KINGSTON, R.I. – May 23, 2017 – As they have for almost 50 years, Special Olympics Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island will team up for the Special Olympics Summer Games, June 2-4 on the Kingston campus.
More than 1,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities will compete in track and field events and soccer games, bowling, cycling, powerlifting and swimming. The opening ceremony for the 49th annual event will be Friday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Meade Stadium, 25 West Alumni Ave., where a runner in the final leg of the Torch Run will enter to light the Special Olympics cauldron.
Joseph Pittle, URI’s manager of conferences and special program development, said the University has hosted the event since 1972. It has attracted 3,500 to 4,500 people to the Kingston campus each year since 1972.
“URI collaborates with Special Olympics by hosting the summer games, and over the years some departments have had personnel volunteer services through our Speech and Hearing Clinic and the Physical Therapy Department. I am sure there are others as well. It’s important that URI participates as the state University since we can provide the vast resources the program requires, which contributes greatly to its success. It is also a part of our culture and what we value as a community.”
The URI Police Department is one of those with a long history of support of the games. The department has participated in the Special Olympics Games for the past 25 years and is proud to be involved again this year. Police Chief and Public Safety Director Stephen Baker and his officers, as well as other police departments in the state, will be part of the medal ceremonies.
“It’s my favorite part to do what you can to recognize the athletes,” said Baker. “It’s a very humbling experience, and a lot of our officers like taking part in it. It is one of the best events that URI hosts. I’m proud to be a part of that and so is the department. We try to make it better every year for the athletes and their families.”
URI officers jumped at the opportunity to raise money for the event, as they do every year. Sgt. Erica Vieira and Det. Mark Brasil participated in the Torch Run Super Polar Plunge March 5, diving into the bone-chilling Atlantic 24 times on the coldest day of the year to raise about $8,500.
“You dive under water, run up the beach in the wind, and do it again,” said Vieira. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
URI officers also raised $15,000 from their sponsors for the Torch Run, which will start June 2 in Woonsocket and proceed to Burrillville, East Providence, Providence, Westerly and other communities, before ending at Meade Stadium.
Money collected by URI’s Police Department will help pay for expenses at the event and health-related costs for some competitors. Vieira said some of the athletes are unable to afford health care.
“These kids are a great group of people,” said Vieira. “They have so much to offer. I’m such a giving person. I want to help everybody.”
Baker agreed: “We feel we should be doing as much as possible. We are a very community-oriented police department. This is one way we can show that. These people are part of our community, they live on campus for the weekend, we know their families.”
For more information about the event, visit specialolympicsri.org.
Sarah Saltiel-Ragot, an international student from Sciences Po Rennes in France and an intern in URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications, wrote this press release.