THROGGS NECK, N.Y. (April 15, 2014) – Last Sunday, April 6, over 50 Privateer student-athletes volunteered their time to help Maritime Athletics host its Inaugural Special Olympics New York Swim Meet as a kickoff event for 2014 NCAA Division III Week on campus. It was a really fantastic day and “feel-good” event all-around for everyone involved.
“I am very pleased that we were able to partner with Special Olympics NY and have this kickoff event for NCAA Division III week”, commented Maritime’s second-year Director of Athletics Heather MacCulloch. “The event was a great way to give our S.A.A.C. and swim teams the opportunity to assist us in using this platform to send a message that when athletes are engaged with other athletes in a competition setting, the differences melt away and the playing field is leveled through the similarity of sport.”
Members of the Maritime Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) and the Privateer men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams arrived early to help set up the Riesenberg Hall Gymnasium for the Opening Ceremonies, which they were a big part of and then stayed through the entire aquatics competition in the pool, lending their hands in a variety of ways.
The Opening Ceremonies started with a parade of teams around the Riesenberg Gymnasium led by Maritime mascot Privateer Pete. Pete led the way for nearly 70 Special Olympics athletes representing five different clubs in attendance – the Cross Island Y, the Mid-Island Y, the Huntington Y and Brookhaven from Long Island and the Hudson Valley Y from Westchester County. The Olympic Torch Run followed, as a member from each team got to be a part of the relay, with the volunteers following close behind, and ended with the singing of the National Anthem by Maritime senior Kyron Cooper.
The Special Olympic athletes recited their oath, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” and then after a quick word by Maritime Aquatics Director Jim Downey, welcoming and thanking those in attendance for participating, the games were declared open!
The Privateer student-athletes worked very closely to help the Special Olympics athletes prepare for their events during the meet and to get to and from the pool area to the podium area and the stands. But most importantly, those volunteers spent time talking to and mingling with the athletes and cheering them on, making them feel welcomed and admired.
At the end of the meet, there was an opportunity for the Maritime swim team to get in the pool and compete in unified relays with the Special Olympics athletes. It was a great way to end a fantastic day, bringing both the Maritime student-athletes and the Special Olympics Athletes even closer together.
The entire day further proved that the partnership between NCAA Division III and the Special Olympics is strong and very evident. This will be an annual event at Maritime with hopes of expanding to include more local teams.
“Special Olympics New York is very appreciative for all the hard work Maritime Athletics put into the Aquatics Competition,” said Director of Programming Tim Flynn. “The department went above and beyond and exceeded all expectations. I was extremely impressed with the volunteers and the level of support they provided. I am looking forward to this long lasting relationship and improving upon what has been built this year.”
The NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Special Olympics announced their partnership at the 2011 NCAA Convention. It officially launched on August 1, 2011. In the first year of the partnership, 39 NCAA Division III conferences and 101 institutions reported a Special Olympics activity. Of these reported activities approximately 6,800 student-athletes and 9,800 Special Olympics athletes took part and over $118,000 was raised for local Special Olympics chapters. During 2011-12, Special Olympics events were conducted at 22 NCAA Division III championships in 13 states, with over 2,000 student-athletes and 800 Special Olympics athletes participating.
The partnership is designed to improve the lives of Special Olympics athletes through their involvement with Division III student-athletes and to foster a mutual learning experience between Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes. The partnership aligns with the Division III attribute of citizenship in the division’s strategic-positioning platform. The federated structure of Special Olympics organizations around the country provides opportunities for Division III student-athletes in every state to participate in a variety of existing programs or create their own service opportunities.
About Division III: The college experience is a time of learning and growth – a chance to follow passions and develop potential. For student-athletes in Division III, all of this happens most importantly in the classroom and through earning an academic degree. The Division III experience provides for passionate participation in a competitive athletic environment, where student-athletes push themselves to excellence and build on their academic success with new challenges and life skills. And student-athletes are encouraged to pursue the full passions and find their potential through a comprehensive educational experience. Visit http://www.ncaa.org/divisioniii and http://www.ncaa.org/D3SpecialOlympics for more information.
About Special Olympics: Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly four million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 53,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at http://www.specialolympics.org.