Celtics CommUNITY Crew Brings Volunteers Together

Celtics crew-01

On Tuesday, July 29th, The Boston Celtics CommUNITY Crew took a trip to the Cardinal Cushing Centers in Hanover, MA to renovate their rec center. In what has become an annual summer event, the Celtics Community Relations Department and volunteers from partner TDBank choose a local non-profit to support. In 2015, the Community Crew chose to support Special Olympics Massachusetts. Celtics Community Relations Coordinator, Kelsey Keena stated “Both TDBank and the Boston Celtics have a strong relationship [with] and support for Special Olympics Massachusetts, and on their behalf we chose to partner with Cardinal Cushing to support both the athletes that are on campus and in the general population by helping to revive their rec center.” The rec center is on the campus of the Cushing Centers and functions as an indoor gathering space for resident and visiting groups alike.

In addition to the Celtics and TDBank, volunteers from VOYA, Special Olympics Massachusetts and the greater community joined in the effort. Tuesday was phase one of the renovation and included removing old furnishings, adding two new coats of paint to the walls and hand painting signs that will be applied to the walls later in the project. Once the paint dries, the carpet will be replaced and brand new high resolution graphics will be applied to the walls. A theme of sports and community will run throughout the room. A media center including a new television, video games and computer stations will be installed. Because of the sensory sensitivity of some of the residents, a sensory corner will be set up to provide time away with toys and games that will support their needs. The focal point of the room will no doubt be the basketball hoop accompanied by a high definition image that mimics the view from the free throw line at TDGarden – you will feel like you are there taking a free throw with all of Boston cheering you on!

Special Olympics Massachusetts has enjoyed a long relationship with the Cushing centers and Director of Recreation and Community programs, Tom McElman. In addition to his role with Cushing Centers, Tom manages the local Special Olympics program throughout the year. This renovated space will continue to promote sports as a positive influence on the lives of people with all abilities.

When asked to describe why sports is an important part of community, Ms. Keena drew direct comparisons to the volunteer event: “Just like we did today, with teamwork anything is possible.” Teamwork is central to sports and Special Olympics is proud and grateful to have such strong partners at the Boston Celtics, TDBank, VOYA and the Cushing Centers who agree.

Reflecting on the progress made on Tuesday, Ms. Keena said “It’s amazing how in one day, when people come together, how much can be transformed. This is just phase one of the project. With a little bit of effort and a little bit of help, you can do anything. With this project, I think that message is really going to shine through.”
Please click on the images below to see all of the photos from the Cushing Centers event.

Celtics 3 images-02-02

 

Golfer Tyler Lagasse to play Quicken Loans Pro-Am

Tyler L-01

SOMA Golfer, Tyler Lagasse is teeing off at the Quicken Loans Pro-Am today. The event takes place at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, VA and is presented by Perfect Sense Digital. This looks to be a great day of golf and a way to showcase Special Olympics athletes in a truly public setting. The Quicken Loans PGA event is held in conjunction with Tiger Woods’ foundation and always has a full line-up of top talent from around the world.

In addition to the Pro-Am, athletes will take part in special events including a welcome picnic reception, a movie night out, another round of golf at Creighton Farms and a tour of national monuments in Washington DC. In addition to all the golf, sightseeing and camaraderie, Perfect Sense Digital will be hosting a career day for participants to learn about opportunities within their company.

Congratulations to Tyler and best of luck on your round. We cannot wait to hear all about it!

A little about Tyler:

  • Age: 28
  • Total Years with Special Olympics: 12 years
  • Total Years Playing Golf: 18 years

Tyler Lagasse has been competing in Special Olympics since 2003. He started out competing in basketball and track & field. He then began competing in golf and alpine skiing. Golf is his favorite sport. He has won the gold medal in the MA state August games for the past nine consecutive years. He won a silver medal at the National Games in Nebraska in 2010 and won another silver medal at the National Games in New Jersey in 2014. He received an Associate’s Degree from Middlesex Community College in 2014 and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He has just co-authored a book with his mother; Deborah Lagasse titled What Do You Say? Autism with Character.

Special Olympics World Games 2015 Videos

It has been an amazing first few days for the Massachusetts contingent and everyone at World Games in Los Angeles. Here is a collection of videos featuring Massachusetts athletes and more…

Amanda Church and Brandon Wood:

Jenny Harrington:

USA gets introduced at Opening Ceremonies:

Youth from the #SOGenuIn conference recite their impressive, powerful “Unifesto”

Law Enforcement Spotlight: Chief Tim Garner

Torch run header for Blog-01

By: Theresa Gaffney

When Coca-Cola announced its contest to be a Coke Representative at the Special Olympics World Games this year, Cheshire Police Chief Tim Garner knew that he wanted to participate.  The contest required a written essay; winners would be chosen based off of their commitment to community involvement and to Special Olympics, as well as their ability to inspire others in their community to become involved.  And as those who are close to him know, Chief Garner more than exceeds these qualifications.

The Special Olympics World Games will take place from July 25-August 2 in Los Angeles, California.  Garner knows few details about his duty as representative—he does know that one duty will be to act as a “fan in the stands,” supporting the athletes as they compete and participate in other events over the course of the opening weekend.

According to the Coca-Cola website, “fans in the stands” will also volunteer to support venue operations throughout the event.  The Coca-Cola Company has contributed to Special Olympics since the organization was founded in 1968.

Unlike many volunteers who are so passionate about Special Olympics, Garner didn’t personally know any athletes before he began volunteering; “I just love working for the kids,” he says.

“They are our future, and it gives me great pride to be able to do things for them no matter what.”

Garner’s first interactions with Special Olympics were back in the 80s, “when the Winter Games were held in the Berkshires,” he notes.  Garner assisted in the speed skating competitions at Williams College.  He says that he began volunteering because his father was so passionate about it.

“My father was a huge supporter and volunteer of the games,” says Garner “and he inspired me to become involved, along with my wife, as well as other family members.  We continued to volunteer for years, even after his passing.”

However, when the Winter Games stopped being held out west where they lived, Garner and his family were unable to continue participating.  So five years ago, when the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Cops on Top event was launched in Pittsfield, Garner was immediately attracted to it.  He continues to be involved with the event to this day, and volunteers for many of the LETR 5K races.

For Garner, the takeaway from putting so much time into volunteering is simply to watch the athletes compete.  “I am always just so happy to see these athletes give it everything they have, be supportive of others, and always seem to have a smile on their faces.”

Chief Garner has been a member of the Cheshire Police Department since September of 1982, and has been Chief of Police for 18 years.  His passion for Special Olympics has spread to his officers, who are “always ready to step up to the plate” in terms of any fundraising or volunteer efforts that Chief Garner may need.

7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches will represent 177 countries at the World Games this summer.  According to the Games’ website, it will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015.

Garner will leave for Los Angeles on July 24, and is looking forward seeing all of the athletes from around the world.

Summer of SOMA

Please join us for #SummerofSOMA! Throughout July and August, there will be many Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) events and initiatives. While these events will all be different (and sometimes kinda crazy) in nature, there will be a common theme: respect, opportunity, and inclusion for people with disabilities, all thanks to SOMA’s great athletes, volunteers, donors and other partners. Here are a few events we’ll be sharing with you:

  • SOMA will host bocce, cycling, fishing, golf, and softball events throughout the state.
  • The New England Revolution will host “Bowl For a Goal” as well as a Unified soccer match on the filed at Gillette Stadium prior to their game vs. NYC FC.
  • “Over the Edge” a fundraising event where brave fans of SOMA rappel off the roof of the 23rd story at the Boston’s Hyatt Regency.
  • 6 athletes will be flying to Los Angeles to compete in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games!
  • Our friends at McGladrey will be displaying our “More Than Just a Game” photo project in their office lobby in Charlestown.
  • SOMA athlete Tyler Lagasse will travel to Virginia to compete in the PGA Tour’s Congressional Pro-Am Tournament.
  • Much much more!

Please join us throughout the summer and share your experiences on social media! Like/follow us on facebook, twitter and instagram . Share your pictures, videos and thoughts by tagging #SummerofSOMA! A new feature we will be kicking off this summer is “SOMA Stars”. Special Olympics athletes and volunteers will be featured on our Instagram feed along with stories, quotes and memories. Here is an example. Please share yours!

More information will be available over the coming weeks. Check out our facebook, twitter and Instagram feeds often to stay in the loop!

 

The Day that “Changed My Family Forever”

The Kettle Family are great leaders and ambassadors of the Special Olympics Mission. Below Colleen Kettle shares her story (What she doesn’t mention is the great work that her and her son Andrew do in being volunteer leaders of our annual Special Olympics Basketball Tournament at Weston High School)…

In 2004, while I was sitting in the Middle School cafeteria waiting for my two older daughters to finish their play rehearsal, a group of male athletes dressed in basketball uniforms walked by me. I assumed they were there to play our high school team. When a group of younger boy and girl athletes, accompanied by students from Weston High School, walked by, I was curious, so I stopped one of the students and asked him what was going on. He told me Weston High School was hosting the Special Olympics Basketball Qualifiers, something they do every year. I was shocked because I thought Special Olympics (SO) was only for people with Down Syndrome and clearly not all the athletes had that condition. As soon as I got home I visited the SO website and learned that its mission is to provide year round athletic training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities (that includes many conditions such as Down Syndrome). That day changed my family forever because I have a son, Jeffrey, who has intellectual disabilities. At the time he was nine years old; he loved sports but the pace of the games in traditional sports was overwhelming him so we had to drop him down a grade (we had already held him back in kindergarten so that meant he was playing with kids who were two years younger than him). He was friendly and outgoing but none of the other special ed kids at his school were like him. As parents we longed to meet other parents who were going through what we were going through.

 

SOMA athlete Jeff Kettle (in yellow) competing for Boston College Juniors before he went to off to College on Cape Cod.

SOMA athlete Jeff Kettle (in yellow) competing for Boston College Juniors before he went to off to College on Cape Cod.

We immediately signed up for the Special Olympics basketball team at Boston College. The first day Jeffrey and his dad showed up the volunteers made Jeffrey feel like a superstar! While Jeffrey showed off his skills on the basketball court, my husband Frank sat on the sidelines and talked to the other parents. Boy, did he learn a lot! For the first time he could share his concerns and have someone empathize and/or offer a solution. The off the court time was as valuable as the on the court time. Jeffrey was a member of the younger team, the BC Juniors, who practiced at the same time as the senior team, so Frank got to know many of the older players who were quite outgoing. When the qualifiers were held at Milton Academy that year, a location not accessible by public transportation, Frank offered to drive some of the adult athletes. He learned that they lived in a group home near the Green Line and they alternated cooking (depending on the person assigned, some nights were great and all agreed some were awful). It made him smile because he could imagine a future for Jeffrey in a house on the Green Line near BC with fellow residents who loved (or hated) his cooking.

 

Fast forward: Jeffrey is turning twenty-one this month and he is finishing his fourth year at a residential school on the Cape for students with special needs called Riverview School. When he started at the age of 17 ½, his reading level was grade 2.6 (second grade, sixth month) in September but by June his reading level was 5.8 (grade five, eighth month). We were thrilled because it told us that the goals previously set for him were low and that some people need to be taught in a different way. His four years there have been amazing! He has made friends (and girlfriends), some of whom were people he previously competed against in Special Olympics. and he is a three-season athlete at Riverview as well as a coach for the high school teams AND he competes on the Special Olympics Sandwich Sharks swim team. In June Jeffrey will graduate from his work program and he will move into a privately owned staffed group home in Newton Highlands on the Green Line where nine other residents like him (many of whom are from Riverview) live. He will continue to compete in Special Olympics, most likely at BC, and we hope he will meet people like Frank who will drive him to games when public transportation is not an option. I am confident Jeffrey will charm them with his conversational skills because I don’t think he will be able to do so with his cooking!

Colleen Kettle

A mom who is grateful WHS hosted the games in 2004 and is now happily the parent advisor for the WHS Class of 2017, who has the honor of hosting the games for their four years at WHS.