Olivia Fortin of Carmel, NY, was one of 62 SUNY Oneonta students who, along with the Sport and Exercise Sciences department, partnered with Special Olympics to host a regional track and field event at Oneonta High School on Sunday, May 7, 2023. The event allowed area individuals who have varying intellectual and adaptive disabilities, including clients at local organizations Springbrook and Pathfinder Village, to showcase their athletic ability in a competitive setting.
Athletes ranged from ages 10 to 53, and the day included an opening ceremony with remarks by City of Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek and SUNY Oneonta President Alberto Cardelle. Lecturer of Sport and Exercise Sciences Andrea Fallon-Korb and her two interns organized the event. The interns were the coordinators for the 60 student volunteers, 28 Special Olympic athletes and three adaptive athletes who participated in the day-long competition.
Fortin was a volunteer, and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at SUNY Oneonta.
This year was the second time that SUNY Oneonta students and the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences volunteered to coordinate the Special Olympics Track and Field event. To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, athletes must be at least eight years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that requires or have required specially designed instruction.
Student volunteers fell into three categories for those who: helped run the track meet, organized an obstacle course and outdoor activities through the Exercise Science Club and those from an exercise science course taught by Assistant Professor of Sport and Exercise Science Dr. Katie Griffes. The students from Dr. Griffes's class helped by hosting pre- and post-competition workshops and education sessions.
Workshop volunteers were tasked with educating the athletes on the importance of several athletic principles. These included pre-competition stretching, hydration, mobility and agility training, yoga, and mindfulness and breathing exercises. Each workshop combined information with entertainment, allowing athletes and volunteers to join everyone's stations.
"Volunteering for the Special Olympics allowed our students to understand and appreciate sport inclusion at a deeper level," said Dr. Griffes. "This event provided students with a chance to give back to their community, to make sure we are creating space for everyone to be included and benefit from sport participation, and see the impact their time, energy and efforts can have on others."
SUNY Oneonta is a public, four-year university in Central New York, enrolling about 5,500 students in a wide variety of bachelor's degree programs and more than a dozen graduate certificate and degree programs. The university is known as both an exemplary residential campus that values inclusion, service and sustainability, and a nurturing community where students grow intellectually, thrive socially and live purposefully. Learn more at https://suny.oneonta.edu/