My Favorite Part is the Adrenaline Rush!

World Games Athlete Spotlight: Alyssa Neil

Neil, along with three other athletes from Massachusetts is part of the 200+ person Special Olympics team from the United States.massachusetts-neil_alyssa-athlete This is not her first time hopping on a plane to compete for Special Olympics. Alyssa attended the Athens World Summer Games in 2011 in track and South Korea 2013 in speed skating. “When I saw that I was chosen to go to world games this year I was watching it live on Facebook and I just screamed.” When asked what it means to her to be representing the USA again, she responded, “It’s such an honor. When I was younger I didn’t have a lot of friends and Special Olympics Massachusetts gave me the opportunity to make friends and travel. I still keep in touch with my former USA Special Olympics team members who live all over the country. It is an honor to be able to experience the culture of other countries and represent the United States.”

Training has been an important part of preparing for World Games. After getting in shape with her local team in November, Special Olympics USA came together as a team in Vermont back in early December to meet, bond and begin their training. While at training camp the speed skating team, made up of nine skaters from across the country, put in three-hour workouts each day – both on dry land and on the ice. Neil said, “It was great seeing all the different abilities everyone has and they all bring something different to the team. It was nice to meet the coaches also. Some of the coaches are the same as previous World Games which is good because they know the athletes and how hard to work us.” Other than training, her favorite part of camp was the “Austrian folk singer who came and sang and told stories about Austria. It was so nice to see a little piece of the culture we will be hearing and seeing while in Austria.”

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Alyssa Neil a training camp in Vermont.

Without her family’s support none of this would be possible. Travelling with Neil to Austria are her mom, dad and grandfather. This is the first time that her grandfather and father are travelling abroad. When considering her family’s support while competing Neil expressed, “I am very excited to prove myself to my family. With them there it will make me work harder to show that I can do it.”

Although the competition will take up most of her time, Neil is also interested in being a part of the host town program which takes place the week before competition. The host town program offers athletes and coaches from around the world the opportunity to see and experience the most beautiful sights of the country led by volunteer host towns and families. She also wants to visit some of the beautiful Abbeys in Austria with her family and teammates.

Overall, she says, “my favorite part of speed skating is the adrenaline rush I feel when I pass an opponent and beat them to the finish line,” explained Neil. Here’s to hoping that she feels that adrenaline rush many times during her two weeks of competition and that she achieves all her goals. Congratulations Alyssa Neil! Now go and show the world what you can do!

Alyssa and the Special Olympics USA Speed Skating Team

Alyssa and the Special Olympics USA Speed Skating Team

Volunteer Spotlight: Miye Jacques

Special Olympics Massachusetts Volunteer: Miye Jacques

Miye Jacques is on the far left with her Rocketeers teammates

Miye Jacques has been volunteering with Special Olympics Massachusetts since 2014. She’s volunteered as an event volunteer at Winter Games and Summer Games and has volunteered with local teams as an assistant swimming coach and currently as a Unified partner with the Auburn Rocketeers bowling team. This year Miye has taken her involvement to the next level by taking the icy leap of fundraising for the Polar Plunge on March 4th and coordinating a group of volunteers at Winter Games on March 11th and 12th in Worcester.

“I decided to fundraise and volunteer because through volunteering I was able to see the amazing benefits Special Olympics provides to its athletes. It allows athletes to have fun and build friendships through sports, but also helps build confidence. After seeing the benefits each athlete receives from participating in [Special Olympics Massachusetts,] I wanted to ensure that the programs would continue for them. After working with a team, I learned how costly it can be to keep these programs running. I decided to fundraise because I wanted to help raise money to help keep Special Olympics running and further help the amazing Special Olympics athletes.”

We are proud of Miye’s commitment to Special Olympics and we’ll be cheering her on as she runs into the cold water of Revere Beach at the Revere Polar Plunge and as she competes with the Rocketeers at Winter Games!

Visit http://www.specialolympicsma.org or email Volunteer@specialolympicsma.org to support Special Olympics athletes at the Polar Plunge, Winter Games, or with a local team.

What to do this Winter to Stay Healthy

They say that cold water therapy will boost your immune system. If you are looking to ward off colds and flu this winter we have a monthly cold water therapy for you. A plunge plunge-photointo the frosty waters of New England. Whether it’s a lake, the ocean or a pool, Special Olympics Massachusetts can offer you a place to plunge every month for the next three months and all for a great cause, to raise money for year-round training for our athletes. Good return on investment. A healthy immune system for you and funding a Special Olympics athlete to play soccer in the fall, bowling in the winter and track and field in the summer!

The fun began Jan. 22 at Tabor Academy in Marion MA. The students and community gathered at Silvershell Beach in Marion  for the Tabor Academy Polar Plunge  and post plunge party to celebrate your frosty accomplishment. The 100 plungers raised over $12,500! There is still time to support any of the brave souls who entered the water that day.

In February you will have another chance to boost your immune system with Plunges in Natick on Saturday, February 11 and Sharon on Saturday, February 25. Those plunging in Natick will be diving into the frigid waters of Lake Cochichuate at noon. With registration opening at 9:00 you will have time to gobble down a bagel or two before you jump in the water. This Special Olympics Massachusetts Passion Plunge, run by the Natick AMVETS Post 79, has raised thousands in the fourteen years since it’s inception and they plan to add much more to the total this year. If you’re looking for another boost at the end of February come jump into Lake Massapoag in Sharon on the 25th at the LETR Sharon Polar Plunge at 11:00am. Quite a wake-up call. Registration starts at 9:00am and plunging will go from 12:00-2:00 pm. For a nominal fundraising requirement of $100 you will be healthier and your dollars will fund athletic training and competition for an athlete for one season. Both of these events are part of the Special Olympics Massachusetts Law Enforcement Torch Run Program (LETR) program. The 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.

There are a variety options for plunging in March – so mark your calendars. At the start of the month Saturday, March 4, 2017 you have the option to jump into the frigid ocean waters of Revere or Nantasket beaches, or maybe a not so frigid plunge pool (don’t be fooled we still use cold water) in Marlboro at the Special Olympics Massachusetts Yawkey Sports Training Center’s LETR Marlboro Plunge. All three plunges offer registration starting at 9:00 with plunging at 12:00 at the Revere Polar Plunge and the Nantasket Polar Plunge, and plunging from 11:00-2:00 in Marlboro. They will feature pre- and post-plunging music, food, prizes and giveaways. Plus most importantly heated facilities to warm your toes. With winter coming to an end your last immune boost will be to jump into the ice waters on Saturday, March 25 in New Bedford at the LETR New Bedford Polar Plunge. Following the same routine as the other March events, registration at 9:00, plunging at 12:00 and lots of fun to be had before and after with music, food, awards and more. For a simple fundraising effort of $100 per plunge you will be reaping the benefits of a healthy body and helping Special Olympics athletes across Massachusetts maintain a healthy lifestyle themselves.

Come on out this winter season and join us as a Below Zero Hero and take the plunge. Whether it’s once or seven times, whether you’re a plunger or supporting a plunger, we would love to see you. Because Special Olympics Massachusetts offers year round sports training to athletes with intellectual disabilities at no cost we can’t do it without you. Follow the links in the article to register for the Plunge near you.

My Experience Interning at the Special Olympics Massachusetts

By: Kevin Crossman

As a senior in college, figuring out what you want to do in the next phase of life is not easy. Personally, I have changed what I want to do about five times during my college experience. One common factor always remained the same, helping others is something that I love to do.

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Intern Kevin Crossman and Special Olympics Massachusetts Receptionist Greg Gallant

 

During the 2016 fall semester I interned with the Special Olympics Massachusetts sports department. My time here has been incredible. I had no idea what I was going to be doing on a day to day basis, but everything has panned out remarkably.

On November 19th, I had the pleasure of working the Special Olympics Flag Football Tournament at Gillette Stadium. Going into the event, I had an idea of what my tasks were going to be, but when I arrived I was surprised to find out I would be helping run the tournament. As someone who has coached and directed sports camps for years, this was great news. My tasks included gathering teams to their fields prior to the start of the game, interacting with athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers to make sure everyone was on the same page, and gathering scores from each game. My goal was to make the tournament run as smooth as possible and we accomplished that goal when the tournament concluded earlier than anticipated.

The day started out cold, but everyone was happy to be at Gillette Stadium, on the field where the New England Patriots play. The volunteers were briefed and given instruction on what was needed from them. All the volunteers were amazing; helpful, happy to be there, and great with the athletes. The athletes all had a blast, with everyone having a huge smile on their face it was impossible not to reciprocate the joy and energy the athletes displayed.

My favorite part of the experience was interacting with everyone. I got to know many of the coaches, players, officials, and volunteers and they all knew they could come to me if they had any concerns. The athletes were extremely appreciative of everyone’s efforts and they were ecstatic just to be there. I will never forget some of the people I met this day, the hugs I received from athletes, and the volunteers who made it all happen.

The volunteers had shifts, if we needed volunteers to stay an extra game, they were glad to. Three officials who volunteered their time were asked to referee one last game even though they were not scheduled for it, they were glad to. This is what amazes me about Special Olympics, everyone involved is present because they want to be, those officials and volunteers did not have to be there, but they wanted to be for the athletes. That is what amazes me most.

My experience has been unquestionably positive. I have met so many amazing people that do so much for the Special Olympics. I highly recommend anybody to go out a volunteer some time to an event. It will truly change your perspective on everything.

New Leadership for the New Year

Danforth’s Beloff Tapped to Chair Special Olympics Massachusetts Board of Directors

Danforth Advisors’ Co-founder/Managing Director, Gregg Beloff to provide leadership to the organization through the 50th anniversary campaign and celebration.

Marlborough, MA – January 27, 2017, – Special Olympics Massachusetts is honored to announce that Gregg Beloff has accepted the role of Chairman at the December 1st annual board meeting. Mr. Beloff is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Danforth Advisors – a consulting firm specializing in providing strategic CFO advisory services and operational accounting to biotechnology and healthcare technology companies. He has more than 15 years of experience as a Senior Executive in the biotechnology industry. Prior to his CFO roles, Mr. Beloff was a life science investment banker with Adams, Harkness & Hill and he began his career as a corporate attorney with Gaffin & Krattenmaker, a Boston-based law firm. Mr. Beloff holds a B.A. from Middlebury College, an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and completed his J.D. at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

In addition to his business accomplishments and management skills, Beloff brings nearly 20 years of Special Olympics volunteer experience to the chairmanship. Since 1989, he has assumed roles including Special Olympics coach and board member. In 2004 Beloff helped found Bio-Ball – an event that has grown into a $250,000 per year fundraiser that partners Boston area biotech companies with Special Olympics Basketball teams for an annual tournament in March. To date, Bio-Ball has raised over $1,400,000 in support of Special Olympics Massachusetts basketball including Unified Sports – athletic training and competition where athletes with and without disabilities play on the same team. In 2016, the event raised $258,000.

“I am excited to work with Gregg as we continue to grow this movement, his leadership, vision, dedication,  commitment and passion for our mission will lead us to terrific success” said Mary Beth McMahon, President and CEO.   Mr. Beloff will be leading the effort to increase awareness, raise funds and spread the mission of Special Olympics Massachusetts through the 50th anniversary campaign and celebration which will begin in 2017 and continue through the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics Movement in 2018. The celebration will feature highlights from the past 50 years of Special Olympics including past accomplishments while focusing on the legacy of the athletes, volunteers and supporters of Special Olympics with a goal of building communities of inclusion throughout the state.

In addition to Mr. Beloff, the 2017/18 Special Olympics Massachusetts leadership will include the following appointments:

  • Chair: Gregg Beloff (Danforth Advisors, Co-founder/Managing Director)
  • Vice Chair: Eric Spindt (Managing Partner, Commonwealth Financial Group)
  • Immediate Past Chair: Doug Keith (Director Institutional Sales, GMO LLP & Special Olympics MA Parent)
  • Treasurer: Julie Santosus (Partner, Cutwater Capital, LLC)
  • Clerk: Debbie Millin (Sr. Director, Systems and Scalability, Globalization Partners)

 

About Special Olympics Massachusetts:

Special Olympics Massachusetts provides year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programming for 12,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities across the state in over 95 year-round sporting competitions. Through the power of sport, the movement transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.  http://www.specialolympicsma.org

 

 

Massachusetts Athletes Represent at Special Olympics World Winter Games

The skates are sharpened, the skis are waxed and there’s only six weeks left of training for the biggest competition of their lives. On March 12, 2017 Patrick Adams, Alyssa Neil, Chris O’Neil and Rebecca Robinson will be boarding a plane heading to Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz/Schladming, Austria. Neil and Adams both speed skaters, and O’Neil and Robinson alpine skiers, have been training for this moment since they started as Special Olympics athletes.

sowwga17_logo_horizontalMore than a year ago, the selection process begain when they each applied to represent Special Olympics USA at the 2017 World Winter Games. I
n January of 2016, after a stringent process,  they were informed of their selection to Special Olympics USA by Special Olympics Massachusetts. Following months of training, including a specialized alpine ski training camp for O’Neil and Robinson in June, they headed to Special Olympics USA training camp in Killington, Vermont in early December. While in Killington their spot on Special Olympics USA was made official and training began, including meeting their coaches and teammates, working on their skills, and preparing to travel internationally to represent the United States of America.

But before they head off the represent our state and country in Austria, we would like to introduce you to these world class athletes.1a_so_usa__primary_2c

adamsPatrick Adams, Enfield, CT, competing in speed skating, Special Olympics athlete for fourteen years. Adams will be speed skating for Special Olympics USA in Austria. Adams has competed previously in one World Games for speed skating and one National Games in unified soccer. “Patrick is very excited to go to the World Games in Austria,” Jeff, Patrick’s father said. “He makes it a point to tell people where he’s going.”

neilAlyssa Neil, Holyoke, MA, competing in speed skating, Special Olympics athlete for fourteen years. Besides speed skating, Neil also plays soccer and runs track. Neil has competed in two World games previously. She went to Greece in 2011 for track and South Korea in 2013 for speed skating. “I get to experience new cultures and meet different people from all over the world,” said Neil. “I’m really excited for the World Games, it means I’ve accomplished a lot especially in my skating. The USA has given us with disabilities the same opportunity as those without,” Neil said.

oneilChristopher O’Neil, Westford, MA, competing in alpine skiing, Special Olympics athlete for fifteen years. O’Neil is very proud to represent the USA as an alpine skier. This is his first time competing at World Games. An avid skier since he was eight years old, when asked what he is most excited about in going to World Games O’Neil responded “It will be cool to see another country and people from those countries.”

robinsonRebecca Robinson, Concord, MA, competing in alpine skiing, Special Olympics athlete for ten years. This is Robinson’s first World Games experience. She loves to be outside biking and hiking, and participates in biking for Special Olympics Massachusetts. When asked why she is excited to attend World Games, Robinson said, “I will be able to meet new people from all over the world. My work colleagues and family are very proud of me and excited about the World Games.”

Special Olympics World Games happens every two years, when athletes from around the world, come together to demonstrate their athletic ability and send a message of inclusion to the world. Alternating between winter and summer sports, 2017 marks the 40th Special Olympics Winter World Games, with 2,700 athletes, 1,100 coaches, 3,000 volunteers and 107 participating nations. The games will be held in Graz, Schladming, and Ramsau Austria from Tuesday, March 14 through Saturday, March 25, 2017. The Games eight days of competition include nine Olympic-type competition sports: floorball, floor hockey, stick shooting, figure skating, speed skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Non-sporting events at the games include opening and closing ceremonies; host town program; healthy athletes; schools program; family programs; and the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s “The Flame of Hope.”

A big congratulations to Adams, Neil, O’Neil and Robinson who were chosen out of thousands of Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes to be a part of the 210-person US National Team. Best of luck to them as they represent the United States of America in this international competition that sends a message of inclusion, acceptance, and respect worldwide. Check back for more on their experiences and  progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabor Academy’s Below Zero Heroes

Hundreds of frozen toes will be jumping into the waves on the shoreline of Buzzards Bay – some in costume, some in bathing suits, some fully-clothed – at the Tabor Academy Polar Plunge on Sunday, January 22 to raise money for Special Olympics Massachusetts. The Plunge, organized and run by the Special Olympics Club at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA, will be an event for the entire family and the student organizers are rallying the local community to come out to support and join them.

Starting at 10:00am with registration, an 11:15am plunge, then right back to the 2000 square foot tent to enjoy food from local restaurants, lawn games and music. If you want a general-plungechance to meet the athletes you’re supporting, at 2:00pm you can make your way to gym for the Special Olympics Young Athletes program where children aged 2-7 will be working on their sports skills. It’s set to be a fun-filled day for all bringing the Special Olympics movement together with a fundraising effort and sporting event in one day.

Why plunge you might ask? “A polar plunge is the ideal fundraising event at Tabor for many reasons. With a perfect beach just down the road, Silvershell Beach and an excited student body, a plunge provides a fun opportunity to give back. There is nothing like jumping into freezing water with your friends,” says student and event organizer Christopher Mills. And giving back is certainly what they are doing. The Special Olympics Club is well on their way to reaching their fundraising goal of $5,000. One student plunger, Annalisa Souza, has already raised $1,000 and she still has a days to go. Souza says, “Fundraising was one of our top priorities when we first started putting things into motion for the Polar Plunge, because after all, the event is primarily to raise money for Special Olympics. To participate you must first raise a minimum of $50, but I made it my personal goal to raise as much as I possible could.”

Although this is their first year plunging, Tabor Academy’s relationship with Special Olympics began over a year ago when former student Molly Bent, who has a sister that’s a Special Olympics athlete, started the Young Athletes program at the school. “That program snowballed into a basketball tournament, then an R-word campaign and then a spring fitness event. Our students were jumping on every opportunity to pitch in. They couldn’t get enough time with the events and more importantly with the athletes. So this year we kept going. The Plunge is just one piece of our continuation of the work that Molly and other student leaders have started,” according to Tim Cleary, advisor for the Special Olympics Club. Cleary is a busy man on campus as Club Advisor, Sophomore Class Dean and Day Student Coordinator for Tabor. He, along with Bent, has been instrumental in bringing Special Olympics to the Tabor campus.

Tabor Academy’s involvement with Special Olympics Massachusetts has earned them the title of Special Olympics Unified Champion School. To earn that recognition a school must fulfill three requirements: provide unified sports which tabor-young-athletesthey do through their Young Athletes program; Youth Leadership which they achieve through their Special Olympics Club comprised of 130 students, almost one-third of their student body; and whole school engagement which involves the R-word campaign and of course this Plunge. But it doesn’t end there for the Tabor students. In 2017 they will be hosting their second annual Valentine’s Day Basketball Tournament, continue their weekly Young Athletes program and host a Unified Special Olympics Day in the spring. Each event and program is completely coordinated and run by students.

Being a part of Special Olympics not only benefits the athletes but has also benefits the students and school as a whole. Student volunteer Grace Ryan commented, “My involvement with Special Olympics has instilled in me the values of patience, empathy, and a fun loving spirit I could not have found anywhere else. Not only has the program made me realize how fortunate I am, it has made me recognize that everybody has obstacles, and what matters is not what differentiates us, but what make us alike.” According to Kat Mitchell student plunger and volunteer, “Special Olympics has had an extremely positive impact on our school, it has opened our eyes to the opportunities available for people with intellectual differences, and how we can help. Since we have started Special Olympics our school has become closer and more aware of our local community and, most importantly, we have gotten to know the athletes and their families.”

Show your support for these students who are making a difference! Go to http://taborplunge.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1166602 to register to plunge or support a plunger. If you want your school to become a Unified Champion School contact Patti Doherty Director of Schools and Youth Engagement at 508-485-0986 ext. 226.