Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Successful Philadelphia Program Events' Recap!

The 30th Annual Leprechaun Run was a Wet Success

It couldn't have been any wetter for the 30th Annual Leprechaun Run, but over 500 runners and walkers braved the rain to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with Special Olympics Pennsylvania - Philadelphia. The Leprechaun Run was held on Saturday, March 14th adjacent to the Philadelphia Art Museum and Paine’s Park.

Prior to the race, managers from the Ambler, Langhorne and Philadelphia branches of Sam’s Club presented a check to Special Olympics Pennsylvania from their fundraising efforts equaling more than $200,000!  Following the Sam’s Club’s check presentation, participants were welcomed by Philadelphia athlete Lisa Barbour, who thanked participants for coming and led the crowd in reciting the Athlete Oath.   Lisa kicked off the race and off they went!

We concluded the Leprechaun Run by presenting awards to the top overall finishers and the top male and female in various age categories.  Everyone left wet and with a smile on their face as they said farewell to the 30th annual Leprechaun Run.  Click here to view event photos courtesy of TriState Media Productions.

Spring Fling Athlete Dance

The Philadelphia Program hosted a ‘Spring Fling Athlete Dance’ on Saturday and it was a huge success!  Current athletes, potential athletes, families and friends all joined us for a few hours of dancing and fun. Organized by our Athlete Committee and supported by Peggy Barbour and Coach Kit, the dance had over 75 people in attendance.  Through a $5 door fee, the event even raised approximately $300 for the program!  It was a great opportunity for the community to connect outside of practice and competition. The athletes are excited for the next one!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Paterno Family Island 5K Run

Special Olympics Pennsylvania - Schuylkill County is pleased to announce a new partnership with Penn State Schuylkill, The Paterno Family Island 5K Run. The Paterno family and Penn State University have a long and generous history of supporting Special Olympics of Pennsylvania. The Paterno family is expanding the reach of their annual Beaver Stadium Run by including Penn State Schuylkill as the first commonwealth campus to host a 5K on the same weekend! Schuylkill Haven Recreation Department is proud to partner with Special Olympics of Schuylkill County and Penn State Schuylkill to provide a beautiful park and course route.

Island Park, located in Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972, is an ideal location where runners will start and end the race. The course route will include a brisk run through a quiet neighborhood in Schuylkill Haven. All of the money raised by participants will be used to support the Special Olympics’ Schuylkill County program.

The Paterno Family Island 5K Run will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2015.  Registration for the 5K will be held from 7:30-8:30am; the race starts at 9am. Registration for the 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk will be held from 9:00-9:30am; the Fun Run/Walk will be held following the 5K at at 10:00am.

The Penn State Nittany Lion will be in attendance and face painting will be available.  Delicious samples of Yuengling’s Ice Cream will be available.  Additionally, Healthy Haven will have an informational tent as will other community organizations.

Click here to register online for The Paterno Family Island 5K Run through Pretzel City Sports. Any questions please email islandrun5k@gmail.com or call 570-294-2423.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Cynthia Zaffuto prepares for her blood pressure screening

On February 7, 2015, at Holy Redeemer Church Gym, the Special Olympics PA - Warren County Program, with a donation from BEI, Inc., held a Health Fair for their community of athletes.  This very successful fair included Blood Pressure screenings, vital signs – pulse and respiration, Pulse Oximetry to measure oxygenation saturation, height, weight and BMI readings and blood sugar screening with a glucometer.  A Dental Hygienist was available to answer questions and provide sample products and a vision screening team was on hand to test vision.

The goal for the Warren County program was to connect athletes with the medical community and to provide information and resources about their health needs.

Lunch was provided for all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bucks County Athlete, Kevin Grow, Shoots and Scores!

Kevin Grow, a Special Olympics PA – Bucks County athlete, was recently featured on Channel 6 ABC News, ESPN and in the Philadelphia Inquirer for his star performance on the basketball court as a part of the Bensalem High school Owls.  Grow, who had served as manager for the basketball team for four years, was given an opportunity to play in two games that showed the world through, social media, that he could hit foul shots, sink fast break layups, shoot three pointers and steal the hearts of many.  Click here to read the Inquirer article and view video of his performance below.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lebanon County Volunteers Receive Awards!

Congratulations to the following Lebanon County Volunteers:

John Monk recently received an award from the YMCA for Social Responsibility. He is a Lebanon County powerlifting coach and is pictured above at the center with a few Lebanon powerlifting athletes.

Rebecca Curran recently received a YMCA Youth Award for working with special needs students within her high school and with Special Olympics.  Her teacher nominated her for this special honor.

Michelle Voydik received an award in December from the Lebanon County Council for Human Services (LEBCOSO) for her work with Special Olympics and within her community. Michelle was nominated because she is a Lebanon County volunteer coordinator, coach and mentor. Michelle is pictured above on the left with LEBCOSO President Gwen Ward.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Area M Gives Back to Hundreds of Veterans

Pictured from left: Zach Hicks, Jan Holt, Melissa Holt, John Strunk, Stephen Dower, Matt Himmelreich, Ken Orth, David Price and Debbie Himmelreich.

On Veteran's Day members of the Special Olympics PA - Area M Athlete Leadership Team helped serve breakfast to our Nation's Heroes at Applebee's. It was a great morning! Three hundred Veterans were treated to a free breakfast courtesy of Applebee's. Our Athletes had the opportunity to interact and give thanks to the Veterans while helping to clear tables so that no one had to wait for their breakfast. Area M’s Athlete Leadership Team has participated in this wonderful event for multiple years and have already been asked to return next year. In fact, at the end of the event they were told where the employment applications were! Those athletes that attended were thankful to have this opportunity to say “Thank You” to our Veterans and to give back to a community that gives so much to them!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Road to Breaking Down Barriers: Project UNIFY, Athlete Leadership and Beyond

By Jordan Schubert, Special Olympics PA Athlete Leadership Coordinator

Special Olympics was started over 45 years ago when so many people, including founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, did not know what to expect. Over the past 45 years, Special Olympics has grown larger than anyone could have imagined.

The greatest stories are always those in which no one knows what to expect in the beginning. That is what I have to say in regards to all my Special Olympics experiences over the past 10 years.  After experiencing a lot of success as an athlete and a youth leader at my school with Special Olympics Illinois, I moved to Pennsylvania not knowing what the future would hold.  However, as I said earlier, not knowing what to expect is what makes the SO experience.  

In the fall of 2011, I joined the National Youth Activation Committee (YAC) for Project UNIFY.  Not only did this allow me to work with youth leaders from across the country in promoting Inclusive Youth Leadership, Whole School Engagement, and Unified Sports, more importantly, it got me connected with people from Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA).  After taking over a year and a half off from competing, I returned to competition for the sport I love most, basketball.  I got to see how vastly different competition is between IL and PA.  Combining my love of sports, and my work that I have done with Project UNIFY on the National YAC and my communications internship at SOI this past summer motivated me to want to do more for SOPA beyond the playing field.  In October of 2013, I was hired as PA's new Athlete Leadership Program (ALP) Coordinator, working in the Eastern Office.

While I had heard a lot about PA's ALPs program, like when I first got involved with Project UNIFY, I didn't know exactly what I was getting into. My first week on the job, I got to learn a lot about ALPs and what my position is all about.  My second week on the job led me even further to what ALPs is all about, not just for PA, but for all of North America.  The first ever Special Olympics North America ALPs Summit was held in Philadelphia.  At this conference, we discussed in depth all the major aspects of ALPs such as ALPs University courses, having athletes work at a program office (which is what I'm doing right now), having athletes on the Board, and how ALPs ties into Project UNIFY.  My main task at the conference was using my experience in both ALPs and Project UNIFY and what they can do for each other.  For those who don't know much about Project UNIFY, it's a sports and education program that Special Olympics started in 2008 to create inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities both socially and athletically.

As I am finishing up my final year on the National YAC, one of the things I want to go into is athlete mentorship, and not only mentor younger athletes, but Unified Partners as well. That way, students can learn what leadership is all about at a young age and prepare them for joining a YAC in their state, or the National YAC.  After an athlete transitions off of their YAC, they can then take the leadership skills that they learned and apply them in training at ALPs University by taking courses on becoming a Global Messenger, coach, official, governance, etc.  From there, they can work to pursue leadership opportunities within their local program.  Not only did I share those ideas with all the attendees at the conference, I got to share it in front of a panel of special guests that included a representative from Bank of America (a corporate partner of Special Olympics), Philadelphia Councilman Dennis O'Brien, Commissioner of Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Service Dr. Arthur Evans, and the Chairman of Special Olympics International Dr. Timothy Shriver.  

After hearing a lot of positive feedback from the panel on my presentation, as well as those of the other attendees, I then headed off to Villanova to experience my first PA Fall Festival.  I was really impressed from what I saw.  Not just all the athletes competing, but meeting athletes who are on the SOPA Board of Directors, and seeing all the hard work put into Villanova’s planning and running of the games.  After checking out the competition, I got to attend my first Athlete Input Council, led by athletes Mike Stephens and Melissa Woerner.  My job was to take notes from all of the feedback athletes gave.  I was impressed with many of the athletes giving positive feedback. Of course, there's always room for improvement and the athletes did a great job sharing what needed to be improved.  Even though I didn't compete at Fall Festival, there were some things that were pointed out that I felt could be improved at other state competitions I have competed in.  

Jackie Robinson is one of my greatest inspirations, not just for breaking down the color barrier in baseball, but also taking an active part in the Civil Rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders.  From my experience at the ALPs Summit, my first Athlete Input Council, and other past experiences that I have had, as an athlete leader, my goal is not only to break down barriers in competition, but also break down barriers to allow athletes to be victorious outside of Special Olympics.