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 or Brenda Zullo at

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.


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.