Special Olympics Pennsylvania: March Madness 2020

Well, we know everyone was expecting a different type of bracket to be released this evening, but we’ve come up with the next best thing!

Presenting… The OFFICIAL Special Olympics Pennsylvania March Madness Bracket! ๐Ÿ™Œ

Which event will reign supreme?! That will be completely up to YOU!! We’ll be posting polls on our Facebook and Twitter pages where you’ll be able choose your favorite event in each matchup to help us determine the champion!

Voting starts March 16, so get those fingers ready!!

Below, please find a running log of every day of voting, which we’ll update accordingly!

We’ve got EIGHT exciting first-round matchups coming your way. Every day, voting will open at 12:30 p.m. and close 24 hours later, so be sure to check back frequently to make your picks and share with friends! Here… we… go…

Matchup 1: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐’๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ– ๐”๐๐œ๐š๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐จ๐ง

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐’๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ: The top seed in its region, Summer Games is our organization’s oldest event. Beginning at West Chester University of PA in 1970, Summer Games now takes place annually at Penn State and celebrated its 50th Anniversary last summer. Our largest event of the year, Summer Games brings together more than 2,000 athletes and 750 coaches from throughout the state. Athletes compete across three days in eight sports: aquatics, athletics, basketball, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis.

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ– ๐”๐๐œ๐š๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐จ๐ง: Now in its fourth year, UNcathlon is a one-of-a-kind Unified team challenge event that unleashes the transformative power of teamwork. UNcathlon is much like a decathlon, but with 11 events as opposed to 10. Participants are challenged both physically and mentally as they complete in various events and they’re also tasked with the additional challenge of fundraising for SOPA. The event began in Pittsburgh, but recently added a new location in Philadelphia.

RESULTS: No. 1 Summer Games defeats No. 8 UNcathlon, 184-26

Matchup 2: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž ๐‹๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ” ๐๐ž๐š๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ ๐’๐ญ๐š๐๐ข๐ฎ๐ฆ ๐‘๐ฎ๐ง

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž ๐‹๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ: The goal of Athlete Leadership is to empower athletes to develop leadership skills and utilize their voices and abilities to assume meaningful leadership roles, influence change within the Special Olympics movement, and create inclusive communities around the world. Training to Athlete Leaders is offered three times a year to further their knowledge base and provide certification in the following: Communications (public speaking), Governance (Special Olympics spokespersons), Health (Health & Fitness Coordinators) and Sports (coaches).

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ” ๐๐ž๐š๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ ๐’๐ญ๐š๐๐ข๐ฎ๐ฆ ๐‘๐ฎ๐ง: Last year marked the 10th Anniversary of the BSR and it’s only becoming more and more popular. More than 3,500 runners and walkers of all ages and abilities participate in a 5K run or 2-mile family fun walk at Penn State. The Run begins in the vicinity of the Bryce Jordan Center on Curtin Road, moves through Penn Stateโ€™s scenic campus and concludes with runners racing through the Beaver Stadium Tunnel and onto the Nittany Lionsโ€™ home turf to โ€œfinish at the fifty.โ€

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž ๐‹๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ” ๐๐ž๐š๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ ๐’๐ญ๐š๐๐ข๐ฎ๐ฆ ๐‘๐ฎ๐ง, 121-64

Matchup 3: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐  ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ“ ๐„๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐  ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ: Young Athletes is an innovative sports play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities ages 2 to 7. The program includes active games, songs, and other play activities that help children develop motor, social and cognitive skills. Young Athletes serves as an entry point into our sports programs, acting as a key means of recruiting the โ€œnext generationโ€ of SOPA athletes.

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ“ ๐„๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ: Three sectionals occur in the eastern section of the state: Eastern Fall Sectional (DeSales Special Olympics), Eastern Bowling Sectionals (Allentown) and Eastern Spring Sectional (Special Olympics Eastern Spring Sectional at Kutztown University). In the fall, athletes compete in five sports (bocce, long distance walking/running, powerlifting, soccer and volleyball) and in the spring, sports include athletics, basketball, golf, softball, swimming and tennis.

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐  ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ“ ๐„๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ, 133-123

Matchup 4: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ: For 43 years, Special Olympics Pennsylvania has hosted Winter Games, which is now housed at the amazing facilities at Seven Springs. Athletes from Pennsylvania and surrounding states compete across three days in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Traditionally, Winter Games has always featured one of the more exciting Opening Ceremonies of any event as the Flame of Hope is carried down the mountain by a team of volunteers and athletes.

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ: In 1978, Ken and Anthony Yazge met with former SOPA President Frank Dean to see how their church could benefit the athletes of Special Olympics. The creation of a week-long sports training camp stemmed from that meeting and Sports Camp at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA has taken place every August since. The camp offers cross-training opportunities in the following sports: Aquatics, Athletics, Basketball, Bocce, Golf, Flag Football, Soccer, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball as well as bonding opportunities that last a lifetime.

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ, 230-148

Matchup 5: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ– ๐‚๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐ฅ ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ: Special Olympics Pennsylvaniaโ€™s Fall Festival is hosted and organized by Villanova University students and is the largest annual student-run Special Olympics event in the world. For one weekend each year for the last 31 years, Villanova Special Olympics Fall Festival opens its campus to more than 1,000 athletes and coaches and 6,000 volunteers from the Villanova Student Body, surrounding community, and corporations. Athletes compete in a total of six Olympic-type sports including bocce, long distance running, powerlifting, roller skating, soccer and volleyball.
๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ– ๐‚๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐ฅ ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ: Three sectionals occur in the central section of the state: Central Fall Sectional (Juniata College), Eastern Bowling Sectionals (Harrisburg) and Eastern Spring Sectional (Saint Francis University). In the fall, athletes compete in four sports (bocce, long distance walking/running, powerlifting and volleyball) and in the spring, sports include athletics, basketball, swimming and tennis.

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ– ๐‚๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐ฅ ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ, 255-44

Matchup 6: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ” ๐‹๐„๐“๐‘

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ: Introduced in the mid-1980s, Unified Sports creates an opportunity for people without intellectual disabilities to join in the sports experience by playing on a team with athletes with intellectual disabilities. Not only do the players compete hard, but attitude change and transformation happens on the playing field and the experiences create lifelong friendships. Unified Sports combines approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics Athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (Partners) on sports teams for training and competition, which in turn promotes equality and inclusion.

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ” ๐‹๐„๐“๐‘: The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) unites officers from law enforcement agencies and corrections departments across the state in a year-round effort to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics movement. The Torch Run efforts to raise funds include: collecting corporate sponsorships and hosting unique fundraising events such the Polar Plunge, Beaver Stadium Run and Torch Runs. What began in 1981 as a way to provide local law enforcement officers with an opportunity to volunteer in the communities where they lived and worked is now thriving in all 50 states and 40 countries worldwide.

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ‘ ๐”๐ง๐ข๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ” ๐‹๐„๐“๐‘, 199-58

Matchup 7: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ ๐๐ฅ๐ฎ๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ“ ๐‡๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฆ๐ž

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ ๐๐ฅ๐ฎ๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ฌ: The Polar Plunge is a unique opportunity for individuals, organizations, and businesses to support local Special Olympics athletes by jumping or running into icy cold waters. Plunge participants take a quick dip in a river or pool to raise funds. There are nine Plunge locations across the state as individuals from all walks of life come together to be “Freezin’ for a Reason.” This February, SOPA broke the state fundraising record at the Pittsburgh Plunge, which raised more than $500k for athletes in Pennsylvania!

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ“ ๐‡๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฆ๐ž: Hall of Fame honors athletes and volunteers who have made outstanding contributions both on and off the field of competition. There is no typical Special Olympics athlete or volunteer. They are young and old, from across town and across the world. They do, however, share one important character trait: a competitive fire to do their personal best. That’s why SOPA established the Hall of Fame in 1996: to share with a larger audience the inspiring stories of individuals who had heard “you can’t do it,” all through their lives – but time and again proved that they could.

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ ๐๐ฅ๐ฎ๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ“ ๐‡๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฆ๐ž, 225-64

Matchup 8: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐ˆ๐ง๐๐จ๐จ๐ซ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ v. ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐–๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐ˆ๐ง๐๐จ๐จ๐ซ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ: Our newest statewide event, the Indoor Winter Games held their inaugural event in 2019 in York, Pennsylvania. With a hub at the York Expo Center, Indoor Winter Games welcomes more than 950 athletes and coaches who compete in bowling, figure skating, floor hockey and speed skating. While this year’s Indoor Winter Games were cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak, our time in York remains incredible and we’re very much looking forward to next year’s event!

๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐–๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ: Three sectionals occur in the western section of the state: Western Fall Sectional (Slippery Rock University), Western Bowling Sectionals (Erie) and Western Spring Sectional (Carnegie Mellon University). In the fall, athletes compete in five sports (bocce, long distance walking/running, powerlifting, soccer and volleyball) and in the spring, sports include athletics, basketball, golf, softball, swimming and tennis.

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐ˆ๐ง๐๐จ๐จ๐ซ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐–๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ง ๐’๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ, 202-80

Click here to check out all the updates from the next round!

Souderton Unified athletes visit D.C. for Capitol Hill Day

Yesterday, we had the honor of attendingย #SOHillDayย in Washington, D.C. with an exceptional team of Unified athletes from Souderton Area High School.

Unified partners Jon Booz & Kevin Lezynski, as well as Vicki (Jonโ€™s mom), Nancy (Kevinโ€™s mom), Souderton’s Unified coach & PE teacher Bryan Fagan and our Chief Development Officer Tim Kerrihard made the trek to Capitol Hill to speak with various members of congress to advocate on behalf ofย Special Olympicsย athletes everywhere!

Throughout the day, they met with Rep. Madeleine DeanCongressman Brian FitzpatrickCongresswoman Susan WildGlenn ThompsonU.S. Senator Bob CaseyRep. Scott Perry, and Congressman John Joyce — with a special visit from Tim Shriver and John C. McGinley — telling them about their own experiences of inclusion at Souderton, as well as the importance of Unified Sports programs in communities everywhere.

We couldn’t be more proud of the important work they did in our Nation’s Capital and we were honored to have them represent Special Olympics Pennsylvania!

For all photos from this incredible event, follow this link.

Athlete Spotlight: Louis Fornataro

Hi my name is Louis Fornataro from Lawrence County I been in special Olympics for 12 years now. I compete bocce, volleyball, basketball and bowling. In the last 6 months I have been doing a lot of stuff with special Olympics. Earlier this year, I was asked to join Lawrence Countyโ€™s Athlete Leadership Team.

Up until that point, I didnโ€™t know that I had the opportunity to represent my fellow athletes and help make the program better for everyone involved. Shortly after I joined the Athlete Leadership Team, I felt I had the opportunity to make an even bigger impact.

There were two things I really wanted to accomplish. First, I wanted to eventually become Chair of Lawrenceโ€™s Athlete Leadership Team. Second, I wanted to become a coach so I could still be active in the sports I love, even if I eventually become physically unable to compete in them. I got to go to Sheetzโ€™s Operations Center, just outside of Altoona a couple times this year to attend two different Athlete Leadership University sessions. The courses were: Athlete Representative I: I got to learn the basics of serving on a committee and solving problems and Athletes as Coaches: I got to learn how to become an effective coach and share my skills and knowledge with my peers.

I never thought that one trip to a bowling alley would lead to 12 years of things I never thought would happen. Now, Iโ€™m really excited to accomplish my next goals.

— Louis Fornataro

A couple weeks after my basketball team qualified for Summer Games, I was asked to give the oath at Opening Ceremonies. I was really nervous at first, but it felt great hearing thousands of people cheer me on. I knew if I could speak in front of almost 3,000 people, I could excel more when speaking with smaller groups. My Mentor and I got the honor of instructing the next Athlete Representative I course at Athlete Leadership University. Afterwards, I also got asked to serve on the Games Organizing Committee for the Western Fall Sectional at Slippery Rock, where I know my experience from that event would help the rest of the committee understand what the athletes want.

When you join special Olympics, you get a great opportunity to play any sport and hear your name called when you accomplish something. I got involved because in 2006, I had a good friend that got me told me to go bowling with them. I never thought that one trip to a bowling alley would lead to 12 years of things I never thought would happen. Now, Iโ€™m really excited to accomplish my next goals.

Louis Fornataro is an Athlete Representative and Athlete as Coach from Lawrence County and has been participating in Special Olympics for 12 years. Outside of Special Olympics, Louis enjoys going to the movies and hanging out with friends and family.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Moments of 2019 (Part II)

The things that Special Olympics Pennsylvania athletes, coaches and volunteers have accomplished in 2019 are nothing short of sensational.

And so as we take time to savor these final few hours of the year and look ahead to 2020, we want to share our list of Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Moments of 2019.

Today, we’re releasing the Top 5 moments and in case you missed Nos. 6-10, you can find them here.

As always, we can’t thank you enough for all of your support. We truly wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you. So without further ado…

SPECIAL OLYMPICS PENNSYLVANIA
TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2019

5) The Inaugural Indoor Winter Games: Even though a major snowstorm shortened 48 hours worth of competition into one long, wild day (some gold-medal hockey games didn’t finish until 8 p.m.!) that just added to the unbelievable memory that was the first Indoor Winter Games in York. It was our honor to launch this event in Pennsylvania (which, in addition to floor hockey, includes competition in speed skating, figure skating and bowling) and we’re looking forward to many more successful years to come.

4) Aerie <3’s the #InclusionRevolution: Perhaps no moment better encapsulated the true nature of the #inclusionrevolution than this phenomenal campaign from Aerie, called #AerieREAL. We were honored to have six athletes from Pennsylvania join Special Olympics New York athlete Chelsea Werner, USA gold medalist Aly Raisman and model Iskra for a photoshoot in July. We’re so incredibly proud of Emily, Jessica, Danielle, Hannah, Daijah and Kaitlyn. Click here for photos and bios from the entire campaign.

3) Summer Games turns 50: What began as a small gathering of a little more than 100 athletes at West Chester University in 1970 turned FIFTY this year, and the entire weekend was incredible. Featuring more than 2,000 athletes from every program throughout the state, this year was highlighted by an awesome Opening Ceremonies, Nathan Boyle winning the Sheetz Family Award for Excellence and so many teams and individuals accomplishing their goals.

2) PA athletes shine in Abu Dhabi: Four gold, six silver, one bronze. That was the final medal count for Pennsylvania athletes representing Special Olympics USA at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. The Clinton County Hawks, one of the more dominant teams in SOPA history, came together to win the gold. Meanwhile, powerlifter Delina Rodrigues set a personal best while capturing the gold in dramatic fashion and Aaron Keller came from behind in the 10000m as part of a furious race to the finish to earn first place. On the tennis court, Valerie Stiffy and Brianna Whorl both earned silver medals in singles and doubles play. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

1) Izzy wins it at the buzzer: Hopefully by now you’ve seen the unbelievable game-winning layup at Fall Festival by Beaver County athlete Izzy Scialabba, but if you haven’t — watch it and you’ll see why it’s our No. 1 moment of 2019. Not only did Izzy’s bucket win the game for his team in this Unified event with members of Villanova University‘s men’s basketball team, but the play honored his late father. Izzy and his dad, James, were watching the 2018 version of the Unified game from the stands and spoke to each other about how great it’d be to play on that court. Wouldn’t you know it, Izzy was selected to suit up for this year’s game. But, tragically, James lost his long battle against cancer just weeks before this year’s Fall Fest. After making the shot, Izzy was lifted on his teammates’ shoulders and pointed to the sky in remembrance of his dad.

Thank you to everyone for making 2019 so awesome and we absolutely can’t wait to see what kind of memories we create together in 2020!

Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Moments of 2019

The things that Special Olympics Pennsylvania athletes, coaches and volunteers have accomplished in 2019 are nothing short of sensational.

And so as we take time to savor these final few hours of the year and look ahead to 2020, we want to share our list of Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Moments of 2019.

We’re releasing half the list today (Nos. 6-10) and will publish the top five moments tomorrow as you prepare to ring in the new year!

As always, we can’t thank you enough for all of your support. We truly wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you. So without further ado…

SPECIAL OLYMPICS PENNSYLVANIA
TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2019

10) Michael “Money” Maker announces Steelers Draft Pick: The NFL Draft is an exciting time for any sports fan, but this year was particularly meaningful for Mike “Money” Maker, SOPA Vice President of Development Kraig Makohus and Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, who were all on stage to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ 5th-round pick (141st overall) in this year’s Draft. Complete with ESPN coverage and a scrolling bottom line.

9) Union Unified team scores a huge victory: This year’s version of the MLS Exchange Game took a local rivalry to new heights as our Philadelphia Union Unified team traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike to take on the New York Red Bulls. After attending a training session and meeting the Union players and coach Jim Curtin in August, the team was ready to take the field for their Sept. 22 match. On an absolutely beautiful afternoon for soccer in Harrison, NJ, the Union Unified team jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead before holding on for a thrilling 3-2 win.

8) SOPA announces Center for Inclusive Leadership: Announced at this year’s Fall Festival at Villanova University, The Center for Unified Leadership will serve as a โ€œcenter of excellenceโ€ for Special Olympicsโ€™ leader development efforts including research to foster a deeper understanding of how individuals with intellectual disabilities lead. The Center will also develop and review curricula, tools and training. This marked the first step in a collaboration with Special Olympics International, which will include a network of similar hubs all over the world based on further partnerships with universities, businesses, foundations and thought leaders interested in promoting inclusive leadership.

7) Ernie Roundtree runs the Boston Marathon: Every day we’re continually amazing by what our athletes accomplish. And Monroe County‘s Ernie Roundtree (who also happens to be a SOPA Board Member) qualifying for — and running — the Boston Marathon might just top them all. Ernie is an incredible long-distance runner and despite aches and pains throughout his body over the course of a grueling 26.2 miles, he finished what is arguably the most prestigious marathon in the world last April in 6 hours and 26 minutes.

6) SOPA Hall of Fame welcomes four new members: At this year’s Leadership Conference at Penn State University, not only did 15 Athlete Leaders earn degrees from Athlete Leadership University, but four individuals (two athletes and two volunteers) were inducted into the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Nina Kaneriya, Corey Markle, Bellamarie Bregar and Herb Packer on their incredible achievements within and outside the world of sport.

… That’s all for now, but be sure to check back tomorrow for Nos. 1-5!