Posted by: sonewjersey | July 19, 2013

Camp Shriver Basketball Week

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Basketball Week Camp Shriver

Becca here, writing from the Camp Shriver Command Post.  Megan, Kate, Lisa, and myself have had a fabulous time watching our athletes develop their skills on the basketball court this week!  With the help of some Junior Varsity and Varsity basketball players from William Allen High School of Allentown, PA, our athletes were exposed to instruction to better understand the sport and to improve on their skills.  Leading our group of clinicians was Doug Snyder, head coach of the Allen High School basketball team.  His expertise was beyond helpful and his enthusiasm was infectious.  On top of basketball instruction came the real fun; playing unified basketball games.  Our basketball courts were electrified by the intense games that went on throughout the week.  As one athlete, Kevin, mentioned, “Basketball is awesome!”

Our fabulous group of counselors were impressed by the level of play that was shown on the court and were overjoyed to see athletes cheering each other on during games and instruction.  Not only are we in the camp office interested in teaching our athletes various sports, but we also are striving to build valuable and meaningful relationships between all present at Camp Shriver.  Matt, one of our athletes, noted that his favorite part about camp is being with a large group and meeting new friends.  These friendships also include our enthusiastic volunteers.  We had over 50 volunteers working with the athletes this week.  The connections that are made between athletes and volunteers are so exciting to witness!  One volunteer mentioned today that his favorite part about being a part of Camp Shriver is “seeing athletes’ faces light up when they are having fun.”

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Basketball Week Twilight Camp

An exciting new addition to Camp Shriver is our Twilight Camp that runs evenings Monday-Thursday.  This week we continued with basketball instruction and on our last day we ran a Twilight Tip-Off Classic Tournament.  We had six teams entered and our winning team was the Yellow SpongeBobs.  The gym was booming with excitement during each game, especially our championship game.

Basketball week was a success and campers left with big smiles on their faces, despite the heat wave that cramped our style a bit.  We hope the skills learned and the experiences that were had will be remembered and we look forward to another great week at Camp Shriver!  Stay tuned for more news to come from the Camp Shriver Command Post!

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Posted by: sonewjersey | July 15, 2013

Camp Shriver

By Maggie, rising high school junior, Camp Shriver volunteerDSC_0212

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Camp Shriver over my past two years as a volunteer, it is that Camp Shriver is so much more than just another summer camp.

During the first week of camp, which is the Multi-sport including Tennis, Bocce, Baseball, and Golf, I’ve been volunteering with a group of Special Olympics athletes ages 15-17. It’s hard to believe that camp started just three days ago; I’ve already seen so much growth in many of the athletes, both athletically and socially. What makes Camp Shriver different from other sports camps; is it’s not only about learning a sport, but also about forming friendship, facing your fears, and crossing barriers, for campers and volunteers alike. As a volunteer, I’ve been lucky enough to witness quite a few of these moments where an athlete really grows. Some of these moments are big, loud and hard to miss. Others are quiet and subtle, shared by only a few, and easy to overlook.

This week I have been paired with an athlete named Ethan. Though I’ve only been with Ethan for a few days, my time with him has really reminded me how Camp Shriver pushes campers to do their best and overcome obstacles. Throughout the week, I’ve been amazed at how much his abilities and coordination have improved, along with his attitude and willingness to try new things. On my first day working with Ethan, he was tired and frustrated by the walking, standing, and complicated drills. Convincing him to participate at each station seemed to take a great amount of time and effort. However, by the end of the second day I spent with him, he was not only willing, but eager to play and try new activities. At times, it was even difficult to convince him to stop playing and move on to the next station.

Throughout the week, Ethan has been met with constant support and encouragement by all of the counselors, volunteers, and athletes. While it is truly wonderful to be able to make an impact in the lives of the athletes I worked with this week, it is even more inspiring to see the immense amount of support that the athletes have shown each other. During our time in the Fitness Center, another athlete named Jonah approached me saying he wanted to stay behind and help Ethan as I was helping him move from the fitness machines on to his walker. The support coming from other athletes like Jonah, encourages Ethan and inspires him to succeed in all his attempts at Camp Shriver.

Even through this, I was still worried by his frustration, thinking that he wasn’t enjoying camp as much as some of the other athletes. However, at the end of the day my worries were dismissed. Ethan smiled at me and loudly declared, “Maggie, I had fun,” not just once, but several times. I’m sure that I, along with the rest of the volunteers, will have many stories to share and most will be more exciting and dramatic than this one. But for me, this was a moment that I will always remember.

Posted by: sonewjersey | June 21, 2013

Be a fan® of Special Olympics

DSC_0306For the past 5 years TD Bank has helped raise funds for Special Olympics New Jersey athletes with the Be a fan® Campaign. Every year Athletes from all over the state visit TD Banks and thank them for their contributions and support. This week Eric Kish from the Somerset County Tigers B Team visited the TD Bank Old Bridge Store. You may know Eric, as he is one of the faces of this campaign. Employees from Old Bridge as well as Mr. TD himself made Eric’s visit to the bank a memorable one. Eric was able to sign autographs and was shown how to be a teller at the drive thru. “We love the athletes for who they are and appreciate them very much.” Said Keysha L. Barry, Vice president Manager of Old Bridge Route 9 Store, “It’s not just about giving back, but also to show we care, and share this with our DSC_0422customers.” Eric and the TD Employees together helped make a contribution to Special Olympics New Jersey with the Penny Arcade. When making a donation to Special Olympics through the Penny Arcade, just inform one of the tellers you would like to make a donation to Special Olympics and the non-customer fee will be waived. 92% of all donations benefit Special Olympics.

Athletes Megan and Devon from Gloucester County visited the TD University site, only to be greeted by excited employees and a party just for them. The girls received a tour of the whole facility and also had a chance to sign autographs for all their TD Fans. During their tour, Megan and Devon had the opportunity to visit one of the classrooms in the facility that trains TD employees how to be a teller. It was clear by the interaction between the athletes and TD University employees that this was a special experience for all.DSC_0452

The visits to the TD Stores all around the state are not only a chance to say thank you, but also an opportunity for employees to meet our amazing athletes and form relationships with them. Athletes have the chance to show off their medals and be congratulated by some of their biggest fans. The campaign ends on June 30th, so visit your local TD Bank and Be a fan® of your local Special Olympics New Jersey Athletes.

By Michael Edenzon

On Friday June 7th, I attended the 2013 Project UNIFY New Jersey Youth Activation Summit. My reasons for attending stemmed from my admiration of the Special Olympics movement, as well as from my awareness of the exclusion that its athletes face every day. My lifelong involvement with people with intellectual disabilities began at age 2, the day my family brought home my brother Zach. Zach was born with Down syndrome, and now, at the age of 15 competes regularly in local and state Special Olympics competitions. I must say, however, that not only is he my brother and my motivation, but he is also my best friend. As I have grown up, Zach’s experiences of exclusion have been mine as well. Thinking back to the times as kids on the playground, Zach was an afterthought to his peers who saw him as the “different” kid. My challenge, I felt, was to create an environment for kids like my brother that encourages friendships and inclusion across a diverse spectrum of intellectual capabilities that would grow with each person that it reached. In joining the New Jersey Youth Activation Committee (NJYAC), my friend Jack and I, both students at The Hun School, were looking to gain the tools necessary to mobilize and engage our peers in a movement to build relationships between people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Our morning began with a personal story told by the President of Special Olympics New Jersey about his personal experiences with, and feelings about, exclusion. As I looked around a full room of nearly one hundred of my peers, I listened to our call to action which said, “We expect you (NJYAC), to take what you learn here today, take it back to your schools, to your friends, and communities, and make a difference.” Our direction was set, and Jack and I began our day with the task of implementing the lessons about to be taught.

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Sue Shank speaking about the different types of leadership.

Sue Schank, a facilitation manager and content specialist of Disney’s Youth Education Series Program, spoke first about the different types of leaders and their characteristics. After seeing famous examples of each, such as Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Walt Disney, we broke up into groups and answered a series of questions to help us identify what type of leader we want to be. Jack and I both found ourselves somewhere in between a visionary and collaborative leader. We wanted to lead from the front, yet still lead by example. I, more so than Jack, was a little surprised at the results. I was almost certain that I did not have any characteristics of a collaborative leader, but surprised as I was, I couldn’t help but be excited to be learning about myself and how to best work with others.

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Youth discussing what are the qualities of a great leader.

Our next speakers were Clement Coulston and Danielle Liebl members of the Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee. Clement and Danielle spoke about co-leadership and how to value the ideas and opinions of a group or partner. What I found most compelling about Danielle was her ability to speak to, and lead her peers amidst the challenges she faced growing up with an intellectual disability. For the first time, I saw individuals like my brother and Danielle as not just beneficiaries of the YAC’s efforts, but co-contributors to the global movement of Generation Unified. Clement and Danielle’s segment finished off with a video of Tim Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics speaking at a rally in New Jersey. He encouraged the youth in the audience that they are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today. At that point, Jack and I realized, we are a part of a national and worldwide effort to change the culture around those with intellectual disabilities, and that it was our responsibility as children and adolescents to change the world now, so we can live in it tomorrow. During lunch, we heard the stories of Miriam Darwiche and Maria Fisher who both spoke about their experiences with exclusion and the positive impact each of us could have by simply being a true friend to those who need one.

At this point Jack (15) and I (17), knew what was expected of us, but we still were unsure as to how we would answer our call to action once we left the campus of TCNJ that afternoon. The last segment addressed our uncertainties of how to create a unified generation.

A microphone was passed around the room, and students from each school were given the chance to share their efforts to date, as well as explain their plans to grow in the future. Members of the Rowan Unified Sports program concluded the segment by giving an overview of the startup and execution of their program, which was extremely popular in its first year on campus. Once each representative spoke, Jack and I were able to get a better idea of how we wanted to answer the call to action, and the different ways we could do it.

As the day winded down, Clement and Danielle joined us for one last team building activity before we left. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about myself and my leadership abilities as well as techniques on how to work alongside others who can contribute. The compelling stories of Danielle, Miriam, and Maria, gave Jack and I even greater motivation to take what we learned and use it to grow a Generation Unified in our schools and communities through programs similar to those at Rowan University. The summit was not only an informative experience for me, but a moving one.

Beginning this fall, Jack and I are organizing a Unified basketball league at the Hun School. Special Olympics athletes will be joining Hun students once a week to play in a fun, yet competitive basketball league, side by side as a unified team in an environment that fosters inclusion, unity, and friendships. We are starting small, but with the tools we gained at the NJYAS, we plan to grow with others as a part of the first Generation Unified. We also continue with Mr. Shriver’s message in mind, seeing the world that I want my brother and I to live in, is not one for tomorrow, but one for today.

Posted by: sonewjersey | May 22, 2013

Unified Indoor Triathlon

Wave 1 starting their 30 minute cycle leg of the race.

Wave 1 starting their 30 minute cycle leg of the race.

On Sunday, May 19, Special Olympics New Jersey hosted the 2nd annual Unified Indoor Triathlon at Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health & Wellness in Hamilton. The event included a 10 minute swim, a 30 minute bike ride, and ended with a 20 minute run. There were a total of twenty-seven participants, eighteen Special Olympics New Jersey athletes and nine Robert Wood Johnson Health and Wellness Center members.

The top competitors for each were as following:  For swimming athlete Chris McMullen swam 650 yards and partner Molly Manzack swam 650 yards as well. Athlete Daisy Desimone cycled an average of 102 Watts. And Partner Jackie Franz had an average of 147 Watts. For the running event, athlete Bobby Fredericks ran a total of 2.03 miles and partner Amanda Borgstrom ran 2.22 miles.

Special Olympics New Jersey Athlete Ann Marie Lammerding was very pleased with her success in each event and over all enjoyed training with her friends. “I did really well!” she said, “I had a good time with the other competitors.” Ann Marie swam 400 yards for swimming, ran a 1.03 mile, and cycled an avg. of 28 watts.

All of the Triathletes and Volunteers together that made the event a success.

All of the Triathletes and Volunteers together that made the event a success.

The athletes trained for several months leading up to the event and had their own individual training plans to follow. For  many of the competitors, this was their second time participating in this event. Some of the athletes that participated in the indoor triathlon will now begin training to complete outdoor Sprint Triathlons this fall.

Athletes who are interested in learning more about training opportunities over the summer should contact Ryan Ceresani at RKC@sonj.org or 609.896.8000 ext. 276.

Check out all the photos from the Unified Indoor triathlon on our Flickr site here!

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