10 Years of Cruiser Convoy!

 

final leg 2017 - 114This past June, Special Olympics Massachusetts celebrated their 10th year of the Cruiser Convoy, an event that goes hand in hand with The Law Enforcement Torch Run®. LETR is a year-round fundraising and awareness building program, designed to allow members of the law enforcement community the opportunity to support Special Olympics athletes who live, work and compete in their local communities. The Cruiser Convoy started here in Massachusetts and now takes place every June in conjunction with Summer Games. Law Enforcement officers from all over the state will start at one of three points, each one representing the north, south and west. As these convoys drive in, they all  converge at Boston College Law School in Newton before continuing on to the Harvard Athletic Facilities in Allston. This is where we host our Summer Games, and as the Law Enforcement vehicles arrive, they create one final line of cars and blast their lights and sirens in recognition of the accomplishments of the athletes. Following the convoy, the officers award medals and ribbons to the participants in the Summer Games, traveling to the six different competition venues to share the joy and happiness following the competition. We are happy to be celebrating 10 years of officers coming together to support Special Olympics by joining the convoy,  presenting medals, interacting with athletes and enjoying the Summer Games!

 

This year, there were over 180 cruisers in the convoy, raising over ten thousand dollars for Special Olympics Massachusetts!! Co-Directors of the Executive Council for MA LETR: Retired Attleboro Chief of Police, Rick Pierce and Middleton Chief of Police, Jim DiGianvittorio started the Cruiser Convoy in 2007 after attending the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference held in Oklahoma City, OK . At the conference they learned about an event called the “Truck Convoy to Benefit Special Olympics” which consisted of tractor trailer trucks convoying across the state raising funds and awareness for Special Olympics. From this event stemmed the idea of  switching tractor trailer trucks with police cruisers, making an LETR Cruiser Convoy event where cruisers from all over the state could come together, raising funds and awareness for Special Olympics. The Massachusetts LETR Cruiser Convoy is the one and only cruiser convoy in the United States, and  the number of cruisers has almost doubled from the first convoy in 2008 when there were 95 cruisers, to this year’s event which saw 180 cruisers.  When asked why other police departments and volunteers should get involved with this event Rick Pierce stated “This event helps other police officers throughout the state to learn about Special Olympics and individuals with intellectual disabilities. The officers get an opportunity to interact with the athletes and their families at this event and they get the opportunity to present medals to the athletes.  It also serves as a way for the officers to learn more about the LETR and offers them the opportunity to participate in other LETR fundraising events to benefit Special Olympics.”  In both raising money and awareness for Special Olympic Massachusetts, we are happy to celebrate ten years of the Cruiser Convoy and challenge you to get involved!

If you are interested in getting involved, either as part of the convoy if you are in Law Enforcement or as a volunteer, please contact megan.hoffman@specialolympicsma.org or visit their website www.masstorchrun.org to find out more about this amazing event!

 

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Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Doreen Britton

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

“If you’re not living on the edge you’re just taking up space!”

Running for 35 years, Doreen Britton has participated in over 20 races, including a mud run, an inflatable obstacle run, several sprint triathlons, a 64-mile bike ride and 3 previous Falmouth Road Races. Doreen has been active with Special Olympics for many years and is currently a coach for bowling in the winter and track and field in the spring. Special Olympics is something Doreen loves to be apart of, especially with her job as a special education teacher for multiple grades as well as working with students with physical, social and intellectual disabilities.

Being an active member of the SOMA community, Doreen sees all the hard work that is put into changing the lives of the thousands of athletes all over the state, which is why she is happy to be fundraising for this organization. “As a coach I am aware of the cost of everything that goes into a sport season for Special Olympics and want to do my part to ensure every athlete of the Barnstable Public Schools has the opportunity to participate.”

Even with a recent injuries, Doreen still pushes herself to run multiple times a week. She is motivated to run because of how she feels after, as well as how she is running for SOMA. “I see how so many students with disabilities struggle daily and me running for an hour a couple times a week doesn’t compare.”

We thank you for your support in helping us change the lives of athletes all over the state. Best of luck on race day, Doreen!

Please consider supporting Doreen or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races?Join the Xtra Mile today! 

Partners On and Off the Field

I have been playing competitive sports for as long as I can remember. First it was soccer, then field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, track and just about every other team sport out there. My favorite aspect of team sports is that atmosphere of being in a competitive environment where you are working together with your peers to compete for a common goal, whether to just have fun, or sometimes to win. The type of connections and friendships that are made through team sports can’t be forged in many other places, which is why it is essential that the opportunity  to be on a team should be available to everyone, no matter the level of  ability. 

 

I have also had the incredible opportunity to be a part of Special Olympics Unified Sports.  There is something unique about being part of a Special Olympics Unified Team that most other team sports seem to lack. It isn’t the competitiveness, or teammate support, or effort required, it’s the people that make being a part of a Unified Team so amazing.  This summer, I have the honor of being a Unified Partner on the New England Revolution Unified Soccer Team and it is incredible! Every time our team gets together on the field, it is clear that this is the only place in the world that everyone wants to be. Whether its practice or game day, this amazing energy emanates from each and every player which is something that I have yet to find on any other team I’ve been a part of. As a Unified Partner, it is technically my role on the team to assist the Special Olympic Athletes on the field, but the amazing thing about Special Olympic Unified Sports is that it is truly a team effort. Partners and Athletes instinctively work together, and, as cheesy as it sounds, both teach the other so much more than just how to pass and kick. The amount of dedication, time, and hard work that each Special Olympic Athlete puts in is so incredibly inspirational.

Revs Unified Match - 20

I’m lucky enough to be on New England Revolution Soccer Team for my second year with my twin brother Jimmy. Jimmy and I have been playing Unified Sports together since we were eight, first with soccer then playing on a unified basketball team that my mother started when we were about 10. After almost over ten years of playing Unified Sports together, I have grown comfortable and almost dependent on having him with me on the field, knowing through the use of our, as Jimmy calls it,  ‘twin telepathy’ that he will always be there, either ready in net for a shot when an attacker beats me or ready on the post for a pass. Being a part of the Revs Unified team has taken the level of Unified Sports up a notch for both Jimmy and I, making the experience all the more rewarding. Having professional soccer players helping to coach, support and aid our team not only provides more teammates and friends, but also incredible role models. Watching players like Andrew Farrell and Josh Smith train shows our Revolution Soccer Team the dedication required for competitive sports, and inspires us all to put in that extra hour on the field to work on our shots or our corner kicks.

On game day, at the Unified Match, we not only had the incredible opportunity to play in Gillette Stadium, but we had stands full of fans cheering both teams on throughout the entire match, but we had professional soccer players on the sidelines coaching and cheering us on as well. This has been a once in a lifetime experience that few people can ever say that they had, and in true Special Olympic fashion we all left the field feeling like winners, every single player walking away from the field with a smile, just happy to be able to play the sport they love with a stadium full of fans cheering them on a very SPECIAL team.

Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Jill Stone

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

Growing up in Hanover, MA and spending her summers on the Cape, Jill Stone has run the Falmouth Road Race in both 2014 and 2015, and is very happy to be back running this year for Special Olympics Xtra Mile Team with her best friend, Elizabeth Downs.

Motivated by Special Olympics Massachusetts athlete Andrew Lawson, Elizabeth’s cousin, as well as her husband’s cousin, Seth Dame who is a Special Olympics Rhode Island athlete, Jill is running for #LawsonStrong and #SethStrong. “Andrew and Seth are two of the sweetest guys you’ll ever meet and I’m honored to run for these two amazing athletes and the organization that has encouraged them to chase their dreams!!”

Busy with work and motherhood, Jill uses running as time to herself. “As a working Mom it can be some of the only “me” time I get during the week. It’s a time to be with my thoughts, release some stress, and burn some calories. I’m a better Mom and wife when I’ve gone for my runs. During my runs, I just take a peek at my #SethStrong and #LawsonStrong bracelets and keep pushing myself for those guys.” 

Working with non-profit organizations throughout her entire career as well as adults with developmental disabilities, Jill is thankful for her involvement Special Olympics. “I have worked for the American Red Cross for 13 years as a Health & Safety Account Executive. I have worked for non-profit organizations my entire career and know the value and importance of donations. My previous job was a Residential Coordinator/Advocate at New England Village’s in Pembroke – a community for adults with developmental disabilities – many of my residents were active with Special Olympics.”

Running multiple times over the course of the week, sometimes including her 9 month old son and his stroller in her runs, Jill is ready to take on the Falmouth Road Race for the third time. Thanks for helping Special Olympics Massachusetts change the lives of thousands of athletes. Best of luck in August!

Please consider supporting Jill or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races?Join the Xtra Mile today! 

The Mind of an Intern: Q&A Edition

Ryan Vazza is an intern for Special Olympics Massachusetts through the Bank of America Student Leader Program. This program pairs juniors and seniors with nonprofits and allows them to work with these organizations for the summer. In addition, the program brings Student Leaders from across the country to Washington, D.C for a week-long summit filled with speakers, lessons, and learning. This is his reflection on his experience. 

  • Describe Special Olympics Massachusetts’s mission in your own words.

Special Olympics Massachusetts’s mission can be described in three words; equality through sports. Sports serve as a portal into the real world. They are a catalyst for interaction, a catapult for communication skills. Sports allow for the development of independence, courage, and hundreds of other skills that athletes use to improve and enrich their lives. Special Olympics Massachusetts does all this and more, giving the athletes a place to relax and have fun, while simultaneously building their relationship skills.Blog #2

  • Why is this mission important to you personally?

This mission is important to me because everyone in the world deserves equal opportunity. In the past, the solution for those with intellectual disabilities would be to isolate them from society. We closed them off in dark corners, keeping their gifts and talents shadowed from the world. Instead, we as a community, should accept them. We should cherish their gifts and view them as unique instead of different. Throughout high school, I was never involved in Best Buddies or any other Special Olympics activities. Now I truly see how much I missed out on. How I missed the glint of determination in an athlete’s eye when they attempt a goal. Or the lighting up of a parent’s face when they see their child conquer that goal. This mission is so important to me because through the simple activity of sport, people’s lives are changed.

  • What are you most excited about learning at Special Olympics Massachusetts? What have you learned during your internship?
    • I am most excited about learning how to communicate the mission/goals of a nonprofit organization to possible donors and getting their support. I have never been a good speaker, yet when I become involved in a mission, my passion motivates me. I have seen myself gain confidence and fortitude when speaking for my organization because I am campaigning for a cause so much bigger than myself. I am also excited to learn all the trials and tribulations a big nonprofit such as Special Olympics Massachusetts goes through and how each and every staff member contributes to the overall goals and aspirations of the company.
    • I have learned that being flexible is one of the best qualities to possess in the nonprofit field. One must constantly be open to changing plans and shifting schedules. Another thing I learned is to ask questions. It is always better to ask questions than to assume. Independence is one thing, but everybody who has ever worked a new job has needed guidance. Finally, I learned that life is all about communication and introductions. You have to go out and talk to people. You have to get involved. Dive feet first into your job, never fearing the crashing waves below you. Immerse yourself in your work and in the nonprofit sectors. Nonprofits have missions to better the world. When you believe in your mission, your job ceases to be a job, and becomes a lifestyle. Here is an example of a video I made of some events:  
  • What was your biggest take-away from the Student Leadership Summit?

My biggest take-away from the Student Leadership Summit was by far the connections I made with people around the country. From Texas to California to Minnesota, I met people from different cultures and walks of life. Yet through our differences, we were the same. We are all committed to making changes. We are all confident in our abilities. We are all not afraid to make our voices heard. My biggest take away that these people, these BOA Student Leaders, are my family. No matter our race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. we are one family, one group, united in fighting for what is right. I know that my future will cross paths with some of these people and I am forever grateful for this experience that has really changed my focus in life.

  • How did you hear about Bank of America’s Student Leader program and why was this a program you wanted to participate in?

I heard about it from my Guidance Office. My guidance counselor always knew I was interested in the nonprofit sector. So, when this internship was introduced to her she thought of me and emailed the application to me. When reading through it, I immediately believed this program would be perfect for me. I would be working for a nonprofit,  being sponsored by a great company, and would be travelling to Washington, D.C. with other kids just like me. This week would be a great introduction to college life and would also help me change aspects of my community on a larger scale, an opportunity many kids do not have. This program was so perfect for me because I wanted to change people’s lives. My prior jobs were a cashier and a laborer, and although there is a need for these professions in the world, they weren’t for me. This internship allowed me to make a difference at my workplace. It allowed me to change lives.

  • At the end of the internship, what do you hope to walk away with? 

Above all, I hope to form life long relationships with great people. Everyone I work with is so passionate and committed to such a great cause and have welcomed me in with open arms. The nonprofit sector is diverse and constantly expanding, and I hope the skills I learn here will allow me to work for nonprofits in future summers. In college I am applying for the Global Health Corps program internship and I hope this internship will prepare me for a more difficult and higher stress job. I also hope to walk away with communication and management skills that can aid me in jobs in the future.

  • What is your dream job?

My dream job would be to be to be the head volunteer coordinator of a program in a low-income area in the United States. When volunteering on a mission trip in Mississippi, I realized that many areas in the United States are still years away from sustenance. Kids wear the same clothes for weeks, get jumped in front of their parents and miss 1-2 meals a day. I would want to lead a Big Brother program or some other company similar to the AmeriCorps as I have always enjoyed working with kids. I would be very involved on the local level so that I could make accurate and fitting changes to the entire company.

Pic for Blog

Thank you to Bank of America for giving me the experience of a lifetime!

 

Sincerely,

Ryan Vazza

Intern at Special Olympics Massachusetts

Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Tanya Sullivan

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

Tanya Sullivan’s involvement with Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) started about 5 years ago when her son, William, was asked to take part in the Five Town School Day Games where he and many other school aged athletes were able to compete in a specific sport-themed event. With the day filled with excitement, dedication and even a surprise special guest, Tanya says it was a day she will never forget. “Last year, Rob Gronkowski (yes, Gronk!) surprised everyone by showing up in Ashland to run football plays with every athlete at the games. We will never forget that day and will always appreciate his time and dedication to children with special needs. Each year WIlliam has grown more confident, capable, and enthusiastic to participate.” 

Tanya is very excited to be running for SOMA as part of the Xtra Mile team, especially because of her son’s recent involvement. She is extremely thankful for everything that SOMA has done for her family. “William takes pride in the medals he has won and in the athletic efforts he has made to earn them. We are so grateful for the Special Olympics of Massachusetts for giving our family the gift of this experience. Running Falmouth for the Special Olympics of MA is my way of giving back to such a special organization that will always hold a place in my heart.”

William has now been involved with the Milford Special Olympics Swim Team for two years now, and his dedication to his team has truly inspired his family. During this years’ games, William was awarded the silver medal in the 50 meter backstroke and a bronze medal in the 50 meter freestyle. Tanya was extremely proud of not only William for his accomplishments, but also her husband and other son, Aidan, for dedicating their time to be official SOMA volunteers at the swimming events.

Spending most of her summers in Falmouth, Tanya has had lots of practice running this road race. “Falmouth Road Race was the first “official” road race I ran after having my third son (I was probably 30). I wasn’t really a “runner” until after I had kids. I had to find efficient exercise where I could take them with me in a stroller (or double stroller most of the time).”

Even though Tanya’s favorite time of day to run is in the early morning, she is still extremely excited to be running in the midday heat for Special Olympics. We thank you for all your support and we cannot wait to see you cross that finish line in August!

Please consider supporting Tanya or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races?Join the Xtra Mile today! 

Meet Falmouth Road Race Runner Elizabeth Downs

By Peyton Heller
Special Olympics Massachusetts Development Intern

Elizabeth Downs started getting involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) when her cousin, Andrew Lawson, joined several years ago. “I got involved with Special Olympics through my cousin Andrew. I would attend his swimming events and just be blown away at the excitement of the athletes, coaches, and spectators.” 

Elizabeth is part of the 2017 Xtra Mile team for the Falmouth Road Race. With this being her third time running this race, she uses the motivation from Andrew to continue running. “This year my motivation behind Falmouth is my cousin Andrew. Andrew has been a Special Olympics athlete for several years now. Over the last two years he has been battling cancer. He is such a fighter! My aunt mentioned to me that Special Olympics had a team, and as soon as I was off the phone with her, I filled out my application. What better way to honor my pal than to run for the very organization that has given him so many wonderful, happy opportunities.”

Running with her best friend, Jill Stone, who is also apart of the Xtra Mile team, Elizabeth is very excited to have the opportunity to run this race once again. “I have run Falmouth twice. The event is amazing. The crowd is outstanding. Just pray that it’s not too hot!!!”

While Elizabeth has continued to watch Andrew compete in events over the years, her love for Special Olympics has grown tremendously. She is thankful for the opportunities that Special Olympics has given Andrew. “One word that comes to mind when I think of Special Olympics is “inspirational”. Special Olympics is an amazing organization. The opportunities they provide for their athletes are endless. I have been to several events and every time I watch athletes compete, cheer on their fellow teammates, and receive their medals I am left with a feeling of absolute amazement. Another word that comes to mind when I think of Special Olympics is “community.” The sense of family that they have provided for families with children that are disabled is something that most people are incredibly grateful for.”

The inspiration Elizabeth receives from Andrew is not only related to running, but also to her job. Elizabeth worked for North River Collaborative as an ABA therapist after she graduated from college but became an inclusion teacher three years later. Since then, she has been working at Cedar Elementary, switching between 2nd and 3rd grade. She thanks Andrew for inspiring her to become a teacher. “The inspiration for becoming a teacher was my cousin, Andrew Lawson. Andrew was born on March 19, 1990, and from the moment I met him, an interest sparked in regards to his early intervention and therapies. I knew it was the path I wanted to purse. Through Andrew’s parents I was introduced to what Special Olympics was, and how many wonderful opportunities it provides to children with disabilities.”

Special Olympics Massachusetts thanks you for your support and wishes you the best of luck on race day, Elizabeth!

Please consider supporting Elizabeth or one of the other Xtra Mile Falmouth runners!

Want to run Falmouth, bike in the Rodman Ride for Kids, or a number of other races? Join the Xtra Mile today!