For over 45 years, the Special Olympics of Rhode Island has hosted its annual State Summer Games at URI.
More than 1,500 Special Olympic athletes from all over the state are participating in various events at the University this weekend of May 29-31. It is estimated that about 5,000 athletes, spectators, volunteers, family, friends and coordinators will be in attendance.
Spring sports run from the first week of March until the Summer Games end. The sports include: athletics, aquatics, cycling, power lifting, motor activity training program, traditional ten-pin bowling, unified soccer, and project unify-basketball.
Jodi Hawkins, director of student affairs and recreational program services, has volunteered to set up and prepare the indoor facilities for events for the past 23 years. “It is a really great opportunity to interact and volunteer with the other departments on campus that contribute, the board committee for Special Olympics RI, the athletes, and volunteers,” said Hawkins.
Volunteers and coaches spend countless hours working with the dedicated athletes of this program preparing them for the big event. There are countless volunteers working directly with the athletes to supervise and gain their trust, and numerous volunteers work diligently behind the scenes on a regular basis for the event and planning.
In previous years, athletic teams from the University have volunteered to help at the event. Last year, URI’s baseball head coach Raphael Cerrato and pitcher Dom Grillo helped run a practice for the Special Olympics baseball team. This year, assistant coaches of the rowing team decorated the gym for the event and players from the women’s basketball team, and three rowing team student athletes, Kelsey Maymon, Hannah Milam, and Kiana Anderson will volunteer for the opening events on Saturday, May 30.
“There has been a tremendous amount of support from URI, from the president, the police department, the athletics department, to the dining services staff, it really becomes a community effort to make us feel welcomed every year,” said Chris Hopkins, director of programs.
Over the course of the weekend, athletes and their coaches will stay in the URI residence halls and partake in the various events within the campus facilities such as, Tootell, Mackal Fieldhouse, baseball fields, soccer fields, and Keaney gym.
“Many of the athletes talk more about being at the University and staying there for the weekend than they do of the Olympics. They really enjoy coming to the campus. Various departments all bend over backwards to make everything work for us,” said Hopkins.
“I sometimes get to see the same athletes come back and see how important the event is to them and how excited they are to stay at the University,” said Hawkins.
For a list of the competition events, visit the Special Olympics State Summer Games for Rhode Island.
It is evident through all the support and planning that the event is certainly a team effort by both URI and the Special Olympics RI organization.
“The University has welcomed us with open arms and unconditional support,” said Hopkins.
This release was written by, Rachel Smith, a graduate assistant for the Marketing and Communications Department.
Photos by Jodi Pontbriand, Coordinator of Sports Communication, URI Athletics Dept.