Matt Montgomery is 2017 Outstanding Athlete

posted Mon, Sep 18, 2017 by Jon Buzby

Matt Montgomery has spent the past two decades honing his skills competing in a variety of sports through Special Olympics. From his start with the Mary Campbell Center Youth program through his current participation with the Wilmington Wizards, Special Olympics has enhanced Matt’s life in ways he never thought possible.

“I’ve always had a passion for sports,” he explained. “Through the Mary Campbell Center and Special Olympics Delaware, I was given a chance to participate and excel in something I love rather than just watching from a sideline.”

Matt has spent the better part of the last several years expanding his roles in the organization beyond the sideline. Matt delivers speeches about how much Special Olympics means to him. He raises money at fundraisers and volunteers at them when he’s not participating. And through his role on the Athlete Input Council, Matt even helps make sure his fellow athletes’ voices are heard.

Matt’s deep-rooted involvement in the organization has earned him the honor of being named the 2017 Special Olympics Delaware Outstanding athlete.

“It feels so awesome,” Matt said of the honor. “It’s one of the greatest feelings ever. I’ve worked and trained hard, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to take advantage of the many programs SODE has to offer. To have others see all that I have accomplished and honor me in such a special way, means the world to me.”

Matt currently competes in flag football, bowling, basketball and swimming.

“I really don't know which is my favorite,” he admitted. “I enjoy all sports because of the excitement and challenges. I also enjoy competing with all of my friends.”

Matt serves on the athlete input council for the Wilmington Wizards, where he has a chance to make sure not only his voice, but those of his peers, are heard in regards to matters relating to Special Olympics. He also volunteers at several events throughout the year, most notably the Truck Convoy, Breakfast of Champions, Red Robin Tip-A-Cop and Over the Edge. And he’s a Polar Bear. Last year Matt raised nearly $1,000 plunging in the frigid ocean.

Matt was recently named the Special Olympics Delaware Honorary Ambassador to the New Castle County Fire Fighter’s Association. In that role he attends meetings and events at various fire companies across the county, and even gets to ride along in parades. Matt works as the official “mixer” at Waggies by Maggie and Friends and also volunteers at Hagley Museum and Library.

All of these accomplishments and opportunities were made possible in part due to his involvement with Special Olympics Delaware.

“Special Olympics means everything to me,” Matt said. “It’s about making friends. It’s about being accepted for who I am. It’s about opportunity. And most of all, it’s about being able to train and compete year-round in so many different sports and activities.” 

Dave Manwiller to be inducted into Hall of Fame

posted Tue, Sep 12, 2017 by Jon Buzby

Dave Manwiller will become the 28th member of the SODE Hall of Fame.

Dave Manwiller spent his entire professional career teaching special education. And when he retired after 33 years as an educator and football coach, he decided to keep making a difference in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities as the Area Director for the Kent Wild Kats.

“After 33 years of teaching special education, the continuation of involvement with Special Olympics seemed natural,” he said. “No matter how a day goes, it always gets better when I attend practices, summer camp, the plunge or any other event.”

The next event Dave attends will be one during which he will receive the organization's highest honor, when he is inducted into the Special Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame at the Night of Heroes on October 11. 

“This is an honor I never dreamed of receiving," he admitted. 

Dave served as the Charlton School’s Special Olympics program director for more than 20 years, coordinating the school’s involvement in several sports including soccer, bowling, basketball, roller skating, and track and field. He was pivotal in keeping the school involved in the program through staff changes and budget cuts, and leading up to and even after his official retirement, helped ensure a smooth transition for his successor.

“He saw to it that all students were able to participate at some level if they wanted,” said Merry Jones, whose daughter attended Charlton. 

As an Area Director, Dave oversees every aspect of the Kent Wild Kats including coach and athlete recruitment and retention, scheduling, family involvement, and several other aspects that often go unnoticed. He is also the first to pitch in whenever asked, whether it be serving as a counselor at summer camp or working on the operations team at the Polar Bear Plunge.

“No matter how big or small the request, he addresses every concern from our coaches, athletes and parents with sincerity and expertise,” Jasper and Vanessa Little agreed. “His positive attitude, level-headedness, and great leadership skills set a wonderful example for all to follow and reflect greatly upon Special Olympics Delaware and the Kent Wild Kats.”

“I am very humbled to be honored with a Hall of Fame induction,” Dave said. “It is a reward and honor in itself to watch an athlete smile or get a hug from an athlete who is just genuinely happy to be a part of our program."

Wilmington Friends hosts football clinic

posted Mon, Aug 21, 2017 by Jon Buzby

Wilmington Friends coach Bob Tattersall addresses players at the fifth annual Wilmington Friends flag football clinic.

For the fifth consecutive year the Wilmington Friends football team hosted a football clinic as part of its preseason program.

Nearly 30 athletes from the Wilmington and Newark Area programs who are playing flag football this fall attended the two-hour clinic, held at the school on Aug. 20. Players participated in drills, games and activities directed by the Quakers' coaching staff and players.

"For 45 years we attended a week of preseason practice at an [offsite] camp," said head coach Bob Tattersall, who is Delaware's winningest high school football coach with 303 victories. "When we stopped attending camp, I thought we needed something special to do for others that was not directly related to football. The opportunity to coordinate with Special Olympics was perfect for our players, coaches, and parents. We are grateful for the experience." 

PHOTO GALLERY (photos by Erik Saville)

Unified Partner earns Nike 'I Am Sport' award

posted Tue, Jun 20, 2017 by Jon Buzby

Keegan Cahill poses next to his News Journal "Athlete of the Week" poster at the annual Delaware Sports Awards banquet.

Keegan Cahill quarterbacked Newark Charter’s Special Olympics Unified flag football team to the school’s first ever state championship this past fall, won a bronze medal in the SODE Unified doubles bowling competition over the winter, and served as a captain on the Patriots’ varsity lacrosse team this spring.

But it was as much Cahill’s efforts off the field as his prowess on it that earned him the Nike I Am Sport Award presented at the annual Delaware Sports Awards on June 14 at the Bob Carpenter Center. The award recognizes those who have a passion for sports that they’ve passed on to others.

“Keegan has been the single most instrumental member of our school in helping to align our new athletic program's core philosophies with Special Olympics' model of empowering and engaging every individual with or without disabilities through athletics,” Special Olympics Unified head coach Chris Muscara noted on Cahill’s nomination form. “Not only does Keegan physically exhibit all of Special Olympics Delaware and DIAA's core characteristics of a student-athlete such as respect, persistence in the face of adversity, and grit, but he has taken it upon himself to direct his focus on doing whatever it takes to spread the message of the power of inclusion.”

Cahill has been instrumental in the development of school-wide initiatives raising awareness of and supporting his peers with disabilities. He helped organize the school's Spread the Word to End the Word event at Newark Charter and is a leader in the Respect Club. 

“It has been such a great opportunity to work so closely with Special Olympics throughout the past year,” Cahill said. “I strongly believe that everyone deserves an equal chance to play sports in high school, disability or no disability. And making that happen means a great deal to me. The school has done a great job and has really brought it all to fruition with a lot of help from Chris Muscara.”

Muscara was the head coach of the Unified flag football and bowling teams and also accompanied Cahill to Hill Day, an annual event on Capitol Hill when local representatives visit their respective legislators to reinforce the importance of Special Olympics in their home state.

“Keegan is the epitome of how anyone can use volunteer commitment through athletics to promote inclusion,” Muscara said.

Cpl/3 Andrew Manning named Torch Runner of the Year

posted Wed, Apr 12, 2017 by Jon Buzby

From left, Greg Nolt (Delaware LESO State Director), Cpl/3 Andy Manning and Phil Saxon (Wilmington Wizards).

Cpl/3 Andrew Manning of the Delaware Natural Resources Police Department has been named the Delaware Law Enforcement Torch Run "Winnie Spence" 2017 Torch Runner.  

Manning, who has been an officer with DNR since 2002, is a member of the SODE Torch Run executive committee, serves as the Sussex County Leg Coordinator for the Torch Run, and is an agency coordinator.

Manning was honored by the Delaware Police Chiefs Council on April 12.

Special Olympics Start:  "My exposure to Special Olympics Delaware was when I first did the Polar Bear Plunge in 2000," Manning said. "When I signed up and jumped into the frigid water, I just thought that it was something fun to do that would raise money for a good cause. I didn’t fully know the extent of how important an organization Special Olympics was. Then I was introduced to the Bike Prologue and the Torch Run as a Seasonal Officer, where I got to see firsthand how excited the Special Olympics athletes were when the police motorcycles brought the torch down Rehoboth Avenue. At that point, I was hooked.  I ran my first Torch Run in 2003 and never looked back."

Most Unforgettable Torch Run Memory: "My most unforgettable moment was at my first bowling competition with Special Olympics Delaware and I was asked to place a medal around the neck of each athlete – recognizing their accomplishment. This singular event changed me and is responsible for reminding me how important the Special Olympics movement is, but more significantly, how inspiring the athletes are. I am humbled whenever I am in the presence of the athletes at whatever event it may be. It is a privilege to be a small part of this extraordinary movement and stand in the shadows of the athletes that I admire."

As the Delaware Law Enforcement for Special Olympics "Winnie Spence" Torch Runner for 2017, Manning will have the distinct honor and privilege to deliver the Flame of Hope, on behalf of the entire Delaware Law Enforcement community, to the Special Olympics Delaware 2017 Outstanding Athlete Melissa Chong, at the Opening Ceremony of the SODE Summer Games on Friday, June 9 at the University of Delaware.

Players get shining moment at State Basketball Tournament

posted Sun, Apr 2, 2017 by Jon Buzby

The Newark Dragons Green team was honored with the Dick Nolan Sportsmanship Award at the conclusion of the tournament.

A 3 on 3 half-court tournament was held for the first time as part of the 2017 State Basketball Tournament.

NEWARK – The calendar might read that it’s April, but the cheers echoing throughout the Bob Carpenter Center this weekend made it sound more like March … as in March Madness.

More than 450 athletes and Unified partners competed in the 2017 Special Olympics Delaware State Basketball Tournament in front of hundreds of families and friends. The event was managed by volunteers from the event's sponsor, Farmers Insurance, and dozens of basketball officials from IAABO Board 11. 

“This is the highlight of the season for our players, just like any championship would be,” SODE senior director of sports Gary Cimaglia said of the event. “And the fact that they get to play in the state’s premier basketball facility makes it that much more fun for them.”

In addition to round-robin and bracketed tournaments involving more than 30 teams, a Young Athletes demonstration and an Individual Skills Competition were offered. And for the first time in the tournament’s 40-plus year history, three teams -- Newark Dragons Yellow, Kent Wild Kats Tigers and Wilmington Wizards 76ers -- competed in a 3 on 3 half-court tournament.

“The 3 on 3 gives athletes who would ordinarily not get the opportunity to interact in the game as much as others the ability to participate with athletes on their same playing level,” Wild Kats coach Kathy Denney explained. “And it also obviously gives them even more opportunities to practice and hone their skills.”

Offering the 3 on 3 level of competition allowed some players who had traditionally been in the individual skills competition an opportunity to play in a competitive game in meaningful roles as part of a team.

“Adding this level gives these players an opportunity to truly be part of a team,” Wilmington Wizards coach David Robinson said in between games. “It’s just so much fun to see players who in the past would kind of keep to themselves or didn’t consider themselves part of a team, now laughing and joking around with teammates and genuinely having fun playing basketball.”

The weekend culminated with the awarding of the annual Dick Nolan Sportsmanship award to the Newark Dragons Green team. The award was created to honor the long-time SODE board member who was an avid basketball fan and the father of a Special Olympics athlete.

“Dick would always say his favorite part of Special Olympics basketball was the sportsmanship displayed, win or lose, by everyone involved,” SODE executive director Ann Grunert said. 

Newark Charter High student-athletes represent Special Olympics Delaware on Capitol Hill

posted Wed, Feb 15, 2017 by Jon Buzby

From left, Special Olympics Inc. chairman Timothy Shriver with Eric Anderson, Keegan Cahill and Chris Muscara.

Sen. Chris Coons meets with Delaware's delegation.

Keegan Cahill, Eric Anderson and Chris Muscara on Capitol Hill.

Eric Anderson meets Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Sen. Tom Carper greets the SODE delegation on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester meets with the SODE delegation to wrap up a very successful Hill Day.

Several representatives from Special Olympics Delaware traveled to the District of Columbia to take part in the annual Special Olympics Hill Day on Feb. 15.

During what has become an annual event, Special Olympics programs from around the country descend on Washington, D.C., to meet with their local representatives to advocate for support of the important, life-changing work the organization does in each respective state for sports, health and education.

Special Olympics Delaware was represented by staff members Ann Grunert (executive director) and Kylie Frazer (dir. of school initiatves). Joining them were three members of Newark Charter School's state championship Unified flag football team. Head coach Chris Muscara was accompanied by players Eric Anderson and Keegan Cahill (Unified partner).  

"It's been a great opportunity to come along with Special Olympics to support a cause that means a great deal to me," Cahill said in a text message during his trip. "I'm glad to be able to spread awareness and show that respect is always the way to go, while I'm right here in the heart of our country here in D.C." 

Muscara was overwhelmed with the opportunity presented to his two students-athletes, and not surprised that each made a lasting impression on the other states' delegates and Special Olympics staff members in attendance.

"Keegan and Eric were fortunate enough to get to meet some of Special Olympics North America's top brass, who were impressed enough that they asked Keegan to be a guest speaker at tonight's dinner," Muscara shared in an email to his administrators during the trip. "The boys were treated with VIP status and never even realized the gravity of the situation until we explained to them how their story of hard work and dedication was the example our leaders were speaking about."  

Cahill, a varsity lacrosse player at the school, shared his personal story about the experience of serving in the role of a Unified partner on the flag football team.

"Since joining Special Olympics Unified sports, I gained a friend I wouldn't normally have had," Cahill told the audience of his relationship with Anderson. 

The teammates also had the honor of meeting Special Olympics Inc. Chairman Tim Shriver and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.   

"It was a great honor to share my story and to meet Tim Shriver as well as our Secretary of Education," Cahill added. 

The next day, Delaware's delegates met with Sen. Chris Coons, Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

"Each meeting took place in small, intimate setting in which Eric and Keegan demonstrated what Special Olympics has done for them personally, and, most importantly, what it has done for our school community," Muscara said. 

Inaugural Special Olympics Unified Flag Football championship game set

posted Thu, Nov 17, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Newark Charter will face McKean High in the first ever DIAA Special Olympics Unified Flag Football championship game after the Patriots advanced with a 24-20 win over Caesar Rodney and McKean narrowly edged Seaford, 49-48, in the semifinal matchups.

Newark Post Story

WDEL story

Special Olympics Delaware Fall Sports Festival magnificent in many ways

posted Tue, Nov 15, 2016 by Jon Buzby

With a bevy of colorful leaves still clinging to tree branches on the beautiful St. Andrew’s campus in Middletown, more than 700 athletes and Unified partners took to the courts and fields, and several dozen even took a run through the woods, at the annual Special Olympics Delaware Fall Sports Festival.

“At this time of year, you really can’t ask for better weather than what we have here today,” commented Chase employee Sarah Lammers, who, along with her husband, Scott, co-chaired the event for the 10th consecutive year.  

On a sunshine-filled fall day with temperatures hovering in the upper 50s, more than 200 Chase employees turned out on Nov. 12 to support a volunteer base of more than 400 which provided the people-power necessary to successfully execute an event that included day-long competitions in bocce, flag football, long-distance running, soccer and volleyball. A Young Athletes demonstration for children ages 2 – 7 was also held in the morning just before venues took a break for the gala Opening Ceremony.

“Our employees look forward to this event year after year and embrace the opportunity to be part of it no matter when or where it’s held,” Scott Lammers said. “Our employees will tell you they get far more out of the experience than they could ever give, and seeing the smiles on the athletes’ faces, always puts smiles on ours.”

Chase has sponsored and provided the event steering committee and day-of volunteers for the Fall Sports Festival for 19 years.

“As one of our longest-standing corporate partners, Chase continues to exceed expectations both in the value of their sponsorship as well as ensuring a quality event for our athletes,” SODE executive director Ann Grunert said. “What is perhaps most rewarding is watching their committee and all their volunteers work tirelessly to ensure they are providing the best experience possible for our athletes. That is a true measure of their company’s commitment to the community, and we are very fortunate they have chosen us to be a part of their outreach.”

That experience also held true for the faculty, staff and students of St. Andrew’s School, which, for the second straight year, provided the necessary first-class competition venues and other facilities Special Olympics seeks of its competition hosts. On a campus perhaps best known to outsiders as the setting for the 1989 film “Dead Poet’s Society,” the competition venues and other facilities on the St. Andrew’s campus provides an ideal setting for a first-class sports event.

“The competition venues themselves are exceptional, and the way this campus has embraced this event is just overwhelming,” Special Olympics Delaware senior director of sports Gary Cimaglia explained. “Whatever it is we ask of them, they find a way to make it happen. From providing more than 800 lunches for the athletes, coaches and volunteers, to staff volunteering for security detail and in other roles, to students spending all day Saturday wherever needed, we can’t thank the St. Andrew’s community enough.”

An outpouring of support in a perfect setting accentuated a truly magnificent day.

Dr. Rob South to be inducted into Hall of Fame

posted Fri, Sep 30, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Rob South arrived in Delaware in 1987 and within six months of becoming a resident, picked up the phone to see if Special Olympics needed any volunteers.

“I called just to find out how I could be of service to help,” South recalled. “It wasn’t in any particular area, but I told them I had been involved in swimming in the past and asked them, ‘What can I do?’”

That initial phone call has turned into three decades of volunteerism in a variety of roles, and has earned South the organization’s highest honor – enshrinement in its Hall of Fame.

“I was surprised and shocked,” South said of his reaction when he got the phone call telling him of the honor. “I’ve never, and still don’t, expect anything for what I do.”

South’s first volunteer role with the organization was to provide basic health evaluations for athletes attending Summer Games, which was a natural fit given his profession as a chiropractor. Shortly after that his role expanded, onto the pool deck coaching swimmers. It was another perfect fit.

“I wanted to help do what I do, which is coach,” said South, who grew up swimming competitively.

His first coaching position was as an assistant with the Thunderbears, where he worked under fellow Hall-of-Famer, Marie McIntosh.

“It was wonderful working with Rob,” McIntosh said. “What worked really well was that he was calm; I was not. He was patient; I was less so. We each appreciated the other’s assets and contributions to the swimming program.”

South eventually took over the head coaching position and one of the first new programs he implemented was offering year-round training for his swimmers.

“I knew that through continued practice the athletes would increase their skill level and fitness level,” South said. “The end result would be better swimmers.”

The organization quickly realized how important his contributions were to the Thunderbears, and therefore, how valuable they could be to the entire organization. South was asked to serve in the role of aquatics director for the entire state. He organized statewide coaches clinics and CPR and First Aid trainings with an emphasis on water safety. 

“What he was doing with the Thunderbears was so advanced compared to what we were used to, we knew we wanted that type of training going on for all our coaches and swimmers,” executive director Ann Grunert said.

South was named the head coach for Delaware’s swim teams that attended the 1995 and 1999 World Games.

“Both places were incredible,” he said. “I’m not sure what I enjoyed more, the coaching or the actual experience of just being there. It was overwhelming to see the athletes perform so incredibly well. I was in awe of their abilities and how much they put out and how hard they worked to get where they went. Every single bit of it was … I’ll just never forget it.”

South has also raised thousands of dollars over the years for the organization by opening his chiropractic office a few times a year for what he calls “patient appreciation days.” On those days, current and new patients can receive screenings or adjustments free of charge in return for a donation to Special Olympics.

“I basically provide my normal services, but instead of accepting payments, I ask for donations,” he explained.

In recent years, South has had to stop coaching on a weekly basis, but has insisted on staying involved as aquatics venue director at Summer Games. In that role he ensures the athletes experience a first-class venue. And while serving in that role, he continues to get the same satisfaction he first experienced 30 years ago.

“I get so much more than I could ever give back,” he said of his time volunteering. “It’s just been incredible. I’ve been in my element — the pool — truly enjoying what I was doing, It was 100 percent total enjoyment. To be able to make a difference in their swimming was worth everything … and it still is.”

Truck Convoy sets new records

posted Mon, Sep 26, 2016 by Jon Buzby

On Saturday, Sept. 24, 229 trucks took part in the 14th annual Special  Olympics Delaware Truck Convoy and raised $52,000 for the organization. Both the number of participating trucks and the amount of money raised are records. 

In the event's 14 years, more than $485,000 for SODE.


The Truck Convoy is sponsored by FedEx Ground and Walmart.

Delaware Law Enforcement for Special Olympics has touched lives for 30 years

posted Fri, Sep 16, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Law Enforcement for Special Olympics has been a grassroots movement in Delaware for 30 years.

Globally, Law Enforcement for Special Olympics (LESO) is an international grassroots initiative involving law enforcement officers from all agencies volunteering to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics.

Locally, here in Delaware, LESO is celebrating its 30th year of raising awareness and financial support for more than 4,000 Special Olympics athletes who compete in 20 sports year-round in the First State.

“What is truly remarkable about the impact LESO has had here in Delaware is how it has kept pace with the increasing needs of our organization as it has grown,” Special Olympics Delaware executive director Ann Grunert said. “Their efforts have enabled us to reach more athletes, offer them more sports, and provide them with opportunities that otherwise would not be as easily implemented. The organization’s dynamic and ever-growing relationship with law enforcement has to be considered one of the greatest achievements of the Special Olympics movement.”

A special reception thanking officers for their 30 years of contributions was held Aug. 25 at the Delaware State Troopers Association Hall in Smyrna. Honored guests included officers from various agencies who have been key members of committees and served in critical roles throughout the years. In addition, officers who have been named Torch Runner of the Year and the Special Olympics Athletes of the Year who joined them to light the cauldron at Summer Games were also recognized. 

“It is the dedicated men and women of law enforcement, in your uniform, who acknowledge our efforts with great honor and dignity,” Phil Saxon, a Wilmington Wizards athlete, said during his presentation. “You validate who we are as athletes, and help us believe that with a lot of hard work, we, too, can achieve great things.”

Thousands of officers have been involved in Delaware LESO in some capacity during the past three decades, but it has been one man who has spearheaded and led the effort for all 30 years. Retired DSP Capt. John Miller has served as Delaware’s LESO state director since the movement’s inception and received a special tribute from Commissioner Robert Coupe of the Delaware Department of Correction.

“John Miller became inspired by the cause and that inspiration became his passion, a passion and commitment that empowered John to inspire other [officers] to participate with Special Olympics,” Coupe said in his remarks. “It was simply the love and compassion in his heart to help create an environment where Special Olympians could enjoy the spirit of competition. Where Special Olympic athletes could grow on a personal level and receive recognition for their efforts and accomplishments. John simply cared so much that he was willing to commit his life to this mission of Special Olympics Delaware and to Delaware’s Law Enforcement for Special Olympics. During his 30-year journey he inspired so many to join the cause along the way.” 

The 30-year effort here in Delaware started with a handful of police officers representing every agency throughout the state volunteering their time to help raise money and awareness by running the Special Olympics torch into the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Games in June. Over the years, the handful of officers has turned into hundreds, and the running of the “Flame of Hope” has become a 160-mile trek from the southern part of the state to Newark with several ceremonial stops along the way.

“Since 1994, Delaware Torch Run has set the standard for the ‘Flame of Hope,’ keeping it lit during the entire 160-mile journey of the Torch Run,” Miller explained. “The men and women of Delaware law enforcement work and live with the Special Olympics athletes in every city, town and community in the great state of Delaware. This grassroots nature of the Torch Run and Special Olympics Delaware helped fuel the initial success of the Torch Run. Today, at its core, Delaware Law Enforcement for Special Olympics remains an amazing grassroots success story and true phenomenon.”

From that original Torch Run concept, the Summer Games effort has expanded to officers now carrying the torch into every SODE event, regardless of size or location. It’s a state-wide and agency-wide effort that has involved thousands of officers over the years.

Without question the most powerful direct impact the officers have on the athletes is when they appear in uniform as honored guests at every single awards ceremony that takes place throughout the year. It is there where the hanging of a medal around an athlete’s neck, followed by a handshake or high-five, or in some cases a hug, demonstrates the respect and admiration the athletes have for the officers … and in turn, the officers have for the athletes.

“These medal moments inspire athletes and families at Special Olympics competitions all over the world … and represent our finest hour in sports,” Saxon told the audience. “For us athletes, standing on the podium is one of the best feelings. You lift our spirits by presenting us with the medal. And … the feeling is even more significant because of all of you. It is because of you that these medals have tremendous meaning.”

In addition to the Torch Run and medal ceremonies, Delaware LESO organizes several fundraisers which involve different populations across the state. From truckers driving their rigs in the Truck Convoy in September to motorcycle enthusiasts biking in the Ride to the Tide in April; from adults reliving their childhood at Dodgeball Madness to others rappelling 17 stories down the side of the building or plunging in the frigid ocean, LESO has successfully raised awareness of SODE and funds for it by reaching previously untapped audiences.

“The impact of the LESO partnership with Special Olympics Delaware is many things, at many levels,” Miller said. “It's hugely successful, subtle, engaging and enlightening, heartwarming, completely satisfying and rewarding, and far reaching. People talk about the wonderful impact that uniformed police officers have on the athletes when they present medals, but the real impact is on the police officers, our athletes' families and all of our communities and schools.” 

This story will appear in the upcoming issue of "The Delaware Trooper."

Wilmington Friends hosts football clinic

posted Mon, Aug 22, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Most high school football teams around the state of Delaware spent Sunday enjoying a welcome day off from the first week of preseason football practices. But inside the gymnasium at Wilmington Friends School, head coach Bob Tattersall's coaching staff and players gathered for a different kind of team get-together. 

For the fourth consecutive year, the school's coaches and players hosted a football clinic for Special Olympics athletes and coaches from the three Area programs in New Castle County.

"I thought it was important for our players to take the time to do something for others, something bigger than themselves or the game," Tattersall said.

The idea to begin hosting what has become an annual clinic four years ago came after Friends chose to discontinue going away to Camp Tockwogh during the preseason as a team-building activity, according to Tattersall. It was a tradition that had stood for 45  years, and so when it ended, it left a void in the program's preseason.

"I was looking for an alternative activity that would give back to the community," explained Tattersall, a member of the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame and the state's winningest high school football coach with 291 wins.

Forty-three Special Olympics athletes and a dozen or so coaches were introduced to drills and activities by the Friends' coaching staff.

"This is a great opportunity for our coaches to learn new drills and ideas and for our athletes to experience them firsthand under the direction of local experts," SODE director of training Mark Wise said. "The timing is perfect for them now to take what they learned and implement it in their flag football practices."

Friends players, decked out in their navy blue team jerseys, demonstrated the drills and then were joined by SODE athletes, donning their own light blue camp T-shirts provided by the team, to go through them at full speed.  

"The high school players' enthusiasm helped our players take their performance to another level when executing the drills," Wise added. "There's nothing like spirited competition to provide motivation."

The motivation extended to the players in the navy blue jerseys, as well.

"Our players have responded just as I hoped they would, with enthusiasm," Tattersall said.

Bradford Family Fund

posted Fri, Jun 24, 2016 by Ruth Coughlan

Our thoughts and prayers are with Ryan Bradford and his family who lost everything they owned in a tragic fire that consumed their home in Magnolia, DE yesterday morning. Ryan, an awesome SODE athlete in softball, bowling, soccer and basketball, has been admitted to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia in critical condition due to smoke inhalation.

The Bradford family has been an integral part of our Special Olympics Delaware family for many years. We have started this page in support of the Bradford family. Special Olympics Delaware will cover all administrative costs associated with the contributions made through Firstgiving so that 100% of your intended donation will go directly to the family.

Thank you for your support and please keep Ryan in your prayers.…/specialolym…/BradfordFamilyFund

Melissa Chong receives DWASF award

posted Mon, Apr 25, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Melissa Chong, pictured with her father, Kevin, accepts the DWASF Special Olympics Game Changer Award.

Melissa Chong of the Newark Dragons received the Delaware Women's Alliance for Sport and Fitness Special Olympics Game Changer Award.

The award honors a Delaware active female who is devoted to the efforts of SODE as an athlete, coach or supporter.

Melissa, 27, has competed in numerous sports since she was 8 years old. She was presented her award at the organization's 27th Women in Sports Day, held April 24 at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.

Blue Hens host clinics for athletes and coaches

posted Mon, Apr 18, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Softball clinic

Shot put clinic

Fitness night

NEWARK -- It was a sea of blue and gold ... and smiles all around the University of Delaware athletic complex on April 13 as three Special Olympics clinics were hosted by Blue Hen coaches and athletes.

In what has become an annual tradition, the field hockey team hosted a fitness night in the East Gym of the Bob Carpenter Center with athletes enjoying fitness-related games and activities. The night served as a bridge between the team's involvement with the Newark Dragons' basketball program last winter and their upcoming volunteer coaching efforts with the track program this spring.

Just outside the Bob Carpenter Center, the UD softball team hosted 31 SODE players and 15 coaches at their stadium and ran the players through a variety of drills as coaches took notes on ways they could incorporate them into their practices. The teams are preparing for the round-robin tournament at Summer Games and it was an opportunity for players to get some experience on the same field they'll compete on in June.

Across the complex at the throwers' pit, UD coach Larry Pratt instructed athletes on the proper techniques involved in successfully "putting" the shot.

"This is the perfect time for our athletes and coaches to attend clinics like this because they are a few weeks into their practices and at a point where they now know what they need to work on," said Mark Wise, director of training. "What they learned tonight they can now take back to practices and make adjustments for improvement as they prepare for Summer Games. We can't thank the university coaches and players enough for taking the time out of their intense athletic and academic schedules to help our athletes and coaches get even better."

1,000 bikers turn out for 10th annual Ride to the Tide

posted Mon, Apr 18, 2016 by Jon Buzby

By Zach Isakowitz


SMYRNA — If you were anywhere near Smyrna during the morning of Sunday, April 17, you were most likely in sight of at least one motorcycle. Probably more.

Special Olympics Delaware and the Delaware Blue Knight’s “Ride to the Tide” event hosted 1,000 motorcycle drivers plus another 422 passengers on a 55-mile journey from Rommel Harley-Davidson in Smyrna to Jake’s Seafood House in Rehoboth Beach.

Just as the morning chill began to wear off at Rommel Harley-Davidson in Smyrna, volunteers danced, sold raffle tickets and served the bikers and passengers donuts and coffee while old friends from different states and motorcycle clubs walked through the aisles of motorcycles admiring the unique style of each bike.

Despite the difference in engine style or patches on their vest, each biker came to ride for the same reason - to support Special Olympics Delaware athletes. In doing so, a record $53,500 was raised, which brought the total to more than $237,000 in the event’s 10-year history.

“It’s a great donation and a good ride with your brothers,” replied Bill, when asked about his highlight of the event.

“Seeing the athletes at the end,” said Bob, smiling, along with his wife, who road along with him.

Another lifelong biker, Terry, spoke about the “camaraderie and mixture” between the Blue Knights of the police departments, the Red Knights of the fire departments, and all the other groups that came from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“It’s unbelievable,” he stated proudly.

Terry added that this day was so special to him personally because he does the ride in honor of his nephew, who was born with a disability and has since passed away.

“I ride in memory of my buddy,” he said with a hint of emotion in his voice.

As the 11:30 a.m. departure time grew closer, a mother of a Special Olympics athlete walked to the microphone and thanked all of the bikers and volunteers who had come together to support such a great cause.

“We just can’t thank all of you enough,” she said.

During the formal opening ceremony just prior to the departure, Sasha Hudson, a Special Olympics athlete took the stage to pick out the winning raffle numbers and present a plaque to each of the supporters and presenting sponsor Delmarva Power. Hudson also relayed his thanks to the participants for “supporting me and my fellow athletes.”

Once the brief ceremony finished, the bikers moved toward their “rides” and as a group donned their helmets, completed their last-minute adjustments, and in a simultaneous fashion, the bikes began to roar.

For nearly 30 minutes a steady, continuous stream of motorcycles rode out of the parking lot, each passing a lineup of Special Olympics families who perhaps summed it up best with the banner they were holding up that simply read:  “Thank You”.

Danielle Martin receives Torch Run’s highest honor

posted Thu, Apr 14, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Det. Danielle Martin poses for a photo with Chris Truono (Athlete of the Year) and Chief Bobby Cummings (Wilmington Police Dept).

Detective Danielle Martin of the Delaware State Police has logged a lot of miles and put in many hours for Special Olympics Delaware.

Her involvement with the Special Olympics Torch Run began more than a decade ago when she was asked in 2005 by a colleague to help go door to door to local businesses soliciting ads for the organization’s annual yearbook.

That same year Martin ran several miles in her first Torch Run as one of hundreds of police officers who participate each year in the 160-mile trek from Rehoboth Beach to Newark.

The following year she drove to Dulles, Virginia, and attended her first Law Enforcement for Special Olympics (LESO) Regional Conference. It was at that conference where she learned how she could become even more entrenched in the movement and when she returned to the First State, immediately began participating at sports events as part of the opening ceremonies and medal presentations.

“I quickly became engaged in the enthusiasm of the athletes when they receive their well-deserved medals,” Martin said of her initial experience.

From that point forward, her involvement increased and her journey continued, including her role as a member of the Final Leg at the 2014 USA Games in Princeton, New Jersey.

“That was such an honor,” Martin recalled of running alongside the athletes while carrying the Flame of Hope through New Jersey. “I was able to interact with the athletes on a daily basis and hear the stories of their challenges and triumphs. I got to know them and see firsthand how important and life-changing Special Olympics has been for them. It was just an unforgettable experience. It was an experience that reinforced my commitment to Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.”

And now Special Olympics Delaware has formally recognized that commitment. Martin has been named the recipient of Delaware LESO’s highest honor, the 2016 Winnie Spence Torch Runner of the Year.

“Danielle is the quintessential Torch Run volunteer and unsung hero,” Delaware LESO state director John Miller said. “She is very quiet, hardworking and determined. She knows how to get things done.”

“Being recognized as the Winnie Spence Torch Runner of the Year is such an incredible honor,” Martin said. “I feel as though I was chosen to join an elite group of those who have shared the same honor.”

Martin continues her involvement in soliciting ads for the Year in Review each spring. In addition, she has served as a Kent County leg coordinator for the Torch Run and been a member of the LESO executive committee since 2010. She also volunteers at several fundraising events and, in 2011, raised more than $1,000 so she could rappel 17 stories as part of the inaugural Over the Edge event. 

“She just wants to make things better for the program and to give everyone in law enforcement the opportunity to be involved in our efforts on behalf of Special Olympics Delaware,” Miller added. “She loves everything about her involvement with us.”

Martin was presented with the award on April 12 at the Delaware Police Chiefs Council meeting at Dover Police Department.

“Knowing that I was selected by my peers to represent all of Delaware’s law enforcement officers at the Summer Games truly means the world to me,” Martin said.

Martin now has the honor of delivering the “Flame of Hope” to the SODE Athlete of the Year, Chris Truono, at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games.

“Sharing the honor and privilege of carrying the ‘Flame of Hope’ with the Athlete of the Year at the Opening Ceremony while hearing the roar of the crowd filled with athletes, their families, law enforcement officers and other spectators will be such an adrenaline rush,” Martin said. “It will definitely rank at the top of my list of thrills in life.”

Shining moments take center court at State Basketball Tournament

posted Sun, Apr 3, 2016 by Jon Buzby

The Wilmington Wizards and MOT Tigers were two of 32 teams competing at the 2016 State Basketball Tournament. (photo by Ruth Coughlan)


NEWARK — There were swishes, bank shots and 3-pointers. There were rebounds, steals and blocks. There were high-scoring games, defensive battles, and a double-overtime thriller.

But what won’t show up in the box scores is the competitive fire demonstrated over the weekend at the SODE State Basketball Tournament by more than 450 athletes and Unified partners as 32 teams battled in round-robin tournaments for the right to call themselves champions.

The games, refereed by volunteer officials from IAABO Board 11, were played on both courts in the main arena and the East and West gyms of the Bob Carpenter Center, giving the players an opportunity to compete on the grandest basketball stage in the First State.

“I really like it,” said Andrew Chevannes, a member of the Kent Wild Kats. “I made a layup and almost made a 3-pointer. It just missed. It hit off the backboard.”

Fellow Wild Kat Lenny Petro made comparisons to the Delaware Field House, where the tournament was held for years.

“I like how the court doesn’t have a track around it like in the old days,” Petro said. “And I like the wood floors better than the ones at the field house which felt like rubber.”

The annual event — sponsored by Farmers Insurance, which provided more than half of the 100-plus volunteers on hand throughout the weekend — attracted hundreds of families to the UD athletic complex, where they witnessed the culmination of months of hard work leading up to the grand finale.

“It really is gratifying to watch our teams demonstrate how hard they’ve worked and all that they’ve learned since the beginning of the season when we got together as a team at our first practice,” reflected a smiling Chris Popp, who serves as MOT basketball director and whose son, Brendan, competes for the Tigers. “Regardless of the medal each team won, every player improved individually and all of our teams got better from start to finish and it was great to see the teamwork this weekend. That’s really all you can ask for as a coach.”

In addition to the full-court games, an individual skills competition and young athletes (children ages 2 – 7) demonstration also took place.

“It’s nice they have something for all ability levels and all ages,” Popp added.

One of the highlights of the tournament is the awarding of the Dick Nolan Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to a team that demonstrated the values of sportsmanship advocated for by the late Dick Nolan, a parent, SODE board member and avid basketball fan.

“Of course Dick always rooted for his daughter’s team,” his wife, Mary Ann Nolan, recalled. “But what he cheered for even more was when the players on both teams played a clean game and, whether they won or lost, had smiles on their faces as they shook hands after the final buzzer sounded.”

The 2016 recipient of the Dick Nolan Sportsmanship Award was the Wilmington Wizards Steelers. Each player received a plaque recognizing the achievement and a placard with the Steelers name engraved on it will be added to the trophy, which is displayed in the Bob Carpenter Center lobby throughout the tournament.

The trophy presentation was the perfect finale for a weekend filled with not just one shining moment … but many.

Meet the new Sussex Riptide Area Director

posted Thu, Mar 10, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Kathy Ferber is the new Area Director for the Sussex Riptide.

Kathy Ferber assumed the role of Area Director for Special Olympics Sussex County in February. She brings to the Area a wealth of sports experience and is the mother of a Special Olympics athlete.

Meet the new Sussex Riptide Area Director, Kathy Ferber

Growing up … Kathy grew up on North Jersey where she was a three-sport athlete in high school. She went on to play volleyball and softball at Rutgers University and graduated with a degree in nursing.

Kathy has lived in Sussex Country for 30 years, recently retiring from her nursing position and eagerly accepting the part-time position of Sussex Riptide Area Director. 

Her family … Kathy has two daughters. Jeanmarie grew up playing youth sports and is now a registered nurse. Jeanmarie and her husband, Will, enjoy working out and hiking. Will also plays ice hockey.

Liz is a Special Olympics athlete whose favorite sport is basketball. She has been involved in Special Olympics since 2009 when she transitioned out of Seaford’s Parks and Recreation program.

In her new role … Kathy began as a Special Olympics volunteer when Liz started participating and says she is eagerly looking forward to her new role as Area Director: “I want to make sure that all eligible athletes in Sussex County have the opportunity to participate in the sports teams, social, educational and fun activities offered by SODE. I also want to increase community involvement to obtain newer or bigger training and competition venues for our Area and recruit more volunteers.”

More than 120 schools help 'Spread the Word'

posted Thu, Mar 3, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Christiana High's Sharon Ndi adds her signature to the banner during lunch.

William Penn senior Dominique Spencer watches Brandon Dooley sign the banner. Spencer and Dooley, an All-State three-sport athlete, coached Penn's Unified flag football team.

Special Olympics athletes, from left, Julia Hensley, Kayla Burke and Roger Johnson were on stage for the assembly at Appoquinimink High School.

The faculty and staff at the Christina Early Education Center show their support of the annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.

The 8th annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign reached new heights on March 2 when more than 120 schools across all levels participated in the event by donning T-shirts, signing banners and organizing assemblies and other activities.

"It's amazing how this event just continues to catch fire and grow each year," organizer Kyle Frazer said of the 40 new schools which participated in 2016. "And it's fun to watch how schools come up with new activities to keep it fresh. It really is a day to celebrate respect for everyone."

Lime-green was the color of the day in classrooms and hallways as staff and students purchased and donned more than 10,000 T-shirts to show their pledge for respect in what has become a tradition on the first Wednesday each March.

"It's a day to pause and think about how words and actions affect communities," said Tina King, who organized a school-wide assembly at Appoquinimink High School.

At Christiana High School, several students from the school's Honors Academy organized a banner signing during the lunch periods when students not only put their signature on the banner but, as they did, were reminded of what it represented.

"I want to help make students realize that they shouldn't make people feel like they are different," Christiana freshman Dizara Miller explained as she passed out pens to classmates.

William Penn High School had a banner signing in both of its cafeterias, spearheaded by senior Dominique Spencer, who serves as president of the school's Project Unify club. Spencer has been pivotal in the school's involvement in high school Unified Flag Football and Track and Field among other inclusive activities.

"I feel like I'm helping give the Special Olympics athletes hope, rather than doubt," she explained of her efforts promoting inclusion at the school. "At the end of the day I want there to be something for them to be part of."

Although the campaign was started for people to make a pledge by signing a banner, it has blossomed into so much more.  And not just in Delaware, but across the country.

"It's a day to celebrate unity," King said, smiling.

Longtime 'Bear' Rose Dagg quilts 25 years of Plunge memories

posted Thu, Feb 4, 2016 by Jon Buzby

When Bears gather this weekend in Rehoboth Beach to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Polar Bear Plunge, they will certainly talk about past Plunges and create new memories from another spectacular weekend.

But only one Bear will take home a permanent reminder of just how special this fundraiser has become and how much it means to the 3,700 athletes of Special Olympics Delaware.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rose Dagg stopped by the early check-in at the SODE office and brought with her a project that was five months in the making: a quilt commemorating all 25 sweatshirt graphics used during the event's history. She proudly presented it to SODE executive director Ann Grunert.

"This is really a one-of-a-kind gift and expression of support for all the organization does," Ann, a 25-year Bear, said, blushing. "It is really so generous."

The quilt was not put together without its challenges. Rose used some original sweatshirts her family has earned plunging over the years -- "I got to clean out my closets," she joked -- but in some cases there was only one sample left and so couldn't cut those. 

"I had to copy some of the older sweatshirts onto other sweatshirt material," explained Rose, who will plunge for the 14th time on Sunday. "I couldn't cut the old ones of which there were just one sample left and so that took me the longest. And then I had to send them to a print shot so they could copy them for me."

Rose then put it all together over a period of two weeks ... and decided to start over.

"I ripped it out and started all over again," she recalled, grinning. "I just didn't like how it looked. But the second time it just fell into place and turned out beatiful!"

Rose, whose son Steve competes with the Newark Dragons, was inspired to create the quilt as a way to commemorate the anniversary Plunge.

"I just was thinking how cool it would be to have all of the 25 years of sweatshirt designs," she explained. "And I wanted to give it to Ann as a gift to her for all that she does for the athletes here in Delaware."

Ann was overwhelmed by Rose's generosity.

"It is a spectacular display of her love for the organization and all that she has done to make a difference in it," Ann said. 

Glenn Jones has great tennis 'Experience' in national tournament

posted Fri, Jan 22, 2016 by Jon Buzby

When the top Special Olympics tennis players from around the country and other parts of the world gather in one place to compete against each other it's bound to be a great experience.

The Xperience Invitational Tennis Tournament was held Jan. 14-16 at the Boar's Head Inn & Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. Athletes traveled from all over the United States and Switzerland to take part in the annual event, held since 2008. Glenn Jones of the Wilmington Wizards represented Delaware.

The 32 players were divided into four groups of eight with the top players placed in Group 1, etc. After three matches during Friday's divisioning rounds, Jones was placed in the second group where he drew the higher-seeded Michael Chau of Massachusetts. Afer splitting the first two sets (6-4, 4-6), Jones trailed Chau 5-0 in the third.

"I think I was giving up at that point," coach Mary Moore recalled.

"But Glenn did not," she added.

Jones rallied to a 10-8 win to advance to the gold-medal match.

"That win was my biggest thrill from the weekend," Moore proudly said. "I think everyone in the stands that day lost some hair but it was a thrill to watch."

Jones lost in two sets in the gold-medal match, but that didn't tarnish his accomplishments.

"Winning a silver medal at an event of this magnitude is something to be very, very proud of," Moore said.

Among the volunteers at the tournament were SODE athletes Erin Bailey and Phil Saxon, who served as ball people during several matches. Both were recognized with plaques at the awards ceremony.

Special Olympics Delaware Day at UD men's basketball game

posted Tue, Jan 12, 2016 by Jon Buzby

SODE athletes, coaches, volunteers, family and friends are invited to the February 27th UD men's basketball game against Elon at 2 p.m. Tickets are just $4 using the special code on the event flyer.

Longtime volunteer biking 8 hours for charity on his birthday

posted Tue, Jan 12, 2016 by Jon Buzby

Len Leshem has been involved in SODE for more than 30 years. He is a member of the SODE and Delaware Sports Hall of Fames.

REHOBOTH BEACH — When Len Leshem celebrates his 79th birthday on Jan. 25 he plans to do it sitting down. But not like one would think a nearly octogenarian would sit and celebrate by blowing out candles and eating cake.

Instead, Leshem plans to bike for eight hours on his favorite exercise bike at the Sussex Family YMCA, where he has spent the better part of the last 15 years training for dozens of long-distance events and triathlons.

“It’s a great way to spend a third of my birthday, don’t you think,” Leshem said, smiling.

And it’s not just another exercise session for Leshem. Similar to the other activities — exercise-related and not — Leshem has participated in since retiring from Chrysler in the early 1990s, this one has a purpose. Leshem is using his “birthday ride” to raise money through personal appeals for two of his favorite causes – the Sussex Family YMCA and Special Olympics Delaware (SODE). The money will be used to purchase playground equipment for the YMCA and the SODE Young Athletes program, which serves more than 1,000 children ages 2 – 7.

“For the past 15 years the ‘Y’ has been the mainstay of my fitness program,” Leshem explained. “And the athletes of Special Olympics have been my inspiration.”

Leshem’s dedication to exercise began at the age of 49 and coincided with a friend asking him to help out at a Special Olympics track practice. Since then, what started out as a run around the block has turned into participating in more than 100 long-distance events of some variety, including triathlons, marathons and open-water swims. And what was initially meant to be a one-time Special Olympics coaching opportunity “for something to do” in between workouts has turned into a year-round passion.

“Len’s dedication to our program in so many different ways throughout the years is really astounding when you sit back and think about it,” said Ann Grunert, executive director of SODE. “His tireless efforts are outdone only by his passion for the athletes we serve, whose lives he has helped change through his coaching and fundraising efforts.”

Leshem is seeking donations from family and friends and other individuals who have supported his fundraising efforts over the years. Whenever entering a “big” race, Leshem has used the opportunity to raise money for SODE. His efforts have brought in nearly $250,000 for the organization.

Donations can be made at online or by sending a check to: Special Olympics Delaware, 619 South College Ave., Newark, DE 19716 ATTN: Leshem fundraiser.

East Coast Lady Trooper Softball Tournament raises $9,500 for SODE

posted Thu, Dec 10, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Pictured left to right, Rich Bratz, Pete Townsend, Chad Campbell, Donna Simpson, Pam Coupe, Sarah Bosco, Melissa Hukill, Carolee LeNoir, Nancy Skubik, Glenn Moore and Chip Simpson.

Shortly after the sun rose on Saturday, Sept. 19, Special Olympics Delaware athlete Brendan Popp and his father, Chris, a Delaware State Trooper, threw out the first pitch at the 14th annual East Coast Lady Trooper Charity Softball Tournament.

By the time the sun set 36 hours later over the Sports at the Beach complex in Georgetown, $19,000 had been raised by participating teams from nine states in the region: Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"This event was more than a charity softball tournament; it was reflective of the many ways that law enforcement continues to be actively involved in our communities," Colonel Nathaniel McQueen Jr., Superintendent of the Delaware State Police, said in a statement.

The tournament was  originally initiated to solicit the support of female State Troopers along the East Coast to bring several state agencies together for a common goal of helping others by raising money to support local charities. Leading up to this year's event, more than $100,000 had been raised in the event's 13-year history. This year's selected charities were Special Olympics Delaware and Camp Barnes, which equally split the proceeds from the event.

"It is an honor to be the recipient of such a successful and meaningful event," SODE executive director Ann Grunert said. "And we are thrilled that Camp Barnes was chosen as well since we have seen firsthand the value of that facility when our athletes enjoy utliizing the camp for two long weekends each summer."

Delaware fielded two teams in the tournament, and in addition to the players on those teams, the event was made possible through the support of several individuals, organizations and law enforcement agencies through the First State, according to DSP Captain Melissa Hukill.

"I would like to thank all those involved on behalf of the Delaware State Police Women's Softball Teams for a wonderful event," Hukill said. "The support from our fellow troopes and the community helped support these amazing charities."

The event committee presented SODE with a check during a special ceremony on Dec. 7 at the Sports at the Beach complex.

Red Robin hire makes athlete's dream come true

posted Mon, Nov 9, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Red Robin Christiana employees left to right are Valerie Henry, Ashley Crossan, Rachel Rhea, Denni Durnall , Charlene Waters, Kevin Decker

Ever since she was a little girl, Rachel Rhea’s favorite restaurant has always been Red Robin. So when Special Olympics Delaware asked her if she’d be willing to volunteer as a hostess during the organization’s annual Tip-A-Cop event at the Christiana Red Robin, Rachel was more than willing.

“I love their ‘yum’ food and the people there,” Rachel, 21, explained. “My favorite meal is the bacon cheeseburger.”

It didn’t take long for the general manager and employees at the store to realize the personable and bubbly young lady had a knack for greeting people and making them feel welcome.

“Our core values for all our employees are honor, integrity, seeking knowledge and having fun,” store manager Denni Parrish explained. “Rachel showed all those core values within 10 minutes of being in the building.”

It wasn’t long afterward when Parrish approached Rachel with a part-time job offer as a weekend hostess.

“I was very excited when they offered me the job,” Rachel said. “And then I started crying happy tears.”

Like any parent would be, Rachel’s mom, Pam, was ecstatic. But unlike many other parents, it was also an emotional experience for Pam, realizing the opportunity her daughter was getting to have a position where she is the first point of contact for customers.

“We are very grateful to Red Robin and Denni for giving Rachel the opportunity to work and feel like she has a purpose and is contributing to the community,” Pam said.

The Christiana restaurant raised $2,171 during the day-long Tip-A-Cop event held on Oct. 24 when local police officers served as guest servers and athletes greeted customers. All tips to the officers were donated back to Special Olympics Delaware. A total of $6,527 was raised by all three Delaware Red Robin restaurants. But just as importantly, so was awareness of the abilities of people with disabilities.

“The athletes bring such enthusiasm to the restaurant it genuinely makes you feel like you’re part of something special,” said Parrish, who has been part of seven Tip-A-Cop events. “I look forward to Rachel teaching myself, her team members and the guests that we are all the same no matter how different we are.”

Rachel’s first day was on Nov. 1 and it was a resounding success.

“I enjoy meeting people,” she shared. “And I love welcoming them to Red Robin!”

Special Olympics Unified high school flag football debut a success

posted Mon, Oct 26, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Saturday Night Lights featured the debut of Special Olympics Unified Sports high school flag football as Concord, Caesar Rodney, Middletown and William Penn competed in DIAA sanctioned games.

Photo gallery

MIDDLETOWN, Del. — Cavalier Stadium provided the perfect setting for the first ever Special Olympics Unified Sports high school flag football games sanctioned by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) and Special Olympics Delaware (SODE).

A doubleheader featuring four high schools with historically good football programs took place under the lights on Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Middletown High School football complex.

“Saturday Night Lights exceeded my expectation on every level,” DIAA executive director Kevin Charles said. “The weather was perfect, the crowds were great, we had the stadium lights, the inflated helmet, a PA announcer calling the games, media interviewing the players after the games, and the games were streamed live on the Internet.

“But what impressed me most was the athletic competition,” he added. “These games were legitimate interscholastic competition featuring outstanding athletic effort, two teams fighting hard to win, good sportsmanship and great entertainment.” 

Caesar Rodney defeated Concord 18-12 in the first game and William Penn held on for a 40-33 win over Middletown in the nightcap. Both games were very competitive, featuring lead changes and scoring by Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners (peers without disabilities). 

Speedy Alexis Hubbard kept Concord in the game early but it was Caesar Rodney’s Davon Griffin who was the difference in the Riders’ win. William Penn’s Sam Hensley scored all six of his team’s touchdowns, both in the air and on the ground, to counter the points put on the board by Middletown’s Davonte Bessix and Dalton Johnson.

“It was a special night and definitely the start of something special,” said Middletown football head coach Mark DelPercio, who was instrumental in organizing the event.

Three of the teams were coached by faculty members of their respective schools, while William Penn was led by senior Dominique Spencer.

“It was great to see everyone come out and have all of the wonderful fans in the stands,” said Spencer, who was assisted by Colonial lineman Brandon Dooley.

All four Unified teams were included in their school’s football program traditions and routines leading up to the games, including pep rallies, team meals and serving as honorary captains at the varsity games. Football players, along with other student-athletes and school club leaders, played as Unified partners.

“The night will go down as one of my most memorable,” William Penn athletic director Sebrina Perialas said after the game. “It was such a great overall feeling. Our kids are really showing us how this is all done, with compassion and caring. What a great night it was.”

After this year’s successful pilot, plans are under way for the expansion of the flag football program to include all public high schools. The Special Olympics Unified flag football program will be structured similar to the existing football programs in the DIAA.

“Our hope is that our Unified Sports flag football teams will eventually be treated at each school just like the existing freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams,” SODE senior director of sports Gary Cimaglia said. “We want our teams to practice often and compete weekly, because it’s only fair that they have the same opportunities to improve their game as the other student-athletes in their school do.”

The four teams will be showcased at Delaware Stadium as part of the Division I and II Championships on Dec. 5.

“Everyone there on Saturday, from the athletes, the partners, the coaches, the officials, to the school communities rooting for their schools all seemed to be having a great time,” Charles said. “And isn’t that what interscholastic athletics should be all about. 

“I predict a bright future for Special Olympics Unified flag football," he added, smiling.

Phil Saxon to be inducted into Hall of Fame

posted Fri, Sep 25, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Phil Saxon remembers exactly where he was the first time he was introduced to Special Olympics.

“Back in 1991 I was playing basketball with the Brandywine Social Club and Melvin and Claudia Brown saw me play and thought I’d be a good player for Special Olympics,” he recalled fondly. “And so they talked to me about it and I talked to my mom about it, and we both decided let’s go for it.”

While the script has been written for the start of Saxon’s participation with Special Olympics, the final chapter has yet to be written as the 61-year-old Wilmington resident plans to continue to play sports for many years to come.

But when Saxon finally does call it a career with Special Olympics, he will be remembered not only as a gifted athlete and eloquent spokesperson for the organization, but also as a Hall of Famer.  

On Oct. 7 at the annual Night of Heroes, Saxon will officially become the 26th member of the Special Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame, joining fellow athletes and longtime volunteers as a recipient of the organization’s highest honor.

“I was so excited,” Saxon said of his reaction when he received the phone call. “I said, ‘Whoa!’ I was yelling a little bit and I was glad there was nobody around to wonder what was happening to me. I was really happy and surprised to hear that I was selected.”

Saxon played basketball and ran track and field early on in his involvement and soon added the sports of volleyball, bowling, golf and tennis to his repertoire.

“Tennis is my favorite,” he admitted. “And golf is probably my second. I do like competing in all of them, but tennis is definitely my favorite.”

Phil pointed to his selection to play tennis at the 1995 World Games in New Haven, Connecticut, as the reason he fell in love with the sport.

“My partner, Charlie Sullivan, and I practiced a lot for the World Games,” Saxon recalled. “The more I practiced tennis the more I really enjoyed the sport.”

Saxon credits Joanne Cunningham, who introduced him to the sport and coached him at the World Games, for “nurturing” his passion for and development in the sport. Cunningham was quick to deflect the credit back to her pupil.

“When Special Olympics first started tennis, Phil was one of the first athletes to agree to give it a try,” Cunningham recalled. “Phil never missed a practice and was so committed to the sport that he had us build in a separate day for practice in case of rain. Phil was always early to practice to work on some part of his game. He was always committed to working on getting better at tennis and willing to put the time in to do that.”  

In 1999 Saxon returned to the World Games stage, this time in North Carolina where he won a bronze medal in the singles competition. 

“Phil has grown to be one of the top Special Olympics tennis players in the state,” said his longtime coach Mary Moore, whom Saxon credits for his continued success on the courts. “He has played all over the country and made Delaware proud. He has a wicked forehand.”

Saxon’s exceptional skills are the result of practicing for hours not just during tennis season, but year-round.

“If the weather is above 30 and not raining, you will find Phil and his tennis partner, Glenn Jones, on a court somewhere playing tennis for hours,” Moore added.

Saxon’s work ethic, along with his sportsmanship on and off the court, has set an example for his teammates.

“Phil is a great role model to other athletes with his work ethic, commitment and team philosophy,” Wilmington Area Director Ed Capodanno said. “He gives maximum effort at all times in practice and constantly encourages his teammates to do the best they can. He shows athletes, coaches and volunteers what commitment truly means. The best quality Phil shows other athletes is his sportsmanship. Win or lose, Phil is always there to congratulate the other team.”

Saxon’s talents and contributions aren’t limited to swinging a racket. He served on the SODE Board of Directors for more than a decade, chairing the Athlete Input Council and serving on the Sports Program committee. He also delivers speeches to audiences of all sizes, telling his Special Olympics story and the impact the organization has had on his life. It’s a skill he thought he could never master.

“I was nervous when I started speaking but then the audience kept on applauding and it really calmed me down,” Saxon recalled of his first speech at a Summer Games Opening Ceremony in the mid-1990s. “And that gave me the confidence to keep going and I realized then that I had the confidence to come up and talk in front of a lot of people.

“The speech was the springboard for me doing many more speeches for Special Olympics,” Saxon added.

Saxon admitted he has many fond memories during his nearly 25 years in Special Olympics. But when asked his favorite to date, he responded without hesitating.

“When I was chosen Athlete of the Year back in 2002,” he said smiling. “That was pretty special.”

His latest award is sure to be special too.

Wilmington Friends football to host Special Olympics coaches and players

posted Thu, Aug 20, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Wilmington Friends and Special Olympics football players stretch out prior to the 2014 clinic.

WILMINGTON, Del. — At the same time preseason high school football camps wind down across the First State, for the third consecutive year the coaches and players in the Wilmington Friends football program will conclude theirs in a special way.

On Sunday, August 30, from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m., Quakers players and coaches will welcome dozens of Special Olympics coaches and players for an afternoon of football instruction as their own flag football season gets under way. 

What has become an annual “rite of preseason” for the Wilmington Friends program began in 2013 when head coach Bob Tattersall decided to end the traditional week-long preseason camp held at Camp Tockwogh in Worton, Maryland. The overnight experience provided strong team-building opportunities but took a toll on players and coaches being away from families during the waning summer months. The coaching staff decided it was time to look for an alternative way to make sure the team-building aspect of preseason camp could be accomplished.

“Coach Tattersall really wanted to do something with the disabilities community, to expose the boys to those who have real challenges,” said Wilmington Friends assistant coach Artie Kempner, who is extensively involved in several nonprofit organizations supporting people with disabilities.

During the clinic each Special Olympics player will be paired with a Quakers player and together rotate through six stations: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, defensive backs, linemen and kickers/punters. Special Olympics coaches will rotate between stations to learn drills and techniques being emphasized by the school’s veteran coaches.

“It’s a great opportunity for our coaches and players to learn from some of the finest,” commented Mark Wise, Special Olympics Delaware director of sports training. “While flag football doesn’t include tackling, the basic skills of football are the same at any level and so the amount learned by our coaches and players from such an experienced football program is immeasurable.”

The session will end with several scrimmage-type games with Quakers coaches and players officiating.

“It has been so much fun in the past, and we really feel our players get a lot out of it,” Kempner added. “Coach Tattersall feels that joining the Special Olympics program offers a great opportunity for both groups to benefit through an afternoon of learning, camaraderie and fun.”

Spirits high at second summer camp session

posted Mon, Aug 17, 2015 by Jon Buzby

FRANKFORD — A mere six days after more than 100 campers and counselors from Special Olympics emptied out of the Camp Barnes complex, another 100-plus arrived for three days and two nights of summer camp fun.

The weather was warmer, the breeze not as stiff, and the humidity higher than the previous week. But the smiles seen around the complex were just as broad, and contagious, as the previous camp.

“This is my favorite time of year,” a grinning Elizabeth Nolan said. “I love everything about camp.”

For many campers and counselors, it was the last activity of a fun-filled summer.

“This second camp is always bittersweet,” shared returning counselor Kathy Denny, a special education teacher at Delcastle High School. “I enjoy being here but it also means that going back to school is just around the corner.”

After the first day of field day activities, swimming and a camp fire where everyone renewed and created new friendships, Day 2 began with the traditional Hammer Walk, a 1.5 mile jaunt down Camp Barnes Road.

“I feel good,” an exasperated Maura Ganc said, smiling. “But I’m tired.”

A hearty breakfast followed and then campers headed out for a day full of activities including swimming, kayaking, arts and crafts, archery, and a variety of sports activities.

“I love the boat and archery the best,” Carol Bak shared, grinning ear to ear. “I love trying to pop the balloons with my arrow.”

The pontoon boat ride Bak referred to is one of the newer activities at the 15th annual camp, thanks to the efforts of North Bay Marina, which the past few summers has donated the use of the boat and the gas to power it. After piling onto the boat from the dock on Miller’s creek, campers were treated to a relaxing ride into the Assawoman Bay. Passengers enjoyed the sights and sounds that come with being on the water in the summer.

“It’s really a neat ride,” counselor Dave Manwiller remarked. “The views of the osprey nests are remarkable. It is cooler out there than inland and is just a relaxing way to spend an hour.”

For the more than 100 folks at Camp Barnes, the three-day adventure was a great way to spend the waning moments of summer.


Campers greeted with perfect weather on Day 2

posted Sun, Aug 9, 2015 by Jon Buzby

FRANKFORD, Del. — Day 2 of Special Olympics Summer Camp started out with a clang.

As the sun peaked out and the birds started chirping early Sunday morning, the clanging of a metal spoon against a frying pan could be heard echoing throughout the complex.

It was time to get up. And not for breakfast.

The campers and counselors were rustled out of bed for the daily Hammer Walk, a 1.5 mile trek to the end of Camp Barnes Road that takes place both mornings of camp.

“I ran the entire way,” a sweaty Mark Wells said while sipping water at the cooler. “It feels good to exercise in the morning and stay fit.”

Mark was one of nearly 60 campers attending the annual camp. Mark’s twin brother, Tom, also attends the camp, as does their father, George.

“We look forward to it every summer,” George said. “It’s great father-son bonding time. Just us guys for three days and two nights.”

For Michael Bowe, the Hammer Walk was easier than year’s past. Michael recently lost 50 pounds.

“I eat right and exercise,” Michael shared. “And losing the weight has helped me with my Special Olympics events.”

The campers spent Sunday morning participating in several activities including kayaking, arts and crafts, and traditional outdoor camp games. They also were instructed in archery by Jim Kemble of 4-H and treated to a pontoon boat ride compliments of North Bay Marina and the volunteer efforts of Captain Paul Daisy and first-mate Tony Gough.

“The water was flat, calm and beautiful. We managed to avoid all the alligators,” Daisy said smiling. “The athletes loved listening to the music and just zooming along.”

Activities continue Sunday afternoon and the traditional camp dance is Sunday night.

“The weather has been terrific,” camp director Gary Cimaglia said of the comfortable temperatures that hovered in the low 80s. “I can’t remember a recent camp when we’ve had two straight days of such great weather.”

The camp concludes Monday morning.

Veterans and rookies enjoy Summer Camp at Camp Barnes

posted Sat, Aug 8, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Will Duffy is enjoying his first experience at Summer Camp.

Volunteering has become a family affair for the Worsh siblings. From left, Logan, Hannah and Ayden.

FRANKFORD, Del. — On an overcast Saturday afternoon on the basketball court at Camp Barnes, Will Duffy battled for position underneath the basket as his teammate’s shot went up. As the ball caromed off the back of the rim, Duffy soared into the air, grabbed the ball at the peak of his jump and laid it back in softly off the glass.

A chorus of gasps could be heard from the campers and counselors looking on in awe.

At 6-foot-6, Duffy stood out among his Special Olympics peers attending the annual three day, two night camp.

“He’s a great kid,” Kent Wild Kat Area Director Dave Manwiller said while watching Duffy leap up to block an opponent's shot. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a great teammate.”

Duffy, 21, was attending the camp for the first time. He competed for the Kent County Wild Kats Special Olympics Area this past year, playing basketball and softball.

“My mom convinced me to join Special Olympics,” Duffy said. “Softball is my favorite.”

Duffy was all business on the court, but off it he could be heard laughing and joking with his newfound friends.

“He’s like a gentle giant,” one of the counselors pointed out.

Duffy was one of nearly 60 Delawareans attending the first of two sessions of the annual Special Olympics camp held at Camp Barnes. The camp attracts athletes and counselors of all ages from across the state to the secluded complex nestled along Miller’s Creek.

“We are fortunate to be guests on what we consider to be the perfect setting to hold a camp for our athletes,” said Gary Cimaglia, SODE senior director of sports and camp director. “This facility allows our athletes to experience a true summer camp.”

On Day 1, campers arrived, ate lunch, and then enjoyed making tie-dyed shirts with their new friends and counselors, which included high school and college students along with longtime SODE volunteers. Shortly afterward, student-athletes from the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association student-leadership conference arrived to participate in field day activities.

The student-athletes teamed up with the Special Olympics campers in a variety of fun and challenging games, testing their skills, while at the same time creating a natural unifying opportunity. It was the second straight summer the DIAA has made the Special Olympics camp part of their leadership conference.

“I was nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect,” Hodgson Vo-Tech sophomore Vaughn Wood shared while watching the basketball game. “I wasn’t sure what I’d get out of it, but I’m having a great time.”

Many of the college and high school counselors have volunteered at the camp for years, including Hannah Worsh.

“I was asked to come be the lifeguard,” recalled Worsh, who began volunteering at the camp when she was a sophomore at St. Mark’s and now continues while attending the University of Delaware. “And I couldn’t wait to come back after that first experience.”

The summer camp is now a family affair for the Worsh family as Hannah’s brothers, Logan, a junior at Del-Tech, and Ayden, a sophomore at St. Mark’s, volunteer with her.

“It wasn’t hard at all to convince them,” Worsh said, smiling. “Logan came one year and just kind of took over his cabin. Ayden is a soccer coach for Special Olympics and is here with us this summer for the first time and having a great time.”

The camp continues Sunday with a full slate of activities and then concludes Monday morning.

World Games results

posted Wed, Jul 29, 2015 by Jon Buzby

From left, Ginger Shaud (aquatics), Forrie Brown (bowling), Danny Yonker (bowling), Robin Long (aquatics) and tennis coach Mary Moore are attending the 2015 World Games.

Robin Long

Ginger Shaud

Forrie Brown and Danny Yonker

Delaware athletes have completed their events at the World Games, capturing a combined 4 gold medals, 6 silver medals and a bronze.

ESPN continues to provide extensive coverage of the World Games on its website and with a nightly recap at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Read Delaware's aquatics story

Read Delaware's bowling story


Delaware athlete results

Ginger Shaud (Riptide)

Silver medal 100-meter backstroke (1:50.76)

Silver medal 4 x 100-meter medley (6:45.66)

Bronze medal 200-meter freestyle (3:18.10)

6th place 100-meter freestyle (1:37.43)


Robin Long (Dragons)

Gold medal 4 x 100-meter relay (8:03.65)

Gold medal 100-meter butterfly (1:51.52)

Gold Medal 100-meter breaststroke (2:09.31)

4th place 200-meter freestyle (3:37.27)


Bruce "Forrie" Brown (Wizards)

Silver medal team bowling

Silver medal doubles

4th place singles


Danny Yonker (Wild Kats)

Gold medal singles

Silver medal team bowling

Silver medal doubles

Families bowled over by success at World Games

posted Wed, Jul 29, 2015 by Jon Buzby

From left, Forrie Brown and Danny Yonker march in with members of the United States during the Opening Ceremony of the World Games.

Forrie Brown meets First Lady Michelle Obama.

Forrie Brown and Danny Yonker have been bowling for years. But in the past 12 months, both have spent more time at bowling centers and knocked more pins down than ever before as the duo trained for the biggest competition of their lives – the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

Fortunately for both, it didn’t take long into their trip to Los Angeles for them to see all that hard work pay off.

On the first day of medal competition at Lucky Strike LA Live in downtown Los Angeles, Brown and Yonker were part of a four-person team from the United States that won the silver medal in the team bowling event.

“They truly bowled us over with winning because all teams from around the world are super and scores are close,” Danny’s parents, Bill and Faye Yonker, said in a text message from Los Angeles. “It is amazing and exciting watching these athletes from around the world.”

Forrie and Danny then each teamed up with a different USA teammate to win silver medals in their respective divisions of the doubles competition.

“Forrie was so happy,” his grandmother, Winnie Sammons, sent in a text message. “Forrie loves Special Olympics.”

Winning silver medals was just one of the highlights of the World Games for Forrie.

“His favorite [moment] was when Michelle Obama gave him a huge hug,” Sammons shared. “I am on cloud nine watching these athletes be part of the World Games.”

Danny captured a gold medal in the singles event, while Forrie finished in fourth place.

Results for all Delaware athletes at the World Games can be found here.

Delaware swimmers medal in L.A.

posted Tue, Jul 28, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Jane Long, left, reacts to her daughter, Robin, touching the wall and winning the gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly. Robin has won two gold medals at the World Games.

Ginger Shaud of the Sussex Riptide has won two silver medals and a sixth-place ribbon. (photo courtesy Special Olympics World Games)

Robin Long of the Newark Dragons shows off her gold medal, won in the 4 x 100-meter medley relay at the Special Olympics World Games. (photo courtesy Special Olympics World Games)

Jane and Robert Long enjoy the sights and sounds of the Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

Jane Long traveled all the way across the country to Los Angeles, crossing three time zones along the way, just in time for the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

It was well worth the trip.

“It was an absolutely incredible opening ceremony,” Jane shared shortly after the Saturday evening event to kick off the World Games. “Seeing Robin on TV on the jumbotron, the sea of color, I was so moved I had no words. The sound and energy was palpable, totally magic. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Another best experience would soon follow on Tuesday morning when her daughter, Robin, stood on top of the award stands as a gold-medal winner on the 4 x 100-meter medley relay team.

“We are ecstatic,” Jane texted after the medal ceremony. “Proud of her for all of her hard work and practice. And thankful to her coaches and teammates for their diligence, support and friendship.”

Robin’s quest for medals continued Tuesday afternoon in the finals of the 100 butterfly.

"I'm very nervous," her mom said in a text message just before the start of the race.

Those nerves were quickly settled when Robin touched the wall, winning her second gold medal.

"It was a total surprise,” Jane said. “We knew she worked really hard to get to this place, and you never know about the other athletes. It’s kind of surreal right now. We are trying to absorb it all.”

Robin went on to capture a third gold medal in the 100-meter breastroke and also finished fourth in the 200 freestlye.

Ginger Shaud was the first Delawarean to medal at the World Games, winning silver on Monday in the 4 x 100 medley relay.

"It was a close race," her mother, Karen, shared in a text message from Los Angeles. "She took five seconds off her time trial so it was a great effort!"

On Tuesday, Ginger followed that performance up with a sixth-place finish in the 100 freestyle and another silver medal, this time in the 100 backstroke. She capped off the Games with a bronze in the 100-meter freestyle.

The swimming events are taking place at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on the campus of USC.

A complete list of Delaware results can be found here.

Special Olympics athlete exhibits extraordinary strength going 'Over the Edge'

posted Mon, May 18, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Chris Truono, a Special Olympics athlete from Wilmington, was one of 85 people to go 'Over the Edge.' The event raised $125,000.

Truono was the fourth member of his family, and second SODE athlete, to go 'Over the Edge.'

Truono is all smiles after his rappel. He raised $3,600, helping bring the five-year total raised to nearly $600,000.

By Lindsay Dworetz

Every single day, Special Olympics athletes face a number of obstacles that are hard to even imagine.

Every single day, these athletes model remarkable strength and audacity to overcome these challenges that life puts forth.

Every single day, these athletes inspire their friends, family and members of the community to uncover the strength and courage that they do day in and day out.

A total of 86 brave supporters of Special Olympics Delaware, accompanied by family, friends and colleagues, gathered at the 300 Delaware Avenue Building in Wilmington on May 14 for the fifth annual Over the Edge fundraising event. The event, sponsored by TD Bank, Brandywine Realty Trust and New Castle County Fire Service, allows “edgers” to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Delaware and send themselves or their friends rappelling over the edge of a 17-story building.

Over the Edge is a special events company that provides nonprofits with the unique opportunity to send participants rappelling down the front of a building. It is a worldwide effort to take fundraising to new heights in exchange for a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This year, one of these heroic edgers was one of Special Olympics’ very own, Chris Truono.

“I am very excited!” Chris, 33, said while getting suited up in his harness.

Chris’ mother, father and brother all rappelled in previous Over the Edge events. This year, as the fourth family member to go over, Chris bravely recognized this opportunity to follow in his family’s footsteps and give back to Special Olympics, which he has been involved with for the past 18 years.

“Chris always said he would never [participate in Over the Edge] because he was too afraid,” Nancy Truono, Chris’ mother and 2014 Edger, explained. “After he saw his family do it last year, he decided that it was his turn and I could not be more proud of him.”

Each participant is required to raise a minimum of $1,100 to be given the opportunity to rappel. Eager and enthusiastic for this year’s event, Chris was able to inspire many others to support his rappel, raising an extraordinary total of $3,600 for Special Olympics Delaware. The 2015 event raised $125,000, bringing the five-year total to nearly $600,000.

Chris hopes that by participating in Over the Edge, he can inspire other Special Olympics athletes to participate in years to come.

“I would tell them that if they are nervous or scared, they should remember why they are doing it and it will help them feel better,” he said.

Over the Edge is just one of the many fundraisers that Special Olympics offers throughout the year. This event helps show athletes and supporters that there is no challenge too tall to overcome.

“Special Olympics has made Chris into who he is today,” Nancy added. “He is truly a better person because of Special Olympics and I am so proud of him.”

For Chris, this was an experience he will never forget.

“I had so much fun and it was more scary and more exciting than I thought,” Chris commented. “I definitely want to do it again next year.”

For more information and to view the event photo gallery and the recorded live stream, visit

Lindsay Dworetz is an intern for Special Olympics Delaware.

Rookie coach enjoying first State Tournament

posted Sat, Mar 28, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Newark Dragons head coach Eric Hastings talks to his team during a timeout in the middle of Saturday's preliminary games at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Nearly 1,000 players, family members and volunteers attended the Opening Ceremony.

Volunteers from 21st Century Insurance and Judy Marvel Charities provided the necessary support throughout the event.

More than 50 children ages 2 - 7 participated in a Young Athletes demonstration.

More than 450 athletes and Unified partners competed on 41 teams in the State Tournament.

Recent Delaware graduate Eric Hastings has always had a passion for basketball. First as a player, then a color commentator on the radio, and now as a head coach.

After graduating from UD in May 2014, Hastings considered heading back home to Laurel. Instead, he made the decision to get a job here in Newark and at the same time give back to the community. He chose Special Olympics as his charity of choice.

“By staying in Newark, I was afforded the opportunity to be involved with SODE during my free time,” said Hastings, who is employed by the Delaware Safety Council.

Hastings is finishing up his first year as the head coach for one of the Newark Dragons' basketball teams. His team is one of 41 competing in the annual State Tournament at the Bob Carpenter Center on March 28-29.

“Basketball has been one of my biggest passions in my life,” said Hastings, who served as a broadcaster for UD games on the WVUD network. “I always wanted to coach so I could share the love I have for the game with others.”

Hastings' passion for basketball is matched only by his desire to work with people with intellectual disabilities. His girlfriend and assistant coach, Kelsey Edmond, has a sister with an intellectual disability, and the time spent with her has significantly impacted his life.

“I signed up to coach because of Kelsey's family, and it meant a lot that she could coach with me, too,” Hastings said. “Her sister has made a great impact on me over the years and made me appreciate everything that I have.”

Hastings was raised in a family that always supported people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them. His mother is a paraprofessional in Maryland, and has worked with students with intellectual disabilities for as long as he can remember.

“It's because of her heart and dedication to her students that I wanted to make an impact too,” Hastings explained.

Hastings’ team lost its first preliminary round game Saturday. But like any good coach, he already knew what the Dragons needed to work on before its next game.

“Rebounding was the difference,” he said shortly after the game. “I already told the team we need to work on going to the ball and rebounding rather than watching the ball.”

Despite the setback, Hastings was proud of his team’s effort.

“They had a good attitude for the most part,” he pointed out. “I liked their competitiveness. We see their personalities at practice but in the games they come out times ten. It was a good time.”

In addition to the team tournament spread over two days, a dozen athletes competed in an individual skills event and more than 50 children ages 2 – 7 participated in a Young Athletes demonstration supported by Judi Marvel Charities.

The tournament, which is sponsored by 21st Century Insurance, continues Sunday with games beginning at 9 a.m. and running through the afternoon.

Spread the Word events capture hearts, imaginations of participating schools

posted Mon, Mar 16, 2015 by Jon Buzby

William Penn junior Mercedez Robinson signs the Spread the Word to End the Word banner to pledge her support. The school used the annual event to kick off its Kindness Campaign.

The entire William Penn cafeteria staff showed its support by once again purchasing Respect T-shirts to wear throughout the day.

Leo Huot and his Unified partner, Kylie Moorman, hold a check to be presented to SODE after the school sold more than 2,000 glow bracelets.

Smyrna High School students pose with their school's Special Olympics athletes, who show off their medals won at a recent basketball skills competition that the school hosted.

NEW CASTLE - It didn't take long while walking the hallways of William Penn High School on March 16 to figure out something was going on beyond the traditional school day.

"It's the kickoff of our Kindness Campaign," Special Olympics Project Unify coordinator Patty Buzby said.

Junior Dominque Spencer's voice echoed through the hallways during the morning announcements: "No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted" was the message to jump start the Kindness Campaign.

Students, teachers and staff were decked out in the same light blue "Respect" shirts sold to more than 8,000 people across the state as a way to represent their commitment to respect everyone regardless of ability. Students stopped by to sign a banner during lunch periods in both cafeterias.

"We should be doing a lot for students in our integration program," said Spencer, who is the president of Penn's Special Olympics Project Unify club and oversaw the banner signging in the lower cafeteria. "There's definitely going to be a huge difference in people's respect and kindess throughout this school when I'm finished with all that I want to do."

The official Spread the Word to End the R-Word campaign day was March 4, but because of weather-relatedl closures the day before and days afterward, many schools instead chose to push their events back to ensure maximum participation.

On March 13 at Banneker Elementary in Milford, students were treated to a laser light show that encouraged respect and talking about anti-bullying. Students and staff sold glow bracelets and surprised Special Olympics with a check for more than $584.20 as a result of their efforts.

"We sold more than 2,000," announced Laurie Moorman, who oversees the Special Olympics Unified Sports program and has seen firsthand the difference bringing everyone together on the same team can make. "We were overwhelmed by the efforts of the entire school."

Smyrna High School also held its Spread the Word festivities on March 13 and Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn used the first of two assemblies as a platform to talk about his second annual anti-bullying report.

The Student Council at Sussex Central High School sponsored the school's banner signing, only with a twist. Members are encouraging every day to be Respect Day.

"Today is really just a date on the calendar -- the Respect Day," student council president Charlie Megginson told the Sussex County Post. "Every day is Respect Day at Sussex Central High School, so it's kind of getting the message out."

Similar banner signings, assemblies and other unique versions of the Spread the Word campaign were held at schools throughout the state. Bush Early Education Center proved no age is too young to start teaching children about respect as staff and students from Bush EEC and Hanby Elementary donned their Respect shirts while participating in an obstacle course fitness activity.

Photos from several of the events can be viewed here and be sure to check back as more will be added.

Athletes 'wow' audience at Speakers Contest

posted Sat, Feb 21, 2015 by Jon Buzby

Sasha Hudson (Sussex Riptide) accepts his first-place certificate from Cristol Johnson, left, and Lynn Marie DeVaughn. Hudson was one of 14 participants in the SODE Speakers Contest, held Feb. 21.

Jordan Little (Kent Wild Kats) placed second in the contest.

David McElrath (Wilmington Wizards) placed third.

DOVER -- It didn't take long for those in attendance at the Special Olympics Delaware Athlete Speaker Contest to realize the speakers they were attentively listening to were well spoken, polished and entertaining.

The event was the culminating program for 14 speakers representing all five Areas who had been honing their skills during the past several months as part of the Toastmasters training. Each speaker entered this special training having already graduated from the basic Communicate with Confidence course and all of them had experience making public speeches of different lengths to a variety of audiences promoting Special Olympics and how it's made a difference in his or her life.

But these speeches were different.

The athletes' speeches were developed specifically for this competition. Veteran Toastmasters trainers helped athletes formulate ideas, develop their speeches, and then work on delivery to stay within the mandated length of two to three minutes. 

Toastmasters trainers included Jenn Brant, Lynn Marie De Vaughn, Scott Howard, Cristol Johnson and Carol Sawczuk.

"We can't thank our trainers enough for working tirelessly with our athletes to provide them with the skill, motivation and inspiration to find their voice ... and to know that their voice matters," SODE executive director Ann Grunert said.

Each participant was "graded" by a panel of veteran speech judges using the same system Toastmasters International uses during its contests. Special recognition was given for first, second and third place, with all speakers receiving a certificate of participation.

"All of the speakers should be proud of their accomplishments today," chief judge Carmen Lee Pow told the audience before announcing the top three.

Sasha Hudson captured first place for his speech, "Run out of My Shoes," during which he shared his experiences participating in his favorite sport -- track and field.

Second place went to Jordan Little, whose "Home Run" speech told the story of playing on Delaware's baseball team at the 2014 USA Games. David McElrath's "Loyalty and Confidence" speech took third.

View the photos here  

Other speakers in order of presentation included:
(Click on the name to view individual video)

Tyler Kennedy - "Go the Distance"

Antonio Bowe - "Running with the Law"

Erin Bailey - "My Favorite Coach"

William Michael Bowe - "Winter Games"

Gene Giuliani - "The King Pin"

Jerome Watson - "I Am Confident"

Ginger Shaud - "Fun at the Plunge"

Geoffrey Steggel - "My Most Memorable Moment"

Alex Brathwaite - "It Was Amazing"

Jillian Matthews - "No One in Front of Me"

Laura Passwaters - "My Favorite Coach"

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.

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.


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 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.