Volunteer Spotlight: Al Garzon

Every month we’ll spotlight a new Special Olympics Pennsylvania volunteer who has made an awesome impact on our community.

This month, we are proud to feature a man with many titles — Montgomery County Roller Skating Sports Director, Floor Hockey Official and Unified Partner, Al Garzon.

“Volunteering with Special Olympics is a reward. Every day our athletes face difficult challenges. If I can make things easier with just a smile, it is well worth it to me.”

– Al Garzon, Montgomery County

Al has been a longtime member of the Special Olympics movement. In 1987, the rink where he worked, skated, and met his wife started a Special Olympics Roller Skating program. Over the years, Al became a floor hockey official and a Unified partner in softball. Additionally, Al volunteers with basketball and soccer and has applied to be an official in three different World Games. It’s his lifetime goal to be selected.

Al also spends his time training and mentoring roller skating coaches and provides support to various floor hockey competitions throughout the state. Currently, three generations of Garzons volunteer at Fall Festival’s roller skating competition every year.

Athlete Spotlight: Jeremiah Williams

This month, our athlete spotlight features Jeremiah Williams from Beaver County.

Jeremiah, 26, has been a Special Olympics athlete for 12 years and competes in athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, snowshoeing and soccer. He works as an assistant cook at the Community College of Beaver County.

One of his prouder moments came on the soccer field for the the Beaver Sharks at Fall Festival in 2011. He scored the only goal against Chester County with 23 seconds left to win the game.

“Jeremiah is a wonderful guy. He is excited to promote health and wellness throughout the Special Olympics community. His fellow athletes look up to him. I enjoy being Jeremiah’s mentor and coach and I look forward to watching him succeed.”

George Fritzley, coach & mentor

Jeremiah also serves as a member of his county’s Athlete Leadership Team and is the Fit 5 Representative and Health & Fitness Coordinator for Beaver County. He recently earned a gold medal in bocce at Slippery Rock University’s Western Fall Sectional. In addition, Jeremiah is a leading prospect to become the next Athlete Representative for Beaver County Special Olympics.

Volunteer Spotlight: Kylee Rae Craig

Every month we’ll spotlight a new Special Olympics Pennsylvania volunteer who has made an awesome impact on our community.

This month, we are proud to feature Washington County powerlifting coach, Kylee Rae Craig.

Before Kylee reached out to SOPA on social media with an interest in becoming a volunteer, Washington County didn’t have a powerlifting program. Now, they’ve got eight athletes training, including four who competed for the first time at the Western Fall Sectional at Slippery Rock University. Kylee was able to get powerlifting belts donated for her athletes and is hopeful the program will continue to grow under her leadership.

“For me, powerlifting is my job. Special Olympics has helped me be reminded of the joy in the sport again, it is AMAZING. The athletes show up excited to learn and willing to try anything.”

– Kylee Rae Craig, Washington County Powerlifting Coach

Kylee, a mom of three, also runs a dog grooming business and only began lifting three years ago. She competes for Misfit Powerlifting and currently ranks Top 5 in the world in bench press (309 lbs) and squat (518 lbs). She currently holds three national records and has spent the previous two years ranked in the top 10 in the world in her weight class. She will soon be competing at the US Nationals with hopes of qualifying for the United States Powerlifting Team!

You can read more about Kylee in this fantastic 2018 article published in the Observer-Reporter and follow her on Instagram here.

Celebrity Ambassador Alex Singleton featured in profile

Our newest Celebrity Ambassador, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton, was recently featured in a profile piece by Meaghan MacDonald-Pool of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton, signing autographs for Special Olympics Pennsylvania athletes at training camp.

Among the many highlights of the piece, Singleton’s relationship with his sister Ashley — who is a Special Olympics athlete — is highlighted as well as his eagerness to get involved with the Philadelphia program.

“No matter how much or how great any of us could be in sports, she is always going to be better and she’s the big athlete in our family. We’re always striving to match her. Even as other people want to say that I am the big athlete and all that stuff, we’re like ‘No, we are just trying to catch up to Ashley.’”

Alex Singleton, on his sister Ashley

To read the entire piece, click here!

Lycoming County athletes create inaugural Memorial Walk/Run

This June, the Lycoming County Athlete Leadership Team, led by Fitness Coordinator Stephen Huyck, proposed the idea of holding a walk/run to memorialize those athletes and coaches within their program who have passed away.

After the Athlete Leadership Team received approval from the Management Team to go forward with the event, they began planning. Every detail was meticulously orchestrated, beginning with researching and inviting all the friends and families of those who have passed away.

The team also organized he flower arrangements, displayed newspaper articles featuring the deceased, designed and distributed flyers to promote the event, ordered “SO Remembering 6/23/19” bracelets and conceptualized a “Lap of Silence” where all participants circled the track in silence, reflecting on their thoughts.

“Most people become busy with their lives and do not take the time to stop and remember those who have impacted them. The athletes wanted to not only remember these people, but to memorialize them, reminding us that our athletes are the type of people that we should all strive to be.” 

– Marc Follmer, Lycoming County Manager

As a result of this event, the athletes were empowered as leaders and felt a great sense of pride in giving back to the community. Additionally, several athletes gave speeches about the purpose of the event and what Special Olympics means to them. After a very successful inaugural campaign, Lycoming County Special Olympics is now considering making this a yearly event.

Healthy Athletes tent

Philadelphia athlete speaks on panel at Jefferson University

Note: The following is from the Special Olympics Fall Panel Evaluation Report provided by Allison R. Casola, PhD, MPH, CHES – Department of Family and Community Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University.

On October 17, 2019, Dr. Mary Stephens organized a student event at Thomas Jefferson University to promote involvement and volunteer opportunities with Special Olympics Pennsylvania. During the event conversations surrounding the multitude of volunteer opportunities available with Special Olympics, the importance of Special Olympics for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) both during and outside of competitions, and the sense of community engagement Special Olympics can provide for individuals with IDD and their families ensued.

Philadelphia athlete leader John Mitchell speaks on the panel at Jefferson University.

The program was part of the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine (NCIDM) efforts. John Mitchell, and athlete leader from Philadelphia, and SOPA’s Director of Programming Projects at spoke to roughly 60 Jefferson students, medical residents, faculty, and community members as part of the educational event.

Also discussed were barriers that persons with IDD face when it comes to seeking medical care, and possible strategies to maximize healthcare and provider-related experiences for persons with IDD and their families.

The program was part of the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine (NCIDM) efforts. John Mitchell, and athlete leader from Philadelphia, and SOPA’s Director of Programming Projects at spoke to roughly 60 Jefferson students, medical residents, faculty, and community members as part of the educational event.

To read the full report from Dr. Casola, follow this link.

Loretta Claiborne featured on national podcast

York County’s own Loretta Claiborne — Special Olympics Chief Inspiration Officer — was recently featured on a collaborative podcast between Bank of America and The New York Times.

Claiborne appeared on the podcast, titled “That Made All The Difference,” with Special Olympics CEO Mary Davis.

You can find a link to listen here. And you can find a transcript of the podcast here.