the Special Olympics. As one might expect, this also serves as the largest fundraiser for the Special Olympics, raising more $42.1 million in 2011. You may be wondering why exactly it is referred to as the Law Enforcement Torch Run. That is due to the fact that every two years before the World Winter and Summer games, law enforcement officers, Special Olympic athletes and support officials take part in the LETR. During the most recent LETR, there was a team of 130 members that took part in the run prior to the Special Olympic World Winter Games that were held this past January in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea. However, these runs are not just held before global competitions, they are also conducted before various local, state and national Special Olympic competitions as well. The only difference between those and the LETR that is held prior to the World Games is that law enforcement officers from all around the world will gather before the world competitions.

It may seem like beating on a dead horse, but we’ve discussed at length just how much the Special Olympics have grown over time and other matters of the sort. As previously mentioned, the LETR was created in 1981. It all came from the idea of a Wichita, Kansas Police Chief. Richard LaMunyon saw it as a way to raise awareness and get involved with the Special Olympics and it has taken off from there. Speaking of growth and development, when I was reading some information regarding the Law Enforcement Torch Run, there was a particular quote that really stuck with me that perhaps best sums up the boom of the LETR over time. “What started as a flicker, thirty-two years ago, has grown into a roaring flame of support and stability for Special Olympics athletes worldwide” (Special Olympics). That quote to me truly signifies just how much the LETR has grown in the time since its inception and will continue to raise more and more money, along with attracting volunteers for the Special Olympics.

http://www.specialolympics.org/Sections/Donate/Special_Olympics_Torch_Run.aspx

http://www.specialolympics.org/Video3.aspx?id=19953

-Joe Fitzhenry

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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

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.

http://uanews.ua.edu/2013/11/lsu-vs-alabama-special-olympics-unified-sports-flag-football-game-set-for-saturday/

-Joe Fitzhenry

50 Years Later

October 24 marked the 50 year anniversary of President Kennedy signing the first major piece of legislation for those with intellectual disabilities. A month or so back, I wrote a post on the fourth annual day held in the honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the president’s sister who was one of the chief advocates for the bill. If you recall (https://kathyscapping1.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/a-special-olympics-pioneer/), Shriver was the primary driving force behind the eventual creation of the Special Olympics Inc., in 1968. With that being said, what most people may not remember is the series of landmark events that led to the formation of the Special Olympics organization as a whole.

On October 24, 1963, the 35th president of our country signed a document titled the following: “The Maternal Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act”. Little did people know at the time that this would serve as the first true stepping stone to the worldwide presence of the Special Olympics today. As stated earlier, it was the first piece of legislation that directly addressed mental retardation and mental illness. The legislation provided grants of money to various states in order for them to be able to upgrade their programs for those with intellectual disabilities. Just a week later, President Kennedy signed a second bill that provided funds to be used for the construction of facilities that were to serve the purpose of taking care of and ensuring fair treatment of people with intellectual disabilities.

Looking back, it is truly hard to believe how far the Special Olympics organization has come in just a half century’s worth of time. There have been a handful of posts up to this point where I have discussed the fact that the Special Olympics is now present in over 220 countries. Furthermore, the Special Olympics features more than 4.2 million athletes with intellectual disabilities worldwide. Those numbers alone should speak to not only how far it has come since 1963, but also to the long-standing impact of the pieces of legislation that were signed by President Kennedy.

http://www.specialolympics.org/Sections/What_We_Do/Out_of_the_Shadows__Events_Leading_to_the_Founding_of_Special_Olympics.aspx

-Joe Fitzhenry

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