Volunteer of the Month: Chris Ebling

Volunteers are the backbone of Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Without our volunteers, we’d never be able to provide competition, leadership, health and so many other opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Pennsylvania.

Congratulations to Chris Ebling, Schuylkill County’s Team Leader, for being named our Volunteer of the Month for April 2023!

We took a minute to catch up with Chris about his time with Special Olympics, his motivation, his county and so much more. Congratulations Chris!

“Me and my wife have four children, three who are biological brothers and sisters we adopted. We got active in Special Olympics about 10-15 years ago and they started swimming, started doing basketball. I was one of those parents that sat back and watched. At that time I thought, ‘maybe our local program could do so much more.’ Then I became more active and I took the helm about two years ago. …

I absolutely love it. I like running our program like any other sporting event. We get team pics, we do spirit wear, we do games, we take transportation. In our eyes our athletes are no different than college or high school athletes. I treat our athletes like they should be treated. They make it to Penn State? Yeah, we’re gonna have a pep rally, yeah we’re gonna have a parade. …

I don’t take credit for it because there are so many people around me that make it happen. It’s not just me, it’s the great group of volunteers that I have. When I took over, we offered two sports: basketball and volleyball. Now, this weekend at Kutztown it’ll be the first time in many years we’re taking five teams down in five different sports. We’re growing. We’re growing very fast. It’s just like a family. The parents all sit together and conversate, other athletes have become friends with one another. It’s amazing to see. …

I work at it more than I do at my paid job, but it’s OK. A lot of it is word of mouth. We bust our butts. We’re blessed. I think we’re really making the right connections. We do a lot of community outreach. We’ll go to street fairs, we’ll have pencils or frisbees made up. People are coming to me wanting to sign up. They want to help. …

I would say my favorite times are just watching the athletes. I always say I don’t get paid, but I get paid with smiles. I just enjoy when the athletes are excited with something. It’s not about me, it’s about my athletes and volunteers. …

Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But let’s give it a chance. Let’s grow. We’re giving Schuylkill athletes a chance.”

Chris was nominated by Joshua Cunningham, who said this about Chris:

“Chris is one of the most dedicated and selfless individuals that I have met in a very long time. Not only does he spend countless hours volunteering he does it with the utmost integrity, honesty, and care for others. His unwavering commitment to make sure everyone is taken care of to the highest standard and his impressive work ethic for volunteering and his day job at the same time is an inspiration. He is an exceptional volunteer and an even better person. His dedication, selflessness, and caring nature are truly admirable, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him.”

Joshua Cunningham, on Chris Ebling

Maryellen Brown: 2022 Annette K. Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award Winner!

Every year, Special Olympics North America recognizes a coach for their contributions to their athletes, program and the moment over the course of their entire career.

We are beyond excited, overjoyed and flat-out PROUD to announce that Maryellen Brown is this year’s recipient of the Annette K. Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award!!!!

Maryellen, who is from Area M in the Capital Area Region, has been coaching Special Olympics for FIFTY-TWO YEARS!! Throughout the course of her illustrious career, Maryellen has coached athletics, basketball, floor hockey and volleyball. What began as volunteering as a college student at Lock Haven University has blossomed into trips throughout Pennsylvania and to numerous USA Games and World Games. Additionally, Maryellen has held a variety of committee positions, management team roles and served as a Sports Director and on our Board of Directors.

Maryellen,  also a member of Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Hall of Fame, has helped train other coaches to achieve their true potential for more than 20 years and she’s the biggest fan and supporter of our athletes both on and off the playing field. She focuses on teaching our athletes the importance of health and fitness throughout training. When installing a new element in practice, Maryellen always explains why a drill is important and how it’s going to help the team achieve its ultimate goal. Her athletes respect and listen to her and also have a ton of fun as a tight-knit community.

Maryellen emphasizes the importance of how people respond when facing adverse situations, both in sport and in life, and the respect and admiration her athletes, peers and friends & family have for her perpetually shines.

Congratulations to Maryellen Brown — winner of the 2022 Special Olympics North America Annette K. Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award!

Inclusive Health Spotlight: SO FUNfitness

FUNfitness was developed in collaboration with the American Physical Therapy Association and provides athletes the opportunity to be screened for flexibility, functional strength, and balance. The screenings are provided by physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, or physical therapy students.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania developed a unique partnership with American Physical Therapy Association- Pennsylvania to provide volunteers for the FUNfitness events. 

Special Olympics Pennsylvania also partners with universities to provide student volunteers for FUNfitness events.

This experience provides opportunities for physical therapy students to interact with athletes with intellectual disabilities while also gaining experience in the screening process.

Research shows that over 80 percent of healthcare providers are not professionally trained to treat people with intellectual disabilities.  By partnering with Universities, we are directly addressing this issue and providing students with this training and experiences.

We caught up with Natalie Albright, a former student (who is now a PT working with children with intellectual disabilities), to see what she had to say about FUNfitness! Check it out:

Participating in this event made me realize that I may be seriously interested in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities one day.  This was something that I had only briefly considered previously because I was never sure if I would be able to do it. 

Overall, it was really awesome to get to be a part of something bigger than myself and to see how much the Special Olympics clearly means to all those involved

I feel as though I was able to learn a lot through experiencing new situations firsthand (which is my favorite, most effective way to learn), while also helping a fantastic organization.  I appreciate any opportunity to apply what we have been learning about in our classes to real-life situations because it serves as reassurance that all the lectures we sit through really do matter and will benefit us in our careers. I regret never getting involved with the Special Olympics before this point, but I am grateful to have had the chance to get involved now and I hope to return to volunteer in the future.

Natalie Albright

If you’d like to learn more about #InclusiveHealth and FUNfitness, please visit www.specialolympicspa.org/health-programs.

Celebrating Sue Paterno

Thirty years ago, Sue Paterno joined the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Board of Directors!

We are honored to have Sue’s ongoing commitment, leadership, and advocacy for Special Olympics Pennsylvania and our athletes.

Whether through supporting the Beaver Stadium Run, Summer Games or many of our other statewide events and competitions, Sue is still as determined as ever to make a lasting impact!

Happy Anniversary, Sue. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you’ve done to support people with intellectual disabilities in our beautiful commonwealth!

Announcing the 2020 Virtual Summer Games

We are SO EXCITED to announce the 2020 Virtual Summer Games! This event will offer the opportunity for all of us to come together, capture the spirit of our athletes and volunteers, and share a unique experience even though we can’t physically be in Happy Valley!

Virtual Summer Games is open to EVERY registered athlete and is a safe way for everyone to compete against their friends and peers from across the state. After our athletes have trained and competed from home, we will all come together virtually to celebrate through a series of virtual events taking place on Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, and our website from June, 12 – 14, 2020.

For all the details, please visit our official Virtual Summer Games website: https://specialolympicspa.org/virtual-summer-games


𝟭) 𝗖𝗛𝗢𝗢𝗦𝗘 𝗬𝗢𝗨𝗥 𝗖𝗛𝗔𝗟𝗟𝗘𝗡𝗚𝗘𝗦 ➡️ bit.ly/2020VSGSports
Check out all of the offered challenges and train at home. There are challenges in each of the eight Summer Games sports that we typically offer: Athletics, Basketball, Equestrian, Golf, Gymnastics, Softball, Swimming & Tennis!

You can train and submit your scores for up to three (3) events. Keep track of your scores as you go. You have until Sunday, May 31, 2020 to train and submit your results.

𝟯) 𝗦𝗨𝗕𝗠𝗜𝗧 𝗬𝗢𝗨𝗥 𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗨𝗟𝗧𝗦 ➡️ bit.ly/2020VSGResults
Train for all of your events first and keep track of your scores as you go. Fill out the form above you are done training and submit your best event scores. You can also submit a video of yourself practicing or a recording of an encouraging message to share [VIDEO SUBMISSION LINK ➡️ bit.ly/2020VSGVideos]! All qualifying scores are due by Sunday, May 31, 2020.

Be sure to share all of your training and progress with us using the hashtags #VirtualSummerGames and #WeAreSOPA!

For even more details, check out this comprehensive webinar which will answer all your questions! bit.ly/2WP0qN1