Jon Buzby, Director of Media Relations for Special Olympics Delaware, discussed the organization as it hits its 50th year, with over 5 million in 170 countries now participating. Delaware now has 4,200 athletes at 150 schools within five state areas. He talked about their work toward ‘inclusion’ – not just participation, but acceptance, and providing skills that will offer opportunities beyond sports – jobs and social possibilities. Special Olympics builds skills and character through sports, teaching teamwork, goal setting, self confidence and a healthy lifestyle. For families it can offer an opportunity to participate in a shared activity and to socialize with others. He discussed the 19 sports that are offered, from youth intro level playing to competitive level at golf, skating, baseball, track, bowling and more, for participants as young as pre-school. Any child designated to receive aid for intellectual and/or physical disabilities may participate. Trained volunteer coaches – preferably former players themselves – teach technique, good practice skills and individual and team strategy. To avoid the stigma of being something ‘less,’ they play by high schools rules and follow the traditional seasons whenever possible, facility availability determining any alterations. He spoke about the upcoming World Games and explained that it is a true competition, ‘participation’ awards are not given.
Jon asked for volunteers to coach and to assist at events, including the 5k Reindeer Run and Romp, the annual chipped fun run through the UD Campus. The race is family friendly and ends at Newark’s annual Winterfest Celebration so families can enjoy the city’s planned activities.