Unified Basketball, Dunking, Community

We are lucky at Special Olympics Massachusetts. So many great people. So many great communities.

Our Greater Lawrence Basketball League in one such example. This league has all the key ingredients of an inclusive and amazing Special Olympics Community: Great athletes, incredible volunteer coaches, an engaged school-based host group (Brooks School in North Andover) and of course… the only unified slam-dunk contest in the world!

Brooks School student-athlete Ethan Gabert-Doyon made this video highlighting all the action!



Media Coverage from August tournament

The August tournament showcases athletes from across the state, we are so thankful to our media partners who were able to feature some of their stories. Please see below for all of the coverage the season-ending event received:


Western Mass News channel ABC40 evening news coverage 8/8/2015:

Special Olympic athletes compete in Easthampton – Western Mass News – WGGB/WSHM.

WWLP Channel 22 News evening coverage 8/9/2015:

Hundreds of athletes gear up for the Special Olympics

WWLP Channel 22 News morning live coverage 8/9/2015:

Special Olympics summer games in the Pioneer Valley

Worcester Telegram article on the fishing competition 8/9/2015:


Celtics CommUNITY Crew Brings Volunteers Together

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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.

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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!


Humbled and proud

Special Olympics Massachusetts Unified partner Kim Bauser writes about competing with GMPI (Greater Marlboro Programs, Inc.) Unified track and field. 

“We’re going to need you to run a time trial for the 400 meter.” This was about fifteen minutes into my first practice, and my first direct experience with Special Olympics ever. I was still taking in the warm welcome and warm-up stretches. And, to be honest, I was already overwhelmed and more than a little nervous, with more than a decade between me and the last time I’d tried to run a quarter-mile “fast.”

I’d thought I was signing up to be a running buddy, or a jog-along cheerleader for the athletes, whom I would gladly encourage, positive and smiling all the way, feeling great about myself for this good thing I was doing. Instead, I was the athlete, and I was trying not to dry heave as I all but crawled across the finish line. My fellow athletes were the ones smiling and cheering me on. Humbling barely begins to describe. (And that was before I tried to throw the turbo javelin.)

I had joined the GMPI track team as a Special Olympics Unified partner. Invited by a friend, I had no prior training or qualifications, and I clearly had little idea what I was getting myself into or the impact it would have on me. My humbling experience, as it turned out, had barely begun.

Unified partner Kim Bauser, left, with GMPI athlete Erin Delahunty.

As we gathered for the state competition in June, I was humbled by the coaches and volunteers who give and have given of their time and energy selflessly, some for years and even decades. I was humbled by the caretakers, families and other loved ones who were there and, in many cases, are always there, to accompany and applaud their children, siblings or friends. These individuals’ commitment to their athletes, families and communities certainly put my lap or two around the track to shame.

But even more than any of those, I was humbled by my fellow athletes, my new friends. Having been instantly welcomed into the sisterhood of several of the women on the team, I got to run and cheer alongside them and all our athletes. They encouraged our teammates, as well as friends from other teams. They celebrated more than a few wins, but congratulated every effort with the same sincerity and enthusiasm. Our athletes loved competing. Two of the women even ran an extra “demonstration” mile — just for fun! As I struggled through my events, they hollered and applauded and spoke to me the very pep talks I had expected to speak to them. They told me to do my best and “be brave in the attempt,” and modeled the same. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a track meet!

Humbled as I was, I was an athlete in Special Olympics. And I have never been more proud to be a part of a team.

A Family Affair

Brenda Garcia, of Lawrence, MA,  significantly improved her time in the 25-meter assisted walk at the 2014 Special Olympics Massachusetts Summer Games. Mostly, it is because she is awesome and she works real hard. Also, her brother Alonzo has worked with her to optimize her assisted-walking device. Additionally her coach Phil Glendye (who can be heard screaming in the video below) has given her incredible support. Check out her race:

You can see how pumped Brenda was to excel in the race. In fact, Brenda was incredibly proud of another recent milestone. A few weeks ago, she walked across the stage at to receive her diploma from Lawrence High School. We talked to Brenda and Alonzo after the race about all of this (I stopped the video abruptly but was assured afterwards that Brenda’s tears were tears of joy not sadness!):

All-in-all, Brenda’s story shows what can happen when you work hard, have an awesome family, and a coach who cares. Special Olympics sports at its finest.

Jr. Celtics

The Jr. Celtics program presented by New England Baptist Hospital challenges over 650 3rd-5th graders to develop their basketball game through skills, drills and leadership training.

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Kids from local YMCA’s, Boston Centers for Youth and Families, Special Olympics Massachusetts and the Doc Wayne program participate in clinic events where they are coached through workouts by members of the Celtics roster. Participants are then tasked with improving in those Celtics-approved drills for a chance to come to a Celtics game as a Jr. Celtics All-Star.

Last month the Pulaski Panthers and Hockomock YMCA programs of Special Olympics Massachusetts participated in the Jr. Celtics Training Program.

Coach Sharon Wood and her Panthers met Dave Hoffman, the Celtics Community Relations Manager, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Celtics guard Phil Pressey.

Pressey told the team to never give up, work hard and follow their dreams. The team did a great job with drills and above all, had fun during practice. They also got to see Lucky the Leprechaun dunk — an experience totally worth a pot of gold.


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Pulaski Panthers as Jr. Celtics