GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – For the second straight year, the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) teamed up with Special Olympics for the conference’s annual community outreach initiative, as the NEAC SAAC was involved with two separate Special Olympics events this past Sunday, April 1.
With 13 full-member schools spread out across four different states, the NEAC holds two separate community service events with its six North schools (Cazenovia College, Keuka College, Morrisville State College, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Institute of Technology and Wells College ) and seven South schools (College of Saint Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Lancaster Bible College, Penn State Abington, Penn State Berks, Penn State Harrisburg and Wilson College). This year, the North held a basketball training session in partnership with Special Olympics New York, while the South volunteered at the 2012 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Eastern Bowling Sectional in Allentown, Pa.
Thirteen Special Olympics athletes from the Syracuse, N.Y., area joined 18 members of the NEAC North SAAC for the basketball training session, which was held at Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, N.Y. Run by SAAC advisors and head basketball coaches Matt Allen (SUNY Cobleskill) and Mike O’Brien (Wells), the athletes from both sides went through a variety of basketball drills involving shooting, passing and dribbling and also competed in multiple mixed scrimmages.
“The event really went well for us,” said Special Olympics head basketball coach Jeff Manzo. “Having actual college coaches and athletes there really helped us out, and my athletes really enjoyed being able to compete against them and show off their skills.”
“The best part for me was that both groups not only interacted well with one another but also competed hard against each other during scrimmages,” said NEAC assistant commissioner Eugenio Mercurio, who oversaw the event. “Coach Manzo came into the event hoping to disprove some of the stereotypes that people have when they think about Special Olympians in regards to what they can and can’t do, and I think his group was able to do that by proving that they can really play and keep up with our student-athletes.”
The Eastern Bowling Sectional featured 320 Special Olympians spread out across four bowling alleys throughout Pennsylvania, with 21 members of the NEAC South SAAC group volunteering at Allentown’s Mountainville Bowling Complex. The group served as lane monitors for the event, as they were split into groups of two and assigned to a specific lane to shadow the Special Olympians and ensure that they bowled in the correct order and on the right lanes, while also recording the scores of the athletes for each of their three games.
“It was a tremendous experience for our student-athletes,” explained NEAC Commissioner Candice Murray, who attended the event. “It was great to see them interact with the Special Olympians and form a friendship not only for the day but one that will last well into the future.”
“The (Berks) student-athletes and I had a wonderful experience on Sunday,” added Penn State Berks SAAC advisor Tyler Schueck. “It was a lot of fun getting to help out a great event like that.”
The NEAC also used the day to recognize National STUDENT-Athlete Day by awarding all of the student-athletes that attended the events with award certificates that were provided by the National Consortium for Academics & Sports (NCAS). National STUDENT-Athlete Day, which will be officially celebrated on Friday, April 6, was established by the NCAS 25 years ago to honor student-athletes who have achieved excellence in academics and athletics, while having made significant contributions to their schools and communities. The day is celebrated annually and has become one of America’s strongest endeavors promoting the positive virtues of sport and student-athletes as a whole, and the positive affect they both have on society.