Posted by: sonewjersey | October 2, 2013

4th Annual EKS Day: Play Unified to Live Unified

On Saturday, September 28, we hosted the 4th Annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day at the Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex in Lawrenceville. EKS Day is an annual celebration of Mrs. Shriver’s life and a global call for people to commit actions of inclusion, acceptance and unity for and with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009) was a leader in the worldwide struggle to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities for more than three decades. She believed that on the playing field, we forget about our differences and forge bonds that recognize our mutual humanity.

DSC_0257Our celebration kicked off with an unveiling by Athlete Congress of a new street sign proclaiming our address as 1 Eunice Kennedy Shriver Way. This address change makes Special Olympics New Jersey the first state office to have their street named after Mrs. Shriver.

The day’s activities then went on to include a session of Athlete Congress, where the 19 members discussed several topics to be voted on at the New Jersey State House when they visit on November 15, as well as a powerlifting seminar hosted by world champion lifter Kyle Elder. He demonstrated different types of lifts, answered questions and encouraged more athletes to participate in powerlifting.powerlift

In addition, the Young Athletes Program held a developmental training session with games and activities to build motor skills and hand-eye coordination, while demonstrations of Unified flag football, soccer and volleyball drew crowds of spectators to the bleachers. Members of the community were also invited to play Unified bocce throughout the morning.

Athlete Tara Walters left a comment on our Facebook page, saying “I had a nice time today with my friends…” We hope everyone who came out to enjoy EKS Day feels the same way!

Please visit our photo gallery from EKS Day:

To learn more about Eunice Kennedy Shriver:

Posted by: sonewjersey | September 13, 2013

Two NJ Youth Appointed to Project UNIFY National Committee

Lindsay & Erin enjoy the National Convention in North Carolina.

Lindsay & Erin had fun visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame during the July convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Special Olympics’ youth-focused education strategy, Project UNIFY®, recently announced the appointment of 11 new members to the National Youth Activation Committee (YAC), a group that empowers young people to engage in active social change.

Among the honorees were Special Olympics New Jersey athlete Erin Meyer and her Project UNIFY® partner Lindsay Conlan, both from Holmdel High School. These candidates were selected from applicants across the United States and exemplify extraordinary leadership skills and passion for the Special Olympics movement.

Conlan first became interested in Special Olympics because her younger brother is a Special Olympics athlete. At school, she got involved in the Best Buddies program where, after being promoted to president, she brought Project UNIFY® to campus. She worked to expand offerings both in and out of school for her peers with intellectual disabilities.

This is where she met and formed a strong friendship with Meyer. Conlan was invited to and asked to bring an athlete with her to the national conference in North Carolina this past July. She chose Meyer, and at the conference both were appointed to their state and national YAC.

The National Youth Activation Committee, which is currently in its sixth year, is comprised of young people with and without intellectual disabilities from across the country who work together to promote the core components of Project UNIFY® – Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership, and awareness and education initiatives that impact entire schools– and foster inclusive communities where all young people are agents of change. With the appointment of the newest members, the National Youth Activation Committee will include 21 active and engaged young leaders from around the country, eight of whom have intellectual disabilities.

“We are excited to welcome a new class of exceptional youth leaders to the Project UNIFY® team. These students will bring their passion and dedication to a national stage by advocating for social inclusion and positive school environments of acceptance and respect for all,” said Andrea Cahn, Senior Director of Project UNIFY®.

Currently, over 35 schools in New Jersey are actively participating in Special Olympics Project UNIFY® and as many as 10,000 young people have been impacted by the messages of inclusion, acceptance, dignity and respect for all people, including those with intellectual disabilities.

Posted by: sonewjersey | August 22, 2013

2013 North America Softball Invitational!

Starting tomorrow, Special Olympics North America and the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will co-host the Special Olympics 2013 North America Softball invitational, right here in New Jersey. The competition will take place right in Special Olympics New Jersey’s backyard at Mercer County Park. Over 360 athletes and 96 coaches will represent their teams from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico throughout the tournament. Games will be played by 12 traditional teams along with 12 Unified softballs teams that form from 18 Special Olympics delegations. Competition will be taking place Friday through Sunday at Mercer County Park in West Windsor. See below for a complete schedule of competition times.

Friday, August 23 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 24 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 25 9:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Opening ceremonies are set to kick off on Friday at 9:00 a.m. where competitors, friends, family and fans are welcome to attend. Surrounding competition on Saturday, all are invited to attend Fan Fest, where everyone can enjoy amusements, games, food vendors and dance party while cheering on the competitors.

This past Summer Special Olympics New Jersey introduced the sport of Baseball to Special Olympics. The athletes have been training all year and this summer competed for the first time. Baseball will be introduced as a demonstration sport for the 2014 USA Games next June as well. To celebrate the beginning of the sport, Team NJ Central and NJ North will play an exhibition game on Baseball Field 1 at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

On Saturday night enjoy watching the best baseball New Jersey has to offer, as the Class AA Affiliate of the New York Yankees, The Trenton Thunder who will play their final game of the season at Arm & Hammer Park Stadium in Trenton. The game begins at 7:00 p.m. and tickets for the public are $10 each.

Sunday will end with the Awards ceremony to celebrate the athlete’s victories throughout the competition. So head over to Mercer County Park Friday, Saturday and Sunday and celebrate Special Olympics athletes from all over North America and witness some of the best Special Olympics Softball competition you can see!

For more Information click here

By Susan Colacello

Project UNIFY New Jersey Project Director

Erin Meyer and Lindsey Conlan, Project UNIFY New Jersey Youth Leaders from Holmdel High School, joined the Special Olympics New Jersey staff at the 2013 Special Olympics North America Conference in North Carolina this past July.   Athlete, Erin and Partner, Lindsey, attended the week-long event as our state delegates for the national Project UNIFY Youth Activation Council meeting.  They found the conference, themed “Fuel  the Passion,” very appropriately named!  Each day was packed with phenomenal speakers, information and resources.  Most importantly, our Project UNIFY delegates met fellow Youth Activation Council members and Special Olympics staff, athletes and supporters from all 50 states, the Caribbean and Jamaica.


Erin and Lindsey at the NASCAR Hall of Fame during the SONA Conference

Lindsey and Erin were among approximately 150 Youth Activation Leaders and Advisors attending the Project UNIFY meeting at the Special Olympics North America Conference, which drew nearly 1,000 participants.  The meeting, led by the National Youth Activation Council  members, was designed as a “train the trainer” workshop, preparing the state pairs to introduce two new tools, created by National YAC, to their programs; The Inclusive Youth Leadership Guide and the Unified Sports Student Guidebook.  In addition, they participated in numerous collaboration and reflection sessions, reviewing the information they were learning at the SONA conference sessions and exploring ways they will take it home to enrich their state programs.

A major highlight of the conference was attending the opening session with Dr. Timothy Shriver, Ph.D, Chairman and CEO, Special Olympics.  Dr. Shriver presented an inspirational reflection on the history of the Special Olympics movement, combining organizational history, family memories and archival images of the Kennedy family and his Mother with her sister Rosemary, to tell the powerful story of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s passion to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.   He left the packed room completely moved and energized by his call to action to  bring this remarkable vision of his Mother’s forward  to leverage Special Olympics sports, health, education and community outreach programs to spirit a worldwide “dignity revolution.”  They also had the opportunity to attend extraordinary conference sessions like “Creating Dream Teams–Thinking, Feeling and Acting like an Extraordinary Leader,”  by Dr. Rebecca Kraus;  a powerful presentation on Special Olympics partnership with Nike campaign, Designed to Move, an inspiring and comical “vision for the future” by Olympic Swimming Champion Mark Tewskbery, and a final call to action by the remarkable Special Olympics multi-gold medalist,  Global Messenger, Lorretta Claiborne.


Susan, Lindsey and Erin

Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a collaboration with school communities across the country to engage young people with and without disabilities as leaders promoting acceptance and inclusion in their schools, utilizing the sports and education initiative of Special Olympics.   This fall Special Olympics New Jersey entered its 5th year in bringing Project UNIFY to schools throughout the state.  Over 300 youth leaders in 35 schools and 3 districts are currently engaged in making a difference in their schools through Youth leadership, Unified sports and whole-school engagement.   The students organize disability awareness and Unified sports programs, Partners clubs and Respect Campaigns, Special Olympics Fans in the Stands and Volunteer activities, and an array of other educational and fun initiatives aimed at bringing kids of all abilities together as classmates, teammates and friends.  These young people are taking the lead in making their schools communities places where all are welcomed, respected and have the opportunities to reach their full potential.

Congratulations Lindsey and Erin for doing an incredible job of representing New Jersey! “Fueled” with inspiration, knowledge and a national network of friends, they are ready to share what they’ve learned with their Project UNIFY peers in schools across the state beginning this September.

Posted by: sonewjersey | July 29, 2013

The Importance of Exercise

By Jenna Berrios

Camp Shriver and Twilight Camp both feature a station every day of camp in the Wawa Exercise and Wellness Center located at Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex. Not only does this station teach athlete’s the importance of wellness and fitness training, but it gives them the opportunity to learn the importance of fitness as it relates to the featured sport of the week.

During camp, athletes are taught proper weight training techniques along with how to do each exercise with correct form. Each day during the week alternates between cardio training, push exercises (leg presses, chest press, shoulder press, leg extensions, etc.) and pull exercises ( lateral pull downs, seated rows, leg curls, etc). Fitness staff supervises each session to monitor the athletes, volunteers, and counselors.DSC_0072

The Wawa Exercise and Wellness Center offers Special Olympics New Jersey athletes a safe and convenient place to learn the basics of fitness in a space where they can be themselves, feel comfortable and confident. The athletes are able to explore their capabilities and strengths individually or with a fellow training partner, in new ways they may not have experience before. “it makes me feel good,” said Camp Shriver camper and Special Olympics New Jersey Athlete, “I want to get back in shape again and feel healthy.”

Physical and mental benefits also come along with fitness. Motor development skills are improved, along with cardiovascular endurance; physical strength and potential weight loss are physical benefits that continued use of the Wawa Exercise and Wellness Center fitness Center can result in. Being in such an environment with athletes similar to each other also improves social interaction, builds self-esteem, improves focus and functionality, reduces anxiety and allows for a release of positive energy. At the fitness center, it is our goal to make sure athletes are having fun while getting fit and continually challenging themselves and improving towards a better quality of life. Sean Reese, also a Camp Shriver participant and SONJ athlete, says he enjoys the fitness center “Because we work hard and get healthy and stronger.”

The fitness center hours are Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday from 5:00-8:00pm & Saturdays from 10:00AM – 2:00PM – (noting though that the fitness center will be closed from August 18th – through September 2nd – re-opening on Tuesday, September 3rd).

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