North Andover School Day Games

North Andover School Day Games

What a busy Spring we are having! Thanks to so many great school partnerships, volunteers, donors, athletes, and families – as well as our School-Day Games presenting sponsor, Bank of America, we are hosting recreational and competitive events daily across Massachusetts. When all is said and done, we will have hosted over 30 School-Day Games with over 5,000 athletes participating this Spring (this is in addition to our regular competitive sports Spring season where we’ll serve over 2,000 additional athletes). We collected some photos and videos this week at the North Andover School-Day Games. Let’s get to it:

The North Andover School-day games are a district-wide affair, with all public schools from North Andover taking part, and hundreds of “fans in the stands” from schools and families. It is a community-wide affair. See for yourself in this Opening Parade video:

Volunteer School Day Games leader Sharon Randall and all of the teachers and volunteers who run the event have built an incredible community. Chief Gray and the North Andover Police Department came to help out as well.

At the end of the event, each athlete earned a medal. Here is their approach to the medal stand:

While this is a great one-day event, many of these athletes are involved in competitive Special Olympics sports programs throughout the year. In fact stay tuned for more details about a growing partnership with North Andover High School!

(Most photos in this post courtesy of Danielle Perry of North Andover, MA)

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Special Olympics and Bank of America Unite Again

Athletes run in Special Olympics MA School event.

Athletes run in Special Olympics MA School event.

As you may have seen on Good Morning America, Special Olympics and Bank of America are partnering to launch the first ever Unified Relay Across America. This is the latest initiative in a long-standing partnership between both organizations that has impact nationally and locally.

Locally, Bank of America has been a great partner of Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) for many years. In 2015, Bank of America has provided SOMA with a $25,000 grant and will be the Presenting Partner of SOMA’s “School Day Games”.  The largest component of SOMA’s school partnership programs, “School Day Games” are one-day events offering athletic competition for students and school teams. These events involve entire school communities. They are designed to introduce participants to Special Olympics, while also promoting acceptance, inclusion, and opportunity for all students.  Thanks in large part to Bank of America,  SOMA and its school partners will organize over 31 “School Day Games” state-wide in 2015, with over 400 schools and 4,500 athletes participating.

Please stay tuned for more information about this great and dynamic partnership between Bank of America and Special Olympics.

Dignity Now

A young woman named Amelia was recently denied the opportunity to get on a waiting list for a kidney transplant because, according to the Nephrology Department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, she is “mentally retarted”. The hospital deemed  Amelia unworthy of this critical health-care procedure, based on their pre-conceived notions about her “quality-of-life” as well as “her mental delays”. The hospital even went so far as to say they would not even perform the transplant if Amelia’s family came up with a donor. They simply will not perform the procedure no matter what, essentially choosing to let Amelia… um… well let’s just say that Amelia’s mother says that the young girl’s future depends on this transplant.

This is discrimination of the highest order. Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Tim Shriver calls it a matter of “life and death”. We’ve been through this before, but let’s go through a few things again…

  • People with intellectual disabilies deserve every  right that “typical” people enjoy, including access to health care.
  • A disabiltiy does not define an individual’s “quality-of-life”.
  • A person with an intellectual disabiltiy is a person first! Any medical diagnosis is just a part of the overall picture of who that person is.

Those of us who work in this field, as well as family members of people with disabilities, and franlkly most people alive in the United States in 2012 have met countless individuals with intellectual disabilities who have contributed greatly to society and made the world an infinitely better place. We have also met some people with disabilities who have a poor quality of life. Just like we have met some people without disabilities who have made great societal contributions and some people without disabilities who have a poor quality of life. A person’s disability is not what defines her quality of life or worthiness to live her life.

Being refused medical care because of an intellectual diability is no different than being refused for one’s religion, or sexual orientation, or the color of one’s skin. It is an issue of basic human rights. It is up to all of us to speak up when we encounter instances like these. We cannot afford to remain silent.

For more information on this particular situation, please visit Amelia’s mother’s blog post.

“Together, We Are Special Olympics”

Tyler Lagasse, a great all-around young man who is also a Special Olympics athlete, gave another incredible speech on Friday, November 18 at the House of Blues Boston at “Red, White, and Bid” , a fundraising event. Please take 7 minutes to watch and be inspired. It gets especially good when he starts quoting, “Dead Poet’s Society”:

Here is the transcript of the speech:

Good evening, and welcome to the city of Boston for the 2011 “Red, White, & Bid” to benefit Special Olympics Massachusetts. Let me say that it is an honor to be back in “Beantown” to speak to you all here again, and to be a part of this “special” fundraiser for this organization that has changed my life. Before I get to my main topic, I want to talk about one of my many special moments from the year 2011. This past summer, my Mom, my Dad, and myself got to travel to Iowa to attend a charity golf tournament to benefit autism awareness and make a speech there. I golfed in a foursome with people I never met before and on one hole I had to attempt a birdie putt from 73 feet, 7 inches. We were most likely going to end up with either a par or a bogey. Instead I ended up making the birdie putt. Not only did I make the putt, I won myself a pair of new golf shoes because I happened to have made the putt on the longest putt hole. That putt is an example of what people living with autism can do.

I owe my gifts and abilities to Special Olympics. They are the reason why I’m as successful as I can be. Thanks to them, some of my speeches have made their way into the internet. Also I got to be on The Golf Channel’s “Golf in America”, and I got to go to Iowa because someone there saw me on that show.

Because of all this, miracles truly do happen. You make them happen for not just me, but for the many athletes of Special Olympics. All of you standing before me on this Friday night in November have an obligation. Your obligation is to make a difference in the lives of those whom ½-century ago would be shut out of society for who they were and who they were not. Thanks to Special Olympics, the thousands of athletes get to display something that not one of them thought they had, COURAGE. I encourage you to display courage in and out of your place of work.

Here are four ways to make a difference in the lives of the Special Olympians. 1.) Being here at the “Red, White, & Bid” is a good place to start because the money being raised from this event is going to the programs and other Special Olympic sporting events. 2.) Being involved at the local level such as the volunteering, coaching, fundraising, and attending such Special Olympic fundraisers as the Jolly Jaunt, Polar Plunge, Over the Edge, and the Golf-a-thon. Those events are worthwhile and help Special Olympics immensely because they rely heavily on fundraisers to keep their programs going. 3.) I encourage you to be mentors at work and have your company or business hire those that have participated in sporting events for Special Olympics in the past. 4.) Encourage your fellow co-workers to sponsor events for Special Olympics.

There is this scene in the movie “The Dead Poets Society” where Robin Williams, the most gifted actor of his time, goes on and on about reading and writing poetry. He states that “we don’t read and write poetry because it is cute; we read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Now let me ask you something. Why do we get involved with Special Olympics? We don’t get involved to make money, or to see who wins and who loses, or to see which Special Olympic athlete will be the first pick of the draft in any sport. We get involved because those Special Olympic athletes are members of the human race just like you are. Now all of you Special Olympics supporters may have backgrounds in management, technology, science, medicine, law and other professions outside of sports. Those are all and I quote from Robin Williams “noble pursuits” and “necessary to sustain life”. But Special Olympics, grace, compassion, character, goodwill; those are the things that we stay alive for.

Let me wrap up my speech by including some words of wisdom. Remember that generosity is not just the lifeblood of Special Olympics; it is an essential tool for humankind. Your generosity will only take you so far. Together we can make a difference. Together we are the Special Olympics.

Counting Fun; More Apps That Help with Learning and Support SOMA

We introduced you to a couple of Apps for the I-Pad and I-Phone that support learning for 2-4 year-olds and individuals with learning challenges. These apps also support Special Olympics Massachusetts with a donation for each one downloaded. Those Apps, Word Fun and Memory Fun can be downloaded in the App Store or the I-Tunes Store.

Now we introduce you to Counting Fun. This App was just released last week and complements the suite of Apps offered by Felix Educational Apps very nicely. It also supports SOMA with a donation.

Counting Fun is designed to help kids and individuals with learning challenges by giving them the tools to count from 1-10. It’s got great animation and sounds to encourage repetition. All these Apps use fun, frequency, focus and feedback to achieve their goals. These four main attributes help with learning and encourage kids to keep working through their challenges.

I-Pad and I-Phone apps are taking the education arena by storm. With all kinds of application to help not only individuals with special circumstances learn but even adults looking to hone a certain skill, Apps are becoming part of our everyday life.

You can help support Special Olympics Massachusetts by downloading these apps to your I-Pad or I-phone. Whether you’re a parent or even an educator, these apps are changing the way our kids learn.

You can find a direct link to these apps by going to the Felix EDU website at: http://www.felixeducationapps.com/ You can also go to the App Store and search for these apps by Felix Educational Apps and their parent company, Barnes Apps.

I-Pad Apps That Support Special Olympics Massachusetts

I-Pad Apps are becoming a way of life at this point and the education world is benefiting big time with these new ways of learning. So is Special Olympics Massachusetts with our new relationship with Felix Education Apps and their parent company, Barnes Apps.

If you are looking for apps that can help your 2-4 year old child or anyone that has learning challenges, these two apps from Felix Education will help them and at the same time, be supporting Special Olympics Massachusetts. A donation for every App downloaded will go to Special Olympics Massachusetts.

There are two apps and a third one launching in the coming days. The first is Word Fun. This app is designed to help children learn more than 100 common words they encounter in everyday life. It was developed to stimulate the language development of kids between the ages of 2-4 and those with learning challenges. These Apps use Focus, Frequency, Fun and Feedback to achieve the educational goals.

The other being offer now is Memory Fun. This app is about finding two cards that match. Words are learned by seeing and hearing the word pronounced in this fun setting. A world-renowned researcher in Down syndrome has been instrumental in developing these apps with more to come.

These Apps are being offered for only 99 cents for a limited time so hope on over to the App Store and download them.

If you have an I-Pad or I-Phone and want to give your child or family member with learning challenges a great way to learn, go to the App Store or go to I-Tunes and search for these two apps. They are Word Fun and Memory Fun listed under the parent company of Barnes Apps, You can also go directly to http://www.felixeducationapps.com/ and get a direct link to the apps on I-Tunes.