Special Olympics Pennsylvania: March Madness 2020 Champions

Ladies & gentlemen, we are proud to introduce your 2020 SOPA MARCH MADNESS CHAMPION…

๐’๐๐Ž๐‘๐“๐’ ๐‚๐€๐Œ๐!!!! ๐Ÿ†๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ…

Cinderella is dancing!! The No. 7 seed has done it and shocked the field!! Not only did Sports Camp take down top-seeded Summer Games in the Final Four but then defeated No. 1 Fall Festival in yesterday’s championship. An incredible total of 1,084 people voted and the final tally was 762-322 in favor of our champs!

We can’t thank everyone enough for their support of ALL our amazing Special Olympics programs throughout the state. The was an incredible tournament and we hope you had as much fun voting as we did watching the results flow in!
Be sure to stay tuned for more awesome stuff coming your way as we all continue to stay active and stay together as one big Special Olympics Pennsylvania family!

Special Olympics Pennsylvania: March Madness 2020, Round II

Can you believe we’ve already powered through EIGHT matchups in our OFFICIAL Special Olympics Pennsylvania March Madness Bracket! ๐Ÿ™Œ

Check out the updated bracket below and check back frequently for updates on all the voting!

Matchup 9: 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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

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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).

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐’๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ defeats 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, 243-49

Matchup 10: 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ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ

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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 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 (278) defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ’ ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐  ๐€๐ญ๐ก๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ (138)

Matchup 11: 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ง๐ข๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐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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.

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ง๐ข๐Ÿ๐ข๐ž๐ ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ, 203-112

Matchup 12: 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ˆ๐ง๐๐จ๐จ๐ซ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ

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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!

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จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ ๐๐ฅ๐ฎ๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ฌ 151-111

LADIES & GENTLEMEN, THE FINAL FOUR IS SET!!

SOPA March Madness: Final Four:
๐Ÿ”น ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐’๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ
๐Ÿ”น ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ• ๐’๐ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ
๐Ÿ”น ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ
๐Ÿ”น 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

Matchup 13: 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ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ

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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 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 (505) defeats ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐’๐ฎ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐ฌ (301)

Matchup 14: 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ˆ๐ง๐๐จ๐จ๐ซ ๐–๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐†๐š๐ฆ๐ž๐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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!

RESULTS: ๐๐จ. ๐Ÿ ๐…๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ (189) defeats 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 (113)

Matchup 15 (Championship): 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ฉ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐‚๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ

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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 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.

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!

Erie Powerlifting’s fantastic journey

Eight years ago, Erie’s Powerlifting program was dormant. Special Olympics Pennsylvania athletes and coaches in Erie City and Erie County (which have since combined to form one program) had come and go, but for one reason or another it didn’t stick.

That’s where John Leonard comes in. John, a Special Education teacher at Erie High School, first heard about Special Olympics through other educators and administrators at the school. He and his wife, Nicole, were instantly drawn to the organization.

Erie powerlifting athlete Brandon Olson (left) and coach John Leonard (right) at the team’s annual banquet

And if you took one look at John, you’d know he was drawn to powerlifting as well. All of his muscles are seemingly four times that of the average person and his head is shaved bald — an unspoken prerequisite in the powerlifting community. John doesn’t just look the part. He competes regularly and is a tested United States Powerlifting Association lifter.

“I really wanted to get a powerlifting team started in Erie,” said Leonard, 35, who’s been lifting since he was a teenager. “Powerlifting’s my thing and what I’ve done for years. I decided once we started the program, that I was going to continue it regardless of what I had going on in my personal life. I didn’t want it to get to a point where it had no coach.”

John, Nicole and the Erie powerlifters (all photos courtesy of John Leonard)

So John gathered interested athletes and began training at the nearest-available space — the weight room at his high school. And, like 99 percent of high school weight rooms, the conditions weren’t ideal. It was dingy. Equipment was rusting. And, perhaps worst of all, there was no visibility to help the program grow. Five seasons came and went and, while the program was gaining traction and athletes were getting stronger, it still hadn’t taken that next step.

Then John started a conversation with Jeff Gibbens, the owner of CrossFit FBO/212 Degrees of Fitness (the gym where John trains), about his work with Special Olympics.

“Right away he offered his facility for us to train at. And once the athletes started practicing there, Jeff fell in love with it,” Leonard said.

Jeff (far left), John & Nicole (far right) with their powerlifting team.

Soon after Erie’s team began holding practices at CrossFit FBO, Jeff asked to join the team as an assistant coach. From there, he’s helped secure sponsorships for the team and been integral in fundraising and travel planning.

“The big thing that made a huge difference was Jeff and his gym opening their doors and being nothing but supportive. There was never a conversation about money or what they get out of it. From the beginning, he was all in,” Leonard said.

“My athletes feel like they’re a part of something instead of just putting us in the basement of an old weight room. Everyone in the gym embraces us. They stop what they’re doing and come over and watch practice or see if they can help out in any way.”

Since moving into the new space, not only has John added Jeff, 50, to his coaching staff, but he’s acquired two additional assistant coaches. This year, CrossFit FBO created a fundraising team for the Erie Polar Plunge and took a frigid dip into Lake Erie. Together, the team raised $1,924 to support Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Since connecting with CrossFit FBO, the team has raised funds for things like new warmup uniforms and sweatshirts.

The CrossFit FBO team at the 2019 Erie Polar Plunge

The outpouring of support from the gym community has been so strong that John’s had to turn some people away since all of the coaching spots on the roster are currently occupied. Take look at CrossFit FBO’s Facebook posts from early November and you’ll see exactly what Erie’s team means to this powerlifting family — especially the posts from this year’s Fall Festival at Villanova University, where Jeff shared videos of all of the athletes’ lifts.

Erie’s current roster is comprised of: Jayden Gorring, Reshema Henderson, Ryan Kelly, Brandon Olson, Stephen Schwab and Cody Sedziak.

“I think we have a really good mix [of personalities]. We have some athletes that are very serious and strictly business. And then we have some guys that are real silly,” Leonard said. “Two of our athletes are engaged and so they push each other and support each other.”

In addition to having a facility that is so inclusive, Erie’s team has a head coach with an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport. In tandem with his assistant coaches and his wife Nicole — who is also very active in Special Olympics and helps John with all the necessary paperwork and clearances — they’ve elevated the expectations for what it means to be a member of Erie’s powerlifting team.

“It gives me a really unique perspective,” Leonard said. “I feel like I’m able to challenge my athletes and, based on my experience, I know what’s going to come up next for them.

“It can sometimes be hard, mentally, for any powerlifter. So I can prepare them for the peaks and valleys of the sport. I think that keeps them interested and motivated and wanting to come back year after year.”

One of the cooler things about being on a powerlifting team — and there are many — is that the athletes are held to the same standard during competition as any lifter competing outside of Special Olympics would be. Where in some Special Olympics sports there may be minor rules adjustments here and there, that isn’t so with lifting.

Jeff (far left) and John (far right) with their powerlifting team.

“I think it gives our athletes a lot of credibility within the powerlifting community,” Leonard said. “Some people might have this perception that it’s not competitive or not a real sport, but we’re coaching our athletes to compete at a high level. If I wanted to take any of my athletes to a meet outside of Special Olympics, they would be successful at that meet.”

As the program continues to grow, John, Jeff, Nicole and the rest of the team are hopeful they’ve set an unbreakable foundation in place for years to come.

“I hope to continue to get more athletes. It’d be nice to have one of the bigger delegations,” he said. “I hope to be in the position, one day, where I’m an old man and I’m still doing this. That would be cool.”

Throwback Thursday: QVC staff volunteers at Fall Fest

At the 30th Anniversary of Fall Festival last year, QVC sent 30 volunteers to Villanova’s campus to participate in the fun! Pictured are some of the QVC volunteers with the Area M soccer team.

The QVC team is planning to volunteer again at this year’s Fall Fest and if you’d like to join them, simply visit our website for more information.

Photo and information provided by Kristen Skutch.