Special Olympics NJ Offers Inclusive Sports Program
Taped on the campus of NJIT, Heather Andersen, President and CEO of Special Olympics New Jersey and Delaney O’Connell, a Special Olympics New Jersey Athlete, explain the history of the Special Olympics and how the organization is partnering with schools and sports clubs to create the Unified Sports initiative to create inclusive sports and social programs for all students.
"We are thrilled to be joined by two very special guests. First, on my left is Heather Andersen, on my right, I'm sorry! She's president and CEO, Special Olympics of New Jersey, and on my left, I can do this, Delaney... Delaney O'Connell is a Special Olympics New Jersey Athlete and she has been competing since she was 3. She's 15 now and we were going through the sports that you were involved in. Yes. Equestrian? Yes. Now you have a gold medal for? Track. Can we show that? Okay, just put it up. Alright, stop bragging! I'm teasing. Equestrian, track , what else? Soccer, Bocce? Bocce. Ice skating? Ice skating. Track. Basketball? Basketball, yeah. And how about this. I also just found out that you're going to be cheerleading as well? Yes. Now, are all of the athletes who compete in the Special Olympics this talented? You know, we have a various array of abilities of our athletes, but Delaney certainly wants to be involved year round and chooses... That's the great thing about Special Olympics. You can choose to do one sport a year or you can do a variety of sports, depending. Delaney started when she was 3 in young athletes. Now she's 15 and has blossomed into this opportunity of different sports, different seasons, different years. And, you know, we have athletes that have competed when they're 3 and 4 and 5 in one sport and now they might be playing Bocce because they're 70. Well you know what's so interesting? To disclose, I was honored a few months back with our partners and friends at Delta Dental. Yes. In New Jersey, there was a golf outing that I hosted and the money was raised for Special Olympics and I met a lot of the athletes and a lot of the parents and a lot of the staff involved. What makes Special Olympics such a great organization? Well, the mission speaks to itself. It provides sport training and competition for individuals, children and adults with intellectual disabilities. And it really showcases the ability of that athlete and that individual and doesn't focus on the disability and it gives them the opportunity to... We talk about empowering them on the playing fields, but then that transforms to their life off the playing field so we want them to be included in the communities. We want them to feel like they can walk the halls and be part of that school culture and that whole... choose to be included and play unified, live unified and that's kind of the beauty of what we do..."