Thursday, June 20, 2013

SOPA and Philadelphia School District Partner for Unified Sports

Unified Soccer Championship Filmed by PSTV, the Public Educational Channel for the School District of Philadelphia

On Friday, May 31, 2013, Special Olympics Pennsylvania's Philadelphia program partnered with the School District of Philadelphia for an inaugural Unified Soccer Championship held at Frankford Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia. Opening Ceremonies were hosted by Veteran Philadelphia Sports Broadcaster Don Tollefson.

The Championship featured teams from 10 Philadelphia high schools from across the city including: Abraham Lincoln, Edward Bok, Frankford, George Washington, High School of the Future, Northeast, Samuel Fels, Thomas Edison, Boy's Latin and University City High School. Approximately 100 athletes culminated months of preparation for these Unified Games and displayed the "best of the best" during the competition.

The United States Department of Education (DOE) released new guidance to schools and school systems throughout the nation that receive federal aid about the requirements of providing quality sports opportunities for students with disabilities on January 25, 2013. Special Olympics Unified Sports® is an inclusive sports program that puts athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. This first ever rostered Unified Soccer elective course, developed in partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Special Olympics Pennsylvania, includes curriculum with youth leadership components, anti-bullying elements and soccer training and competition.  The course provides greater access to sports for all students, with and without disabilities. 

Attending the event were special guests from Special Olympics International; Pennsylvania elected and appointed officials; City Council members; dignitaries including Dr. William R. Hite Jr., Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia and Pedro A. Ramos, Esq., Chairman of the School Reform Commission; and administrators and staff from both the Philadelphia School District and Special Olympics Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dan Kolb from Chester County Wins Sheetz Family Award of Excellence

Athlete Dan Kolb from Chester County is presented the Sheetz Award during the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games closing ceremony by Ashley Sheetz. Photo: Abby Drey-Centre Daily Times

The Sheetz Family Award of Excellence recognizes the athlete whose determination and effort can only be understood by the power of the human spirit to overcome obstacles and inspire greatness. The award distinguishes the athlete who may not win, but whose courage, sportsmanship, effort and determination is award winning.
Our 2013 winner is Dan Kolb from Chester County, a 52 year old athlete who has been participating in Special Olympics since its beginning.  He is helpful, kind, considerate, serves as a mentor, and is an outstanding member of his program’s tennis team. 
He plans for the Summer Games throughout the year by not only preparing to play physically, but also by preparing to help other athletes in his sport by purchasing or acquiring rackets and other items for equipment maintenance and improvement.
When his local program arrives at Penn State, Dan steps up and kicks things into high gear.   This “Tennis Pro” helps his fellow teammates and competitors by offering his services and tips for improving their game.  He encourages every player to do their very best and encourages the youngest members of the sport.  Dan also is on the “look out” for players who need upgrades in equipment and will provide new or used rackets to those who need upgrades.  He works at a racket club and when members get new equipment, he encourages them to donate to our sport. 
Anxious to contribute to the sport and help improve the Special Olympics experience for his fellow athletes, Dan currently serves as an athlete on the sports management team, The Athlete Input Council, and was most recently selected to serve as a regional representative for athletes on the state level. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cambria County Basket Party Raises Nearly $10,000

Special Olympics PA – Cambria County’s recent Basket Party was a huge success, raising nearly $10,000 this year.   The Program began its event planning by deciding upon a menu for the basket party.  Through the years it has served a variety of sandwiches such as barbeque beef, Sloppy Joes, hot dogs, and a selection of salads and desserts.  The salads and desserts are donated by the coaches and parents. 
The committee splits up a list of businesses in the community to contact for donations.  Each committee person is responsible for contacting the businesses on their list at least 30 to 45 days prior to the event to help determine the number of large prizes it will have.
Cambria County’s committee consists of 10 to 12 coaches and parents.  They start making baskets several months prior to the main event with a goal of creating 200 baskets and soliciting several large prizes (all of which are donated by the community), wreaths containing gift cards from local businesses, door prizes, and a money and lottery tree. 
Lists are created at different sporting events for parents and coaches to volunteer to make a basket or prepare a salad or desert for the event.  The Cambria Program also enlists the help of its parents and coaches in setting up the hall and transporting the baskets the day of the event.  Their athletes assist the in delivering the baskets to the winners, while a volunteer verifies the winning ticket.
Cambria County would be happy to assist any county interested in holding a basket party to get started.  It is a lot of work, but making nearly $10,000 in one afternoon is the reward. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Volunteer of the Month - June 2013

Congratulations are extended to John Bressler from our Columbia/Montour Counties program who received Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Volunteer of the Month Award this month (June 2013). The award is presented to an individual who has exhibited exceptional commitment to Special Olympics, demonstrated appreciable time and effort, and has made an outstanding contribution to his/her program.

John is currently the head tennis and bocce coach. He has been a Head of Delegation (HOD), head coach, assistant coach, and/or volunteer at most local, sectional, and state events for the past ten years. He not only coaches tennis and bocce, but also can be seen at soccer, bowling, floor hockey, basketball skills, aquatics and athletics. John also takes responsibility for making sure that all of the training sites have the appropriate equipment. He takes care of the equipment and supervises the setting up and tearing down of the training sites for all of the sports. At each site, he can be found taking charge of the paperwork that includes attendance and score/time sheets. His truck has become home to sports equipment and all of the necessary sports paperwork. John’s job often requires him to put in overtime and work twelve-hour shifts. On the days when there are evening training sessions, he works 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. so that he can attend the sessions which often fall on consecutive days.

John has been treasurer for close to ten years. During that time, he has organized the finances and guided the management team towards being continually accountable for their spending and the requesting of funds. During fundraising events, he has the necessary funds ready for making change and requires at least one other management team member or volunteer to be present when tallying up the profits. At meetings, if anyone has a question about a bill or deposit, John knows exactly how much and when it was paid. He keeps a monthly record of what is spent and deposited and handles all of the equipment for the county.

John has been on the Bocce Bash committee since its inception nine years ago. At committee meetings, he is a positive influence for the Bloomsburg University students, often providing financial input and information from the previous invitational so that the students know their budget goals. Making sure he is available to move the bocce courts, rugs and other necessary equipment is a priority for John the week of Bocce Bash. He directs the students for moving the equipment and setting the courts up each year for the tournament.

John is a bocce clinician and official for the state. This has required him to travel to other areas and train both coaches and officials. Because of these roles, there are times when he also sets up tournament sites for sectional and state events. He would then help coordinate and run the venue if needed. Vacation days for John are often determined by when Special Olympics competitions are scheduled. He will schedule days off in advance to ensure that he is not working for the competition, whether it is local, sectional, state or an invitational.

Columbia Montour continually receives high marks on its treasurer reports and financial statements. John has recruited family members to help with not only training events, but also fundraising opportunities and athlete recruitment. He does not hesitate to ask parents and spectators to help if timers or scorekeepers are needed for training.