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Oct. 14, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:

Rock students support Special Olympics sectional

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Soccer? Check. Volleyball and track? Check. Volunteers? Quadruple  check.  More than 350 Slippery Rock University students will be involved with the Western Pennsylvania Fall Sectional Special Olympics at Slippery Rock University Sunday. Students will gain valuable career experience and help children with intellectual disabilities become more fit.
            The competition will give 370 children sports training and athletic competition experience. Participants will demonstrate physical fitness and stamina and experience the joy and camaraderie of athletic competition. Karen Perry, SRU assistant director of campus recreation, is in charge of the event as a volunteer.
            “We feel that this is part of giving back to the community and greatly benefits us as members of the student body,” said Patrick Gentile, a sport management major from Pittsburgh. “It is for a good cause and makes individuals’ lives a little better every year.”
            Perry said 30 SRU students have been working since April organizing committees to set up the various logistical needs of the competition. Other SRU students will be involved in set up, event day activities and clean up.
            “It is awesome to see the outpouring of support from several SRU athletic teams, sorority and fraternity members, and student organizations,” Perry said. “The event could not be hosted at SRU without the support and extra efforts of our students.”
            Perry said that SRU facilities and planning crews have lined the fields, delivered tables and chairs and got the “grounds in beautiful shape.”
            Participants will compete in team and individual events in five sports: soccer, bocce, long-distance walking and running, power lifting and volleyball. The opening ceremonies will be at 9:15 a.m. in SRU’s Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center. Competitions will begin at 10 a.m. with a closing ceremony at 5 p.m.
            Athletes will compete for gold, silver and bronze medals, with participant ribbons given to other athletes. Nicole Jones, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Pennsylvania, said the competition couldn’t take place without students.
            “Volunteers are the backbone of the entire program,” she said. “Without Slippery Rock University and community volunteers, there is no way we could put on these large scale events and give our athletes the chance to shine. We appreciate the folks in Slippery Rock.”
            Gentile, who plans a career in sport event management, said the Special Olympics planning clued him in to understanding the dynamics of organizing a big event. While Special Olympics will bring in its own people to coach the athletes, Gentile said he has learned a lot about organizing a daylong program.
             “This prepares me for the ups and downs that go with putting on such an event,” he said.
“Not everything is always perfect and not everything always works out exactly as planned. However, it is the struggle and hard work that puts you over that bump in the road that leads to success. For me, facing diversity and overcoming aspects to make an event like this a success is a great feeling.”
            Matan Cohen, a sport management major from Rochester, N.Y., said he chose SRU for his undergraduate education because of the sport management program and opportunities to volunteer for events such as Special Olympics.
            “I decided to become a volunteer committee leader. I was a volunteer last year and wanted to play a bigger part of the event this year,” Cohen said. “As a committee leader for volunteers, my responsibilities include emailing all volunteers, keeping an organized account of volunteers and communicating to all volunteers regarding positions, meetings and any other information they need.”
            Cohen said he plans to become a strength and conditioning coach for a National Football League franchise, an athletic director for Division I athletics or a sports agent. “I do plan to earn a master’s degree or a law degree depending on my career interest area by my senior year,” he said.
             Kyle Heiden, a sport management major from Reading, is in charging of making sure Morrow Field House, the ARC and the new intramural fields are equipped with the necessary equipment for the competition. He is also in charge of signs for each facility and labeling fields and placing signs to facilitate the movement of athletes from one venue to the next.
            “The day of the event I will oversee the venues and fix any problems as well as make sure all necessary items are in place,” he said. “I will make sure the games and activities at each venue run smoothly. I am responsible for the wellness of athletes and fans at each venue.”
            Heiden said he volunteered with Special Olympics because, “I believe it is a great event that promotes the true meaning of sport, which includes displaying sportsmanship, having fun and developing character through athletic competition.”
            The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of U.S. President John Kennedy, launched Special Olympics in 1968, to provide competition opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities.
            Spectators are welcome to visit any of the competitions at SRU and cheer-on the athletes. There is no charge.