SODE makes a difference in Haiti

posted Mon, Dec 22, 2014 by Jon Buzby

SODE staff and volunteers helped train more than 20 volunteer coaches in Haiti.

Local athletes and Unified partners participated in soccer clinics.

As the holiday season approaches around the world, 60 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners along with 20 coaches from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, have already received a special gift from five SODE staff and volunteers who visited in early December to educate and train members of a local Special Olympics program.

Special Olympics Delaware staff members Ann Grunert and Gary Cimaglia were joined by longtime volunteers Mary Moore (Meadowood Athletes United), Chris Popp (MOT) and Joe Wood (Kent) for the six-day trip that was part of a “twinning program” where U.S. Special Olympics state programs are joined together with developing programs/countries for an opportunity to share talents, resources and knowledge. The program is sponsored by Special Olympics Incorporated through grants provided by the Special Olympics Very Special Christmas Fund.

The Delaware contingent trained Haitian volunteer coaches in the sports of bocce, futbol (soccer), and track and field. Coaches then conducted clinics for the local athletes under the supervision of the Special Olympics Delaware clinicians. The participating children were from local orphanages.

“In Haiti, the majority of special needs children are placed in orphanages or hidden from the community,” Grunert explained. “Volunteerism is not part of the culture in the country, so the fact that these 20 volunteer coaches not only want to help, but want to be part of an effort to overcome the stigma of people with special needs by getting them out from behind closed doors is just truly inspiring.”

Sports equipment is scarce in Haiti – socks stuffed with sand serve as bocce balls — so the equipment used in the clinics and exhibition had to be carried by the clinicians as additional luggage from Delaware to Haiti. It was then left for the program to use in the future.

“What humbled and yet enthused me the most is that the coaches are not looking for money, but rather the basic resources we take for granted like balls, whistles and stopwatches. All things they can’t get in Haiti but that we were able to provide and leave with them,” Cimaglia said.

The twinning program, held Dec. 3-7, culminated with a bocce exhibition held at the newly opened Sport For Hope Olympic Training Centre, an $18 million facility constructed by the International Olympic Committee.

“Being able to share this day with the athletes and provide them with the equipment necessary to do that was incredible and will leave me with a bond I will always share with them,” Popp said.

Happy Holidays!

posted Tue, Dec 16, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Our holiday greeting to you ...

 

And what our athletes enjoy most about the holiday season ...


The Jacobs brothers are Young Athletes in the MOT Area. Their favorite parts of Christmas:
Ryan (right): "Santa and family, but Santa is the best."
Connor: “It’s a secret, the very best secret and I can’t tell you until Christmas.”

 

Marissa Hammond's favorite part of Christmas is spending time with family. She also hopes people like the gifts she gives. Marissa competes with the Newark Dragons.

 

Aaron Pretlow Jr. (Newark Dragons) enjoys spending time with families while celebrating Jesus' birth.

 
 

Gene Giuliani Jr.'s favorite part of the holiday is spending time with family and friends. Gene is a member of the Newark Dragons.

 
 

Ryan Callahan, right, of the Newark Dragons, says his favorite part of the holidays is opening gifts and showing people what he received. And eating Christmas cookies!

 
 

Charlie Permint's favorite part of Christmas is receiving presents, and spending time with all his cousins. Charlie is a member of the Sussex Riptide.

 
 

Devin Liew's mother, Shannon, says that when she asked her son what he likes about Special Olympics, he typed, "Friend." That is what the coaches and staff bring to his life ... Friendship, Shannon said. Devin is with the MOT Tigers.

 
 

Ryan Cleary (Newark Dragons), right, pictured with his coach Lauren Davis at the Reindeer Run, says his favorite things about the holiday are "no school, seeing family, opening presents, taking walks with my mom and dad and eating cookies."

 

Morgan Jungling (Newark Dragons) "loves" Christmas Eve and enjoys spending time with family and friends over the holiday season.

Parents, coaches make 'pitch' for Area programs at Fall Festival

posted Sat, Nov 8, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Veteran coach Rhawn Short, right, is coaching an Area team for the first time and has seen firsthand the benefits of encouraging his students to join the Wilmington Wizards. (photo by Ruth Coughlan)

NEWARK -- Wilmington Wizards coach Rhawn Short stood on the sideline, arms folded, and calmly yelled toward his goalie: "Keep your head up! Pay attention."

Just a few seconds later the opposing forward fired a shot on goal. Nicholas Sanchez quickly bent over and scooped it up, smiling ear to ear.

Similar smiles were scene all over the University of Delaware athletic complex on Saturday at the annual Special Olympics Delaware Fall Festival. The event, sponsored by Chase, attracted more than 700 athletes and Unified partners competing in bocce, flag football, soccer and volleyball. An additional 45 children participated in the first-ever Young Athletes demonstration.

Nicholas' success story was just one of many witnessed by hundreds of spectators.

"That's the difference more practice time makes," Short explained proudly of his goalie's successful save.

What Short was referring to was the difference between practicing during the school day with his Richardson Park Roadrunners team as he has in past years, compared to being part of the Wilmington Area Wizards team this year.

"In school you no sooner get practice started and the bell rings and it's over," the veteran SODE coach explained. "These kids practice for two hours every weekend and love it. They can't get enough. They are always bugging me when I see them in school, making sure we are practicing on Saturday."

Short has coached soccer and basketball for the Roadrunners for more than a decade. But this fall he didn't have enough players to field a team so he instead decided to encourage the ones who were interested to sign up to play for the Wizards. Eight of his students are split among two Wizards teams, giving them additional opportunities to play with and against other children, and be coached by other adults. The parents have noticed the difference.

"Special Olympics is a wonderful organization that helps you gain skills you need, and not just on the soccer field," said Frank McMullen, whose son, Ryan, was competing in his first Fall Festival soccer tournament. "I give my props to Mr. Short and the other volunteer coaches. They do an amazing job."

Ryan, 10, scored several goals in his team's first two games, and with one left to play, answered immediately when asked his favorite part of the day.

"Scoring goals," he said, smiling.

Ryan's mother, Denise Burns, sees advantages beyond the soccer pitch.

"This is so worth it for him to be able to see that others have challenges too, and some that he might be able to help with," she said.

Middletown High School also had several students competing at Fall Festival for the first time. Among them was the Cavaliers' starting quarterback, junior Vince DelPercio, who competed as a Unified partner despite having played against Salesianum less than 12 hours before the start of his Special Olympics flag football game.

"These kids now see how much bigger Special Olympics is beyond the school events," Middletown High program director Matt Engelman said. "And hopefully they'll realize how big a part of their lives Special Olympics can be when they graduate from high school."

Like Engelman, Short plans to continue offering Special Olympics at Richardson Park for those students who don't have the support to join the Wilmington Area program. But at the same time, he'll push for those who can to join the Wizards and reap the rewards of having more sports to choose from, a variety of levels to play at, longer practice time, and additional opportunities to socialize and create friendships.

"These kids get to interact with and make friends with other players besides the same ones they see in school all the time, which they'll need to do in order to be successful in life," said Short, looking out over the field at the array of people involved in the event, which included 300 Chase employee volunteers. "It's just a great experience for the kids and a great one for me to get to work with other coaches. 

"Students in schools joining Area programs is a win-win for everyone."

Bowling Coaches Clinic is Oct. 26

posted Fri, Oct 17, 2014 by Jon Buzby

The 2014 Bowling Coaches Clinic is Sunday, Oct. 26 at Mid-County Lanes in Middletown.

Flyer

Lindsey Eichner named Physical Education Teacher of the Year

posted Wed, Oct 15, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Congratulations to Lindsey Eichner for being selected as the Delaware Association of Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance Teacher of the Year.

Lindsey is an adaptive physical education teacher and co-director of the Special Olympics program at Kent County Community School in the Capital School District.

She is the Families Director and co-director of the Young Athletes program for the Kent Wild Kats.

This past summer, Lindsey served on the coaching staff of Team Delaware at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.

Congratulations Lindsey!

Marie McIntosh featured on WBOC

posted Fri, Oct 3, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Marie McIntosh

Marie McIntosh, who will be inducted into the Special Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame, was featured on the WBOC news.

View video

David Hill is 2014 Outstanding Athlete

posted Thu, Sep 4, 2014 by Jon Buzby

David Hill is the 2014 Outstanding Athlete. (photo by Ruth Coughlan)

David Hill has spent a large part of his adult life in the weight room lifting weights.

Really heavy weights. His personal bests include squatting 640 pounds, bench pressing 400, and deadlifting 575.

The results are usually golden. As in medals. Dozens of them.

“Powerlifting keeps me fit,” David, 30, said. “It makes me want to do my best, and I am good at it.”

David is so good at it that he recently returned from the USA Games decorated in four gold medals. That’s four gold medals in four events. A perfect score.

“The USA Games is the single toughest event because the flight size is small and you have only 15 minutes between lifts,” Team Delaware powerlifting coach Hank Stoklosa explained. “And the judging is the strictest you see. Being able to lift under those conditions tells you how tough of a lifter he is.”

David’s all-around accomplishments in Special Olympics for nearly a decade have earned him the 2014 Outstanding Athlete award.

"It feels great to win,” David said when learning of the award.

In addition to powerlifting, David has added tennis, basketball, flag football, volleyball and bowling to his repertoire, helping the young man develop not just physically, but socially.

“I like hanging out with my friends at practices,” he shared.

That outgoing social side of David didn’t exist when he first got involved in 2006. 

David was born with Landau Kleffner-Syndrome (LKS), a rare neurological syndrome characterized by a gradual onset of the inability to understand and express language. This caused him to be developmentally delayed and therefore unable to participate in traditional community or school sports programs. That is until his mother found Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics gave him the opportunity to develop his strongest attribute -- his athletic ability. But he didn’t come out of his social shell until he took the Communicate with Confidence training,” Corrine Pearson explained. “Participating in Special Olympics has helped David overcome the frustration that can come with a disability. His quality of life has improved because the gap between him and his ‘normal’ peers is no longer an obstacle. His evaluation score at his job at Home Depot has improved in customer service because he is no longer afraid to approach people and offer his assistance thanks to the Communicate with Confidence training.”

It was that training that helped David to not only develop social and speaking skills, but gave him the confidence to share his story to countless audiences of all sizes. And when he speaks, he talks about all the reasons Special Olympics has changed his life.  

“I like to make new friends, doing things with old friends, playing different sports,” he said. “Other competitors show respect like saying congratulations and nice work.

“And when I lift I don't feel disabled,” he added.

Marie McIntosh newest member of Hall of Fame

posted Thu, Sep 4, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Marie McIntosh is the 25th member of the SODE Hall of Fame. (submitted photo)

Marie McIntosh has volunteered for Special Olympics Delaware for nearly four decades.

She serves as a head and assistant coach in multiple sports, helps organize and volunteers at many events, has helped develop new sports, and most recently coached at the USA Games.

She’s a veteran polar bear and can always be seen in the kitchen at Camp Barnes during summer camp.

For her countless volunteer hours and immeasurable impact on the athletes’ lives, Marie is being inducted into the Special Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame.

“I feel so honored to be selected,” Marie shared. “It truly is nothing I ever thought about receiving.”

Marie’s involvement began in 1976 when, as the varsity girls swim coach at Newark High School, she decided to host a meet for Special Olympics athletes. She contacted the state office, recruited some swimmers to participate, and the rest is history.

“It was a great event,” Marie, now a retired special education teacher and coordinator, recalled. “And that is how my involvement began.”

From there Marie started coaching swimming for the Special Olympics Thunderbears program and also took on the role of organizing the Special Olympics swim meets.

When another volunteer offered to take over the swim team, Marie and some friends decided to help grow the tennis program in the Newark area, opening up practices to anyone who wanted to participate, regardless of team affiliation. She didn’t stop there.

“I summered in Bethany and decided we could also do tennis down there,” she explained.  

What started out in Bethany Beach as one sport with a few athletes has since grown into a well-rounded sports program.

“When I moved permanently to Bethany, we added swimming, then bowling, cycling, bocce and golf,” Marie said proudly.

Marie remains the tennis head coach and assists with other sports. In addition, she still helps organize the tennis venue at Summer Games and is always willing to pitch in whenever needed.

Like many Special Olympics volunteers, she has trouble pointing to just one fondest memory.

“I have many memorable moments, but watching Glenn (Jones) and Erin (Bailey) win gold in doubles and silver in singles at the USA Games was one of my best moments,” Marie said. 

And like other volunteers, sometimes those memorable moments have nothing to do with medals.

“A recent great moment was the smile on Robert Smith's face when he received a new bicycle,” she said. “It has taken a while for Robert to share his feelings, but in the last year, he takes the time to talk with coaches. It is just neat to see that interaction from him.”

Marie is all smiles when she thinks about the countless hours over the years she has put in volunteering with Special Olympics.

“I simply can't imagine my life without the athletes,” she said. “As I continue with Special Olympics I have watched some of these athletes grow up over the years. I love going to Summer Games and seeing the athletes I was involved with years ago. It is like old home week for me. 

“What has to be remembered is why we are there,” she added about her many years of service. “For me, it is not only about the athletes, but also about their parents and the community volunteers who embrace us.”

At this year’s Night of Heroes event, the Special Olympics Delaware movement will embrace Marie as the 25th member of the Special Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame.

Night of Heroes honors outstanding contributors

posted Thu, Sep 4, 2014 by Jon Buzby

The annual Night of Heroes celebrates the significant contributions of people and organizations both from the past year and over a longer period of time.

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, 15 honorees will be recognized at the event, sponsored by Dow and held at the Executive Banquet & Conference Center in Newark. The program begins at 6 p.m. followed by a reception at 7:30.

Featured award presenters include Special Olympics athletes Sasha Hudson, Jillian Mathews, Phil Saxon and Jonathan Touchet.

2014 Outstanding Award winners:

Hall of Fame: Marie McIntosh (read story)
Athlete: David Hill, Newark Dragons (read story)
Coach: Heather Kennedy, Wilmington Wizards
Volunteer: Joe Wood, Kent Wild Kats
Youth Leader: Jackie King, Appoquinimink High School
Unified Partner: Jody Wagner, MOT Tigers
Business: Hockessin Athletic Club
Program: Middletown High School (Matt Engelman, Erin Trzcinski)
Family: The Bates Family, MOT Tigers
Media: Glenn Rolfe, Sussex Post
Corporation: Fed Ex Ground
President's Award: Bill McDonald and George Forbes
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sharon Reusch 

UD to host soccer clinic for players and Unified Partners

posted Wed, Aug 27, 2014 by Jon Buzby

The University of Delaware is hosting a soccer clinic for players and Unified partners on Saturday, August 30 from 10 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

The clinic will be held behind Delaware Stadium on the soccer practice fields.

Please park behind the Bob Carpenter Center.

Cape Henlopen High runner approaches camp Hammer Walk with purpose

posted Mon, Aug 18, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Fifty-four campers and more than 30 counselors and staff attended the second session of Summer Camp at Camp Barnes August 17-19.

Campers and counselors spell out "EKS" to help celebrate EKS Day in honor of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Camp attendees enjoyed reading about the history of Mrs. Shriver's impact on Special Olympics.

Zach Simpler, left, and Mark Wise return from their morning run.

FRANKFORD — As the sun peeked over Miller’s Creek on Monday morning at Camp Barnes, Special Olympics campers and counselors slowly trickled out from their cabins for the morning Hammer Walk as the tradition wake-up music blared across the complex.

The purpose of the 1 1/2-mile trek is to get people out of bed and moving prior to breakfast.

“And of course to get some exercise,” said Mark “Hammer” Wise, an SODE staff member for whom the walk is aptly named.

However, for veteran camper Zach Simpler, the daily morning walk served a much greater purpose at the 14th annual summer camp. And because of that, Zach arrived at camp with a new plan for the morning walk.

“I plan to follow my dad’s directions, so I’m going to run it,” the 15-year-old explained.

Zach’s strategy wasn’t to improve his chances of getting back to the cafeteria first to be at the head of the breakfast line. His plan had a much deeper meaning.

On Tuesday at the completion of the three-day, two-night camp, while others head home for rest and relaxation, Zach is going straight to Cape Henlopen High School to join his cross-country running teammates at practice.

“I’m looking forward to running with them,” Zach said grinning.

The idea for Zach to run for Cape Henlopen came about last fall when Vikings coach George Pepper saw him finish a race while running for Beacon Middle School. Pepper told the then-eighth grader that if we worked hard over the summer, he could come out for the high school team.

“Cross-country will be good for Zach as he will have a core of people that he knows from practice as he starts the school year,” Pepper said. “The team has been accepting of people with special needs in the past and this year’s student-athletes will do the same. It should be a great fall for the entire group.”

Zach typically trains by running between one and two miles a day.

“It depends on how my attitude is,” he said smiling. “Just finishing actually makes me feel very satisfied."

That includes during the Hammer Walk. But little did Zach know that he was going to get a special treat Monday morning.

“I’m going to go out for a run myself and then come back and get Zach before the rest of us walk,” Wise said Sunday afternoon as he watched his newest protégé participate in the Unified Field Day.

Zach was pleasantly surprised to get the individual attention from Wise, an accomplished triathlete. The two took off on an early run while the rest of the campers were still fast asleep.

“We just stayed quiet,” Zach said as he removed his earbuds following the 1.6-mile run. “I like the quiet of running.”

When Zach wasn’t running at camp, he was enjoying other activities along with the 53 campers and more than 30 counselors, many of them high school students from Project UNIFY, in attendance for the summer’s second session. Activities included kayaking, crafts, archery, sports games, swimming, a camp fire, and a ride on the pontoon boat.

“My favorite camp activity is archery,” Zach shared. “I did really well last summer and can’t wait to shoot with the bow and arrow again this year.”

The camp was an opportunity to celebrate EKS Day, a global tribute to Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The Unified events offered throughout camp reinforcew the spirit of Mrs. Shriver’s global challenge for everyone to “Play Unified, Speak Unified, and Live Unified.”

And for Zach, it was an opportunity to continue training for his upcoming high school season.

“I like the life lessons that [running] gives you like taking your time and going at as casual of a pace as you want,” Zach said. 

Camp video

DIAA student-athletes appreciate Special Olympics camp experience

posted Fri, Aug 15, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Story in the Newark Post about local student-athletes and their experience at Special Olympics Summer Camp at Camp Barnes.

Read story

Hockessin Athletic Club raises $10,400 for Special Olympics

posted Thu, Aug 14, 2014 by Jon Buzby

On August 14, Hockessin Athletic Club presented a check for $10,400 to Special Olympics Delaware. It marked the eighth consecutive year that the club has raised money through activities surrounding the summer camp.

The donation comes from numerous sources, including sales from the HAC Shack commissary stand, and ticket sales from the annual camp social, held last week at HAC’s outdoor pool. HAC also raises funds through donations to a raffle and silent auction, which included 80 items from across the state.

In total, HAC has donated more than $37,000 to Special Olympics.

Read the Community News story

My favorite part of Summer Camp at Camp Barnes is ...

posted Sun, Aug 10, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Perfect summer weather welcomes campers and counselors

FRANKFORD -- More than 50 Special Olympics Delaware athletes representing all five Area programs attended the first summer session of the 14th annual Special Olympics Delaware Summer Camp at Camp Barnes on August 9-11.

Campers were joined by more than 30 Project UNIFY volunteers representing a variety of high schools and several year-round SODE volunteers at the three-day, two-night camp. In addition, 34 high school student-athletes attending the annual Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Student Leadership Conference in nearby Lewes joined the Unified Field Day on Saturday.

“It’s just amazing because it shows me that even though they have disabilities they still can do what we do,” Christiana High School rising senior Nicole DeAngelis said. “Us being here pushes them to do even better. It’s just been a great experience.”

As a female competing in the male-dominated sport of wrestling, DeAngelis could easily relate to the harm of stereotypes.

“I’ve heard stereotypes from my own teammates, opponents, different coaches, and refs, and it’s really hard,” DeAngelis shared. “But seeing these [Special Olympics] athletes, it’s easier for me to connect with them and see where they are coming from. I know that just like me, they can do whatever they put their mind to.”

Sunday's activities included kayaking, archery, popular backyard games, crafts, swimming, and a pontoon boat ride compliments of North Bay Marina. And of course, the traditional camp dance.

"I know the dance is a favorite activity for many," longtime cabin leader Joe Tacconelli said. "I know it's my favorite part of camp."

Here's what the campers and counselors had to say when asked about their favorite part of camp:

Meeting the motorcylce guys and getting to see old Special Olympics friends again. -- Jonathan Touchette, Wilmington Wizards

I like everything about it. -- Patricia Pecora, Kent Wild Kats

Getting to see the athletes have fun and do all the different activities. The boat ride is really fun, too. -- Jessica Platt, Project UNIFY volunteer

Hanging out with friends and I can't wait for the dance tonight. -- Laura Scott, MOT Tigers

Doing the walking and all the other sports. -- Brynn MacBride, Newark Dragons

Swimming. -- Jessica Bird, Sussex Riptide

Helping everyone out. -- Jake Cain, Project UNIFY volunteer

The food and the activities. -- Elerece Thomas, Kent Wild Kats

Being with friends and having a good time. -- Erin Bailey, Wilmington Wizards

The morning walk. -- Marissa Hammond, Newark Dragons

Seeing all the campers. -- Karen Cimaglia, Project UNIFY volunteer

I'm happy when I am here. -- David Dube, Sussex Riptide

The people because everybody is so friendly and everyone just wants to help our athletes have a good time. -- Alison Kahn, Project UNIFY volunteer

Everything. I like the food here and seeing friends and counselors. Just having fun. -- Tyler Kennedy, Wilmington Wizards

It was a life-changing experience. -- Jackie Corenjo, Glasgow High School/DIAA Student Leadership Conference

Seeing all the campers. -- Hannah Griffiths, Project UNIFY volunteer

Kayaking. -- Allie Woodard, Project UNIFY volunteer

Basketball. -- Jeremy Eglit, Sussex Riptide

The dance. -- Carley Schiavoni, Project UNIFY volunteer

Swimming. -- Jordan Little, Kent Wild Kats

Hanging out with the athletes and getting to know them and bonding and getting to know their stories. -- Corrin Rogers, Project UNIFY volunteer

Spending the time with the athletes. We only get to see them a couple times a year so having them around all the time for a weekend is really cool. -- Logan Worsh, Project UNIFY volunteer

Salads and doing the Hammer Walking for three loops. -- Michael Bowe, Sussex Riptide

Watching the campers enjoy being around each other. -- Dave Manwiller, Cabin Leader/Kent Area Director

NOTE: Additional photos will be posted soon, along with the camp video. ... The second session of Summer Camp at Camp Barnes is August 17-19.

Fall Coaches Clinics scheduled for August 21

posted Mon, Jul 28, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Coaches Clinic for the sports of Long-Distance Running, Volleyball, Basketball and Soccer are being held Thursday, August 21 from 6-9pm at Goldey-Beacom College.

This is a great opportunity for coaches to come learn how to teach fundamental skills, team concepts and practice organization. The coaches at Goldey-Beacom are excited to conduct these clinics and we hope to get great attendance. Coaches will leave receive materials and resources to help provide the athletes with the tools to be successful in the sport AND these clinics serve as a fulfillment of the Sport Specific Coach Training requirement to become a certified coach in Special Olympics.

Please register by August 1. More information

Communicate with Confidence announces refresher courses

posted Mon, Jul 14, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Graduates from Communicate with Confidence (CwC) are invited to attend monthly refresher classes in each county from 6:15 pm to 8:00 pm. on the following dates:

Mondays – Community Room, Dover Police Dept.: July 21, Aug 25, Sept 22, Oct 20, Nov 10, Dec 15, Jan 12.
Wednesdays - SODE office, Newark: July 23, Aug 27, Sept 24, Oct, 22, Nov 12, Dec, 17, Jan 14.
Thursdays – Stockley Center room A1178, Georgetown: July 24,  Aug 28, Sept 25, Oct 23, Nov 13, Dec 18,  Jan 15.

Please register by contacting Jenn Brant at jenn.brant@bankofamerica.com or Brenda Zullo at bzullo@udel.edu.

Newark Post: Newark residents return from Special Olympics USA Games decorated in medals

posted Tue, Jul 8, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Newark Post story

The News Journal captures essence of Project UNIFY

posted Mon, Jul 7, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Read Kevin Tresolini's article in The News Journal about how one Delaware high school student helped start a tradition at her school.

Story

Summer Games provides competition, memories, and so much more

posted Sat, Jun 7, 2014 by Jon Buzby

Kenny Jones hopes his success in the pool at the Summer Games leads to success in the sprint triathlon at the USA Games. (photo by Ruth Coughlan)

NEWARK –– Kenny Jones surfaced with an exhausted sigh of relief after tapping the touchpad in the pool at the finish of the 200-yard freestyle finals.

But as tired as he was, Jones was all smiles knowing he had just won another gold medal at the 2014 Special Olympics Delaware Summer Games.

“I feel great,” he exulted after finishing his final race of the weekend.

And he should. Jones’ 200-yard victory was his second medal of the weekend, his first coming on Friday in the 400-yard race.

Yet despite the smiles and relief, the longtime Special Olympics competitor knows he has to quickly, and seriously, turn his attention to his next big race -- a longer, tougher swim coming up in just over a week. And not just any swim, but one that precedes a long run, and an even longer bike ride. Each event right after the other.

Participating in triathlons is nothing new to Jones, who completed his first one more than a decade ago at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware.

“I was already running and swimming, so my coach, Len Leshem, said, ‘Why don’t you just add cycling?’” Jones explained of how he got started.

Next week Jones will compete in a sprint triathlon in Princeton, New Jersey, against the top Special Olympics triathletes from around the country. And when the starting gun goes off on the shoreline of Lake Mercer at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, history will be made as it will mark the first time a sprint triathlon has ever been contested at a National or World Special Olympics Games.

“It is exciting to be part of the first one ever,” Jones said of the 250-meter swim, 10k ride and 5k run that takes place at 2,500-acre Mercer County Park.

Jones has been training vigorously for the past three months, biking and running five times a week and swimming at least three. His training session the Sunday before Summer Games consisted of a four-mile run, 10k bike ride, one-hour spin class, and culminated with a 20-lap swim. Jones credits his intense training for the triathlon as the main reason he succeeded in the Rawstrom Natatorium during the Summer Games.

“I knew I had trained harder in the months leading up to Summer Games than ever before,” he said.

Jones was one of more than 800 athletes and Unified partners (peers without disabilities) who competed in six sports – aquatics, bocce, powerlifting, softball, tennis, and track and field – at the annual Summer Games, held June 6-7 at UD and Handloff Park (softball). More than 1,000 volunteers turned out to help out at the event, which is sponsored by DuPont.

“It’s amazing how many familiar faces we see year after year,” said a smiling Ann Grunert, executive director of SODE. “Each volunteer comes with a determination to help make this year’s Games the best yet, and leaves telling us they got a lot more out of the experience than they could ever give.

“And, that they’ll be back next year,” she added.

The volunteers provided help at the sports venues and other fun activities that took place during the games. Olympic Village on Friday, followed by a gala Opening Ceremony and dance later in the evening kept everyone moving, despite an exhausting day of competition.

“They love the music and dancing,” one of the many parents in attendance commented. “It’s amazing how much energy they have when they come to these Games. It’s the highlight of the year for most of them.”

Jones hopes to add another highlight to his year when he heads to the USA Games next Saturday with 67 other athletes and Unified partners who will represent Team Delaware. More than 3,500 athletes and 70,000 friends, families and spectators are expected to attend. And just like those attending the Summer Games here locally, the highlights will include much more than just the competition.

“I am looking to catch up with an old friend I met in Greece,” Jones commented about a fellow cyclist he competed against at the 2011 Special Olympics World Games. “We’ve kept in touch through Facebook, but I can’t wait to see him in person and compete against him again.”

As for the triathlon itself?

“I just want to finish,” Jones said grinning.