By Ellie Schuckman
This past summer, for over 2,500 athletes, the College was home to the 2015 New Jersey Special Olympics Summer Games.
With the opening ceremony on Friday, June 12, the games lasted the weekend, concluding on Sunday, June 14. Participants ranged from age two to 65 and competed in different sports such as aquatics, baseball, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, tennis and track and field.
The non-profit event saw over 2,000 volunteers, according to Special Olympics of NJ President and CEO Heather Andersen, in an nj.com article from Saturday, June 13.
“The athletes are experiencing all of the good outcomes that come from participating in sports, such as being a part of a team, making new friends, and setting goals for themselves,” Andersen said in the same article. “They’re challenging themselves to do better, and they’re showing us that it’s not about their disability, but their ability. The games empower them and build their confidence, which spills into the rest of their lives.”
The athletes not only competed at the College, but some also had the opportunity to live in the dorms for the weekend while enjoying activities set up in the Olympic Village.
“(These are) athletes who in their lives and in their competitions make it a point to charge forward and through every obstacle they face,” Jack Ford, the announcer at the games, said in an nj.com article from Friday, June 12.
For over 20 years, the College has hosted the summer games, which seek to “provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community,” as stated on the Special Olympics NJ website.
Led by a police honor guard, the athletes marched into Lions’ Stadium for the opening ceremony wearing color-coded T-shirts as a representation of their home-regions across the Garden State. Following their entry, the night was capped with the famous lighting of the Special Olympics of New Jersey cauldron.
The games themselves kicked off Saturday morning, while the entire event was free of charge.