The SUNY Oneonta athletics department lent a helping hand at the fourth annual Springbrook Invitational Special Olympics Basketball Tournament held on Saturday, March 12. In all, 20 student athletes spent the day keeping time, running skills challenges and helping with arts and crafts activities.
“I know we have had athletes from our department involved in other special Olympic events, but this is the first year here,” commented Head Women’s Coach Liz McGrail, whose team was at one of the sites. “This is a great event to be involved with and I am proud of my players for wanting to give back to the community by sharing their passion for sports.”
The tournament featured eight teams from as far away as Saratoga with competitors as young as 8 years old to as old as 61. The event was held at both of Springbrook’s facilities located in Oneonta. The one-day event began at 9am and continued until 4:30pm.
Along with basketball games, the day’s activities included an Individual Skills Competition, where 22 competitors performed a series of basketball maneuvers within a given set of parameters.
Women’s soccer player Keley Abbriano said, “This was an amazing experience! It was an awesome feeling to see the smiles on the athlete’s faces.”
Springbrook’s Special Olympics Program is host to a basketball, soccer and track & field team and is 100 percent donor funded,” said Jonathan Philby, who helped coordinate the tournament. “Community members who come to the annual tournament are usually very surprised at the ability of our athletes. A lot of people think everybody gets a medal, but that’s not the way it is. The athletes compete hard. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
“I would like to extend my thanks to the athletes of SUNY Oneonta,” commented Springbrook CEO Patricia Kennedy. “It’s such a great community event and it’s great to have them involved.”
Springbrook provides at-home care, residential and educational services, day services, and clinical, therapeutic, and behavioral supports to more than 850 people with developmental disabilities from across New York. The organization is Otsego County’s third largest employer, with more than 1,200 employees.
Saturday’s event was another in a long list of yearly community service events that the student athletes of Oneonta are involved in. Whether its raking leaves for the elderly or hosting local children for “Kids in Sports Day,” the student athletes perform more than 4,000 hours of service annually.
NCAA/Special Olympics Partnership
The Division III Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) initiated a partnership with Special Olympics at the 2011 NCAA Convention. The official launch of the partnership was August 1, 2011.
• The Division III SAAC identified Special Olympics because programs are offered in every state; it involves hands-on interaction and physical activities; events can be measured by volunteer hours or funds raised; and Special Olympics is an established nationally recognized organization.
• The community outreach effort will link hundreds of SAACs at Division III institutions and conference offices with local Special Olympics Programs in each state.
• The purpose of the partnership is to enhance the lives of Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes through a mutual learning experience; provide a platform for recognition of Special Olympics athletes and Division III student-athletes within their communities; and raise awareness of Special Olympics, its programs and services.
• The partnership serves as another opportunity to demonstrate the citizenship and comprehensive learning attributes of Division III student-athletes. Student-athletes giving back to their local (and often national and international) communities not only adds to the comprehensive learning component of Division III, but also provides a venue for passion and service.
• Since the launch of the partnership, 39 NCAA Division III conferences and 208 institutions have reported a Special Olympics activity. Of these reported activities, approximately 29,000 student-athletes and 68,000 Special Olympics athletes took part, dedicating approximately 300,000 total hours and raising over $144,000 for local Special Olympics chapters.
•During 2014-15, Special Olympics events were conducted at 13 NCAA Division III championships in 12 states, with over 1,500 student-athletes and 228 Special Olympics athletes participating.