Three Fun Things to do in Massachusetts this Weekend

Jingle through the Streets for Special Olympics

dscn0444-xlToo much pie last weekend? Looking for a way to trim the waistline while supporting a great cause? Put your holiday hat and running shoes on and hit the streets of Boston, Peabody or Hyannis this weekend to support Special Olympics Massachusetts. Run with a friend or make a team and raise funds to support a Special Olympics athlete for an entire year of athletic programming! We’ll supply the t-shirt, jingle bells and festive atmosphere, and you’ll be raising money for athletes with intellectual disabilities. With three locations to choose from, you can run right in your own backyard.

Want to explore the streets of Boston? Then the 12th annual Boston Jolly Jaunt, presented by the New Balance Foundation is the run for you. Saturday, December 3rd runners and walkers will don their favorite holiday gear, lace up their running shoes and take off from the Boston Common. You’ll jingle all the way as you make your way through this flat 5k road race in Boston’s Back Bay.

If running in Boston on Saturday is not your thing, check out one of our other two road races on Sunday, December 4th – Hyannis Jolly Jaunt or Peabody Holiday Torch Run. At the Hyannis Jolly Jaunt you’ll be sprinting from the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center through the streets of Hyannis on the professionally timed course.

What? You say the north shore is your stomping ground? Then hit the pavement at the Peabody Holiday Torch Run presented by our Law Enforcement Torch Run program – a year round fundraising and awareness program run by law enforcement officers from the around Massachusetts.

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Don’t forget to deck your halls with boughs of holly (put on your best festive gear) so you are entered to win one of the prizes for best costume! All courses are professionally timed and prizes will also be awarded to top male and female runners at each location.

Special Olympics Massachusetts provides year-round sports training, athletic competition and other health-related programming for athletes with intellectual disabilities throughout the state free of charge. There are Special Olympics events almost every day of the week and throughout the year. We can’t do it without your help. Raising $500 will support one athlete for one year of athletic training and competition. Any little bit helps. Sign up today to jingle through the streets!

“Thank you” will never be enough

Letter from a Special Olympics Massachusetts parent, Cara Schneider to Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) council member and Hampden County Coordinator, Jon Laporte about the impact LETR has had on her 11-year old son Ron Schneider.

Dear Law Enforcement Torch Run supporters,

My son, Ron has a therapeutic mentor that takes him out into the community for two hours a week to work on social skills and appropriate social interactions. Ron REALLY loved working with you and the other officers at Cop on Top, last December in Chicopee. What you, and the other participating officers, may not realize, is the positive impact you have on athletes that is truly life changing for them. Most kids (especially) with disabilities like Ron (Ron has Autism and PTSD) are easily scared by situations involving police and emergency personnel. All too often, these kids will resort to reflexes which include fight or flight. Flight being the most terrifying as the parent of a child that oft does this. My son has ZERO safety awareness in a stressful (to him) situation and fleeing into a parking lot or busy street is a very likely (albeit terrifying) result of his escalated anxiety. No matter how often we practice safety, stress and anxiety trump any pre-taught lessons and we, as caregivers are solely at the mercy of his mind to process that information… it’s often not what we hope for despite repeated trainings.

Back to his mentor… She was pulled over on the highway for a light on her vehicle that was out. Ron was in the back seat. She was terrified that the approaching officer would evoke a less than desirable action from Ron. The highway itself being the most scary scenario… Ron sat quietly while the state trooper came and went from her window. While waiting, she asked Ron if he was ok and if he understood why she was stopped.

His words have us, to this day, astounded and so grateful for all of the work that you and every officer does every day. The work that you do with LETR to support Special. Olympics is something that there are not enough thank yous for.

Ron’s response to his mentor: “The officer stopped you to keep you safe. Your light is out and you might not know and it might cause an accident for you. He’s helping you. Officers help all of us every day. They help me for Special Olympics and they help me know that if I am ever unsafe, they will help me. They helped me when all of them were at Walmart “On Top”. They are helpers. We shouldn’t ever be afraid or run from them. They’re the good guys.”

Jon, thank you for being one of the “good guys” And please pass this on to all the “good guys” that you work alongside.

Sincerely,

The mom of a little boy that has lots of reasons to be scared, but because of the actions of LETR officers, he can see that you ARE the helpers.

Thank you will never be enough…

More information on “Cop on Top” can be found at specialolympicsma.org/letr. Pittsfield: 12/3 & 12/4 and Chicopee: 12/4

Amazed & Humbled: A Mother’s Fundraising Story

By: Kate Dyer

Kate with her son & daughter.

Kate with her son and daughter.

In July, my 12 year old daughter Sariah and I decided to participate in Over the Edge for Special Olympics. Initially I was rather apprehensive about the event. Not because Sariah and I would be rappelling off the roof of a 22-story building in Boston. Although my husband and son were not exactly excited about the idea. But rather, because I have always been intimidated by fundraising.

Special Olympics has been important to me for most of my adult life. It offers so much to everyone involved. The Special Olympics athletes get to experience some independence and build their own confidence. They develop new friendships and become reacquainted with ones of old. And, most importantly, the experience gives them a sense of accomplishment, and safe place to feel a part of something much bigger than themselves. Coaches gain an appreciation for each of their athlete’s struggles, learn the importance of patience and build their own organizational skills by leading a team with athletes of many differing abilities. Unified Partners develop more physical fitness, feel the joy of watching athletes experience success, and become involved in an important part of their community. Parents of children involved in Special Olympics suddenly have a full network of likeminded and challenged families within a compassionate and dedicated organization that fits their child’s needs. And the unimaginable joy that comes with watching their child celebrate with their teammates after scoring a goal or basket.

In order for all of this to happen it is important for families to be involved in the fundraising process. Sariah and I used email and Facebook to reach out to family and friends. We sold candy door-to-door and at various events. We hosted a yard sale and were able to get many items donated. And Sariah donated half of her babysitting earnings to raise funds to go Over the Edge. I was amazed and humbled by all the support we received. It was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be and I found when reaching out to friends and family, they were more than willing to support a cause that was so important to our family.

Fundraising for Special Olympics Over the Edge 2016

Kate & Sariah at the 2016 Over the Edge fundraising event

Once we finished collecting the donations, we then had to prepare for the actual Over the Edge experience. We bought matching outfits and decorated our shirts with the names of our athletes and unified partners on the back.

We had gorgeous weather on the day of the event! After checking in we headed up to the roof to prepare for the experience. After putting on the harness, we went through two practice sessions in a small secured area. But now it was time for the real thing. Stepping off the hotel roof edge was both exhilarating and terrifying. The view of Boston while rappelling down the side of the hotel was breathtaking. We were able to see Boston from a vantage that few people get to experience. In addition to the altitude-induced adrenaline was the overwhelming support we received by the friends and family members that came to support us. They stood at the bottom, held signs and cheered for us as we rappelled down the hotel.

Going Over the Edge with Sariah was an amazing mother/daughter moment that I will treasure forever. I was so proud of her. Although nervous, she persevered and the two of us repelled side-by-side. And to add to the experience, Sariah was very excited to learn that she now holds the record for youngest participant to go Over the Edge.

Without fundraising, Special Olympics would not be as successful as it is and we would not have the memorable experiences that we do each season. Going Over the Edge for Special Olympics was an opportunity to fundraise for an organization that our family is passionate about and have an experience of a lifetime.

It will change your life forever

Athlete Spotlight: Camille Howecamille

Hello, my name is Camille, and I’m 18 years old. I am an athlete in Special Olympics. Every year I participate in different sports that Special Olympics offers. During the fall, I play Unified soccer. This was actually the very first sport I have played for Special Olympics. I first played soccer when I was only 8 years old. I saw my two older brothers playing and I wanted to join the fun as well. This is what started my love for Special Olympics, and I am super thankful for that. I still do soccer every fall, and it is just as fun now as it was back then.

During the winter, I do traditional ten pin bowling. This is actually one of my favorite things to do in the winter, since I’m not big on playing in the snow. I don’t do much during the season. Bowling really adds the fun into the winter. Every week starting in December, we go to the bowling alley to practice our bowling skills and it’s so fun! I look forward to practicing every week. What more could I ask for?

My absolute favorite event however, is track and field during the spring. I’m a big fan of running, so the track events are definitely something that I love to look forward to. It’s fun to race against other athletes, even if I don’t run the quickest. The other thing I do in the field is the standing long jump. I also enjoy doing this event as well. Even though I’m not the best at jumping. I don’t focus on that. I focus on having fun in it because that is all that matters.

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Camille at the 2015 State Soccer Cup

Special Olympics has given me a lot of new friends that I wouldn’t have met anywhere else in the world. I have also gained more confidence in my abilities through the sports that I do. It’s given me a bigger purpose in life, rather than just holed up in my room doing nothing. I would tell newcomers in Special Olympics that they will gain more confidence in themselves and that they will make many new pals through the sports. Trust me, it will change your life forever. As this is my 10th year doing Special Olympics, I can say proudly that it has changed mine.

Unified Champion School: Grafton High

By Aubrey Pilotte
aubreyUnified Champion Schools logo red blackI was introduced to Unified Champion Schools the moment I entered Grafton High School. I am a senior now at Grafton and I have seen the full effects of Unified Champion Schools in my school community.

Grafton High School implemented all three components of the program – unified sports, youth leadership, and whole school engagement. Through my experience, I have participated in Unified Bocce, Unified Basketball, and Unified Track and Field. Grafton High School also offers Unified Flag Football. Freshman year I had played sports other than unified and my transition the following year to all unified sport truly changed myself and the people around me. I witnessed first-hand how accepting, motivational, and passionate Unified Sports were. I saw our teams and our fans grow in size. Unified Sports is much more than just another sport or after school activity at Grafton.

As for youth leadership at Grafton, opportunities are just as plentiful. My school offers Best Buddies where attendance has now reached over 200 students (40% of the student body)! We also have MASC Student Council that not only coordinates with SOMA, but has Special Olympics Chair on the Executive Board. I held this chair position this past year. My leadership involvement here included coordinating the teams for the Unified Sports, and organizing awareness and community events for Special Olympics. Grafton High School is also represented on the State Youth Activation Council, otherwise known as the YAC. High School students from all over the state are selected via an application process, and meet once a month. These students cultivate and implement ideas to activate youth at other schools to share with students and other leadership in the schools.

The final component, whole school engagement, is, in my mind, the most impactful aspect of the program at my school. For example, we participate in the MASC Polar Plunge every year. At the regional SOMA events as well as our own unified events, the fans in the stands attendance from Grafton is enormous. Posters are made and the cheers are so rewarding for all the athletes. Annually, Grafton holds an R-Word Assembly. The entire student and staff body attends this assembly in the gym. Following the assembly, the school cheers from the
stands while the unified basketball team has a mini game in the gymnasium. Seeing students and staff who do not participate in unified sports or youth leadership cheer from the top of their lungs for these athletes brings me pure joy.

This inclusive community would not be made possible without Unified Champion Schools. Unified Champion Schools is more than just three components at Grafton High School.

Throughout my three years I have seen a significant change in my school community. Special Education students have friends from all grades who they meet up with in the halls and out of school to hang out. As a whole, my school has become unbelievably inclusive and the r-word is not thrown around. Every one of all intellectual abilities gets along without the exclusion and judgement I had seen my freshman year. Unified Champion Schools was absolutely the best program Grafton High School could have implemented. It gave my school the necessary tools for inclusion. Unified Champion Schools has changed the special education students daily lives and the entire community of my school.

Doreen Britton: Heart & Passion

By Lindsay Gomes

DoreenAs an active volunteer with over a decade’s experience, Doreen Britton will be joining the Special Olympics Massachusetts Falmouth Road Race team. This year Doreen’s fundraising goal is set at $1,000. She hopes to achieve this goal by reaching out to friends and family. Special Olympics Massachusets’ recently set up an interview with her to learn more about her history with the Falmouth Road Race and Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) – Tell me a little about your history with Special Olympics – how did you first get involved? Have you volunteered at any Special Olympics Events?

Doreen Britton (D.B.) – I first began with Special Olympics about 12 years ago working in the Hyannis office with Kevin Turner. He and I organized and ran the first Jolly Jaunt in Hyannis with, I think, 63 runners. Since then I coached bowling and track for 3 years. Over the years, I have volunteered at many events but my favorite is the track and field competition at Barnstable high school.
SOMA – Would you consider yourself to be a runner? What other races have you participated in?

D.B. – I began running as part of a relay team when I attended Barnstable high school. I have done several Triathlons and numerous 5ks over the years. This will be my 3rd time running Falmouth. I have run for local causes. Yes, I consider myself a runner.

SOMA – Do you plan on participating in any other races for the Special Olympics in the future?

D.B. – Absolutely! I run the jolly jaunt every year!

SOMA – Why would you like to continue running and supporting the Special Olympics? What does this organization mean to you?

D.B. – As a special education teacher, the Special Olympics provides opportunities for people with disabilities to be successful in athletic ventures. It is so important for these athletes to experience that feeling and to be part of a team.

SOMA – Do you believe more people should become more involved with the Special Olympics?

D.B. – Yes. People need to see and experience not only the struggles of our athletes but the heart and passion they have to compete. The willingness to try things outside their comfort zone with the support of Special Olympics volunteers shows what these athletes are made of. More people need to understand how they want to compete and be like their non-disabled peers.

Support Doreen Today! 

Nicole Nunes: Running for a Cause

RUNNING-PICWhen asked why she chose to represent Special Olympics Massachusetts in the 2016 Falmouth Road Race, Nicole Nunes simply answered, “It is a foundation near and dear to my heart”.

Nicole first became involved with Special Olympics when she was an undergrad at the University of Rhode Island. She worked with Special Olympics Rhode Island assisting with Swimming and Unified Basketball. While studying, she took adapted physical education courses that introduced her to a range of extra-curricular activities and volunteer opportunities. She also taught at a school nearby where she would bring the kids to a bowling alley.

Today, Nicole is an adapted physical education teacher in the Norton Public Schools system. Nicole was instrumental in starting the adapted physical education program in Norton. For the past 8 years, she has taken students to the Attleboro School Day Games and recently had two students participate at Special Olympics Massachusetts Summer Games in Track and Field.

“The kids who are athletes definitely wholeheartedly appreciate the effort put into it (Special Olympics) and have a blast”, said Nicole as she reflected on her personal experiences.

Nicole claims that she is not a runner but she is physically active. She has also participated in two half marathons. After having her two daughters, ages four and two, Nicole’s running came to a halt making the Falmouth Road Race the perfect opportunity to hop back into running.

This race will also be Nicole’s first time running for a cause and her first time running the Falmouth Road Race. Nicole has a fundraising goal of $1,500. She plans on achieving this goal through donations from family, friends, students, and by writing letters to local businesses.

Nicole would love to look into the possibilities of running for Special Olympics Massachusetts in the future. Helping students and athletes with disabilities is one of her goals and she hopes to volunteer more in the upcoming years.

“I know a lot of kids involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts and I would do anything I can to give back to them.”

Support Nicole Today