Friday, December 7, 2012


Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s (SOPA) Philadelphia program offered free physical examinations to 26 special education students at John Wister Elementary School on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 as part of a Mini-MedFest event. Medical personnel from Geniuses, Albert Einstein, Crozer, Drexel University, and Christiana Hospitals and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine provided full screening services including eye exams, dental exams, and referrals for issues requiring additional medical attention.

The goals associated with MedFest are to offer free sports physicals and other health screening services to people with intellectual disabilities; recruit new athletes to Special Olympics; foster new partnerships between Special Olympics and the community; and provide health care providers with training and specialized experience in the examination and assessment of people with intellectual disabilities. In many cases, life-threatening conditions have been found and subsequently treated thanks to MedFest.

John Wister Elementary School currently participates in Project UNIFY®, an education-based project that uses the sports and education programs of Special Olympics to activate young people across the U.S in order to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change – fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

“Project UNIFY® provide platforms for all youth to understand and value their peers with intellectual disabilities and empower and activate youth to create opportunities for sport, friendship and advocacy.” said Matt Aaron, SOPA President and CEO. “It was a pleasure to work with District officials and Principal Smith and her staff at John Wister Elementary School to conduct our first MedFest as a key part of our growing partnerships with the School District of Philadelphia.”

Plans are underway to hold a larger-scale MedFest on January 17, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in hopes of providing free medical examinations to more than 300 Special Olympics athletes and partners. For more information, please contact Nadirah D. McCauley, Outreach Director – Philadelphia at 215-671-5112 or

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Special Olympics PA – Lebanon County 10 Pin Challenge

On Sunday, November 18, 2012, Lebanon County Special Olympics held their annual 10 Pin Challenge fundraiser at Palmyra Bowling Center. The event consisted of three hours of bowling, food, dancing, music, games, and door prizes.  There were 20 teams of six bowlers that participated.  Several friends, families, co-workers, and community school groups came together to bowl for Special Olympics.

A representative for Member’s 1st Federal Credit Union was also on hand to present a check for $1,000 towards the event which netted over $3000 for Special Olympics.

The fundraiser was another event in a busy November for the local Special Olympics program. Coming up Lebanon County Special Olympics will participate in the Myerstown Holiday Parade on November 24th, and hold a joint event at the end of the month with Lebanon Valley College at BounceU in Palmyra.


On Saturday, November 17, 2012, Paramount Sports Complex hosted a Zumba class to help raise funds for Lebanon County Special Olympics’ gymnastics team. Lebanon County Special Olympics has been participating in the sport of gymnastics for four years. The gymnastics team, which consists of seven boys and seven girls, is currently training Thursday and Friday evenings at Paramount Sports Complex, crafting their skills in the sport and preparing for upcoming competitions.

Individuals could participate in the extended Zumba class for a $5 donation to Special Olympics. Those who participated could also purchase raffle tickets for various items and a lucky few went home with door prizes as well. Organized by their coach Natalie Stramowski, the event raised $605 for new gymnastic uniforms. 

Lebanon County manager Joan Sechrist was on hand for the event. “These funds are crucial to help support the development of our athletes,” says Sechrist. “It was a great turnout, and we are so happy to have the support of Paramount Sports Complex.” Paramount Sports Complex is already a big supporter of Special Olympics, as they continue to donate facility space for training. The Zumba event further illustrated their commitment to Special Olympics and to the community.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Special Olympics PA - Lycoming County’s LDR/LDW Group Win Big at 2nd Annual Round the Hills Run

(Pictured from left to right): Lycoming County LDR/LDW Coach Lester Loner; Brandon Loner, Unified Partner; Special Olympics PA athletes Tony Fischetti, Erin Erdman, Sonia Kinney and Kelly Horn; and Lycoming County LDR/LDW Assistant Coach Sarah Wirth.

On October 13, 2012, Special Olympics PA – Lycoming County’s LDR/LDW group participated in the Second Annual Round the Hills 2.5K/5K Run-Walk held at Williamsport Area High School in Williamsport, PA. Everyone who participated did extremely well and had a great time. The race results are as follows:

Lycoming County LDR/LDW Coach Lester Loner received 1st place in the 50-59 age group; Brandon Loner (unified partner) 5th place in the 5K age group 12-15; Tony Fischetti (athlete) 1st place in the 2.5K age group 20-29; Erin Erdman (athlete) 1st place in the 2.5K age group 30-39; Sonia Kinney (athlete) 2nd place in the 2.5K age group 30-39; Kelly Horn (athlete) 3rd place in the 5K age group 30-39; and Sarah Wirth (assistant coach) 5th place in the 5K age group 16-19.

Ms. Wirth is the number one female runner on the Williamsport Area High School Cross Country Team. She won the female division last year and wanted to help the LDR/LDW group this year. Ms. Wirth ran the race with athlete Kelly Horn and helped her complete the event two minutes faster than last year.

A special thank you is extended to Ms. With and congratulations to all the athletes. Great Job!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Special Olympics’ Athletes Celebrate Founder’s Legacy

Ten Armstrong County Special Olympics athletes celebrated Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day during a picnic at Crooked Creek Park Saturday, September 22. Pictured in front (L-R) are Sheena Black, Middle row: (L-R) Steve Schrecengost and Tim Rudnik, and Back Row: (L-R) Jake Minser, Greg McGann, John Sellner, Joe Becker, Nicole Ramer and Sue Yoders

In Armstrong County, athletes belonging to the Special Olympics PA - Armstrong/Indiana program gathered at Crooked Creek Park in Ford City to honor Eunice Kennedy Shriver on Saturday, September 22, 2012.  The athletes celebrated the founder of Special Olympics Int. and unified sports with a cupcake picnic, a walk around the park and a ball toss.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Special Olympics Receives $12 million to Expand Health Services

Special Olympics Pennsylvania - York County athlete Loretta Claiborne pictured with Former President William J. Clinton and Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics Tim Shriver at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative.

On September 23, 2012, Former President William J. Clinton announced that businessman and philanthropist Tom Golisano will provide $12 million to expand Special Olympics’ health-related services to people with intellectual disabilities - one of the largest and most medically underserved disability groups in the world – which will allow for the launch of a new Healthy Communities initiative. The commitment was made at the opening of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting involving four Special Olympics athletes including PA athlete Loretta Claiborne.

This is the largest single gift Special Olympics has ever received from an individual and it is the first gift made by Golisano that will have international impact. The gift will be given over four years.
Millions with intellectual disabilities lack access to quality health care and experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death in every country around the world.

Healthy Communities’ goal is to achieve improved health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all are receiving health services and are able to reach their full potential. It will expand services to more athletes, increase partnerships with local organizations, expand the use of technology, and promote awareness of the health difficulties facing people with intellectual disabilities.  

Healthier Communities are Stronger Communities

by Loretta Claiborne

I remember when I was asked first asked about Healthy Athletes, many years ago. I had some reservations. I was a naysayer. Dr. Ron Vederman was trying to start it, and he said to me, "What do you think about Healthy Athletes?" I said, "I think we should stick to sports. Why do we want to get into the private lives of people's health?" Then I thought, "Dr. Vederman, you know what? I understand." If your feet don't feel well, you can't run well. But also you can't participate in the community with a job. If your teeth hurt, you don't eat well, and if you don't eat well, you can't take care of your body. If you can't see well, you can't bowl well. In the community, if you don't see well, you can't see what's going on. I don't read well, so I use my eyes and ears to learn and think about what's happening. Healthy Athletes is one of the best programs to come around for people with intellectual disabilities. With Healthy Communities, I see better lives and people living longer. And when you have a healthier community, you have a stronger community. Healthy Communities will really open the eyes of the community about people with intellectual disabilities.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lebanon Valley College and Special Olympics PA – Lebanon County to Clean Up Park in Honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver

September 22, 2012 will mark the third annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day celebrated around the world, bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities in sport and other unifying activities to honor the inspiration, impact and indomitable spirit of Special Olympics’ founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. On this day Lebanon Valley College students and faculty will team up with Special Olympics athletes from Lebanon County to clean up Coleman Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Annville, PA.

Their work at the park will include painting fences, making recycling barrels, clearing trails and removing fallen tree limbs. During lunch, the participants will play wiffle ball in honor of EKS Day and in response to the global call challenging everyone to “Play Unified to Live Unified” as part of Mrs. Shriver’s belief that people forget about their differences and recognize their mutual humanity on the playing field.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Parx Casino Donates $3,000 to Special Olympics PA - Bucks County Program

Special Olympics PA – Bucks County recently received a check in the amount of $3,000 from Parx Casino that pledged $50 for every double play and $500 for every triple play by The Trenton Thunder, a minor league baseball team, for the entire season.  The check was presented on Thursday, August 30th prior to the final regular game of the season. The Thunder clinched first place and the playoffs begin in Trenton on Friday, September 7th.  Pictured above from right to left: Carrie Nork Minelli, Parx Casino Director of Public Relations; Neil Reilly, Bucks County athlete; Boomer, Thunder mascot; and Eileen Reilly, Bucks County volunteer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

SOPA Athlete Heads To Global Swim Meet in Puerto Rico

Good luck to Stephanie Walther, a Bucks County athlete headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Global Swimming Invitational! She is among 300 Special Olympics athletes that will compete in the swim meet, hosted by Special Olympics Latin America, September 10-17.

Stephanie, 29 years old, has been involved in Special Olympics since 1989. She has competed as a powerlifter at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland and the first-ever Special Olympics National Games in Ames, Iowa in 2006. The sports that she currently participates in are bowling, basketball, bocce, powerlifting, swimming, and tennis. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Huntingdon Rejoins the SOPA Family

Huntingdon County is back!

Following a several year absence, the Huntingdon County program is now back and ready to serve Special Olympics athletes. Bocce will be the program’s primary sport as they begin their reintroduction into the community and gear up for practice on August 6th with two dozen athletes and six trained coaches. Donations and/or discounted items from the Sherry J. Leonard Memorial, Your Building Center of Huntingdon, and Shapiro Flooring of Mount Union have made the purchase of two bocce courts possible. And with all of the recent buzz and excitement, the program is sure to expand exponentially.

Getting the program back onto its feet took the dedication of an amazing management team made up of individuals from three local programs, Blair, Huntingdon, and Mifflin counties, under the leadership of Co-Managers Cory Sisto and Michele DeVecchis. Jim Wenner, a SOPA board member, Sheetz, Inc. executive and Huntingdon County resident, has also been pivotal in reinitiating the program by encouraging four of his Sheetz employees to join the management team. Additionally, the program’s reestablishment has been a prime focus for Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) President and CEO Matt Aaron and SOPA Sr. Field Director (Central) Rich Lewis.

Huntingdon County has been busy hosting demonstrations and received the support of Sheetz to provide food for their participants. They have also organized their own sports programs at the local level. As the program makes its comeback, fundraising is of course at the forefront of their efforts.

The SOPA community is happy to have this part of its family back, and they are off to a great start! Huntingdon County is looking for athletes, coaches, and volunteers, so please get involved if you live in the Huntingdon County area. To learn more about volunteer opportunities or ways to give, email .


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009)

Special Olympics started out as one woman’s discontent.  It has now been turned into a worldwide effort dedicated to giving those with intellectual disabilities a place to play and compete.  In the 1960’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver became frustrated when she realized the lack of opportunities and unfair treatment being cast upon intellectually challenged children and adults.  She not only wanted them to feel a part of the community, but to give them a place where they could focus on what they did well.  The first glimpse of what Special Olympics would become was in her backyard in 1962. Shriver held a summer camp giving kids the chance to feel free and have fun.  At camp they swam played sports and interacted with not only other campers but Shriver’s children as well. Tim Shriver says, "I was never introduced to disability or intellectual disability as a cause but more as an activity.  Never as a burden, but rather as a joy.  Our introduction to people with special needs was to swim or to play kickball or to go horseback riding. Part of her genius [has] always been to create things that are appealing, create opportunities that are joyful that people want to join, that make things fun." Not only were the children’s lives changed but those of the Shriver’s as well.
           Seeing the impact and growth over the short summer weeks, Shriver helped to create the Special Olympics Summer Games.  In 1968, the first official Special Olympics were held in Chicago.  On July 20, Soldier Field was filled with 1,000 athletes from over 26 states. They competed in three events, swimming, track and field, and floor hockey. "The Chicago Special Olympics prove a very fundamental fact," Eunice said. "That exceptional children - children with mental retardation - can be exceptional athletes, the fact that through sports they can realize their potential for growth."
        The growth in Special Olympics today is tremendous.  Over 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries come to compete in events year round.  Shiver set out to rectify injustice, and accomplished so much on her journey.  Her lists of awards are endless along with the programs, foundations, and event she pioneered.  She was a woman with a big heart, ambition, and the passion to help those with disabilities.
         On September 22, 2012 take a minute to remember this amazing woman and commemorate the third annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day.   In celebration of EKS Day, Special Olympics encourages each community, from every corner of the world, to engage in sports activities focused on inclusion.  Embrace the spirit of Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day and “Play Unified to Live Unified.” Visit to learn about the life and impact of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. For more information on EKS Day, visit

Works Cited
"Eunice Kennedy Shriver: One Woman's Vision." Eunice Kennedy Shriver: One Woman's Vision. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2012. .
"Special Olympics." Special Olympics. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2012. .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spread the Word to End the Word

Spread the Word to End the Word™ is a Special Olympics campaign to eliminate use of the words "retard" and "retarded." Its goals are to promote the contributions made by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to educate the public about the damaging effects of the "R-word."

The NBA has a longstanding partnership with Special Olympics, and this year, members of the Philadelphia 76ers, including forward Elton Brand and point guard Jrue Holiday, participated in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. Jrue Holiday teamed up with Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete Katie Moore to record a PSA to promote the campaign and encourage everyone to pledge their support.

National Awareness Day for the campaign was on March 7, but the mission of spreading the word to end the word is still ongoing. How can you be a part of it? Make a pledge today to eliminate the use of the R-word at

Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete Katie More
with Elton Brand (top) and Jrue Holiday