A Message from the President & CEO: 2023 Quarter 2

I am proud that we have so many supporters who contribute to ensuring that our athletes have access to the sports they love. I am proud of our coaches for coaching our athletes and proud of our family members and others who make sure our athletes get to practice and competitions. I am proud of our Unified Sports® teammates, individuals without an intellectual disability who train and compete with our athletes. I am proud of all the volunteers who are committed to giving our athletes great experiences. This includes a group of dedicated leadership volunteers like our Board of Directors, sport management teams, and our community-based Area Program Directors. We have exceptional teachers and school administrators who also dedicate time to ensure that their students have impactful sports programs. I am proud of our staff for their commitment to our athletes. And, I am proud of our athletes who share their joy of life whenever I see them at practice, a competition, leadership training, a special event, or other gathering. 

Special Olympics Maryland provides a place where we celebrate our athletes, which I think is liberating for our athletes in a world where still too often there’s a focus on the disability rather than countless abilities. We can all learn from how our athletes respond in that environment. Through their actions and accomplishments, they remind us every day that they are champions. In a world where many still doubt the ability of our athletes to thrive in everyday life, this spring provided an extensive competition schedule culminating in Interscholastic Unified Sports State Bocce and Track and Field Invitationals and our Summer Games at Towson. Those events paint a picture of tenacity, self-confidence, and self-advocacy. Those who witnessed their efforts saw that Special Olympics Maryland athletes compete hard, with a will and expectation to win. As you would expect, emotions ranged from joy to disappointment.  Our athletes continue to learn from experiences on and off the field of play, in a way that results in a more enlightened, respectful, interactive, and inclusive society.

I am happy to share that we continue to trend in a positive direction with increased participation among athletes and Unified Sports® teammates this spring. In 2022, we had 15,588 athletes (6,442) and Unified® teammates (9,146) competed which was up from 7,938 athletes(4340) and Unified® teammates (3,598) in 2021. We can all take pride in celebrating the fact that 1200 athletes (1,189) and Unified Sports® teammates (111) competed at our Summer Games on June 23-25, at Towson.  During the course of the Games, we saw our athletes run, jump, throw, swim, cheer, hit, field, run the base paths, and play bocce. Volunteers who have never interacted with individuals with intellectual disabilities were transformed by their experience, forever enlightened to the power of different abilities. Our returning volunteers came back because they knew they would experience joy and share in the victories of every athlete who competes. Those volunteers were treated to another great game.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Maryland featured representatives from law enforcement carrying the flame of hope for our athletes. Officers and other law enforcement representatives were on site to recognize each competing athlete with post-competition awards.  All of our volunteers will now have the opportunity to reflect on their experience and be armed with inspirational stories of triumph that they can share. The interactive inclusive nature of the Games included athletes like Candice Herget and Annu Singleton in leadership roles as they served as co-emcees during our Opening Ceremonies.

We certainly had our challenges with the weather but working with our exceptional partners at Towson University and Kiwanis-Wallas Park (Softball) we responded to the conditions and provided our athletes with the best opportunities possible in an environment of welcome, dignity, and respect where they thrived. We also hosted our most extensive and successful Healthy Athletes experience where we had over 600 athlete screenings across all disciplines. Individual donors and corporate partners like Aerotek are champions for our athletes. Our newest partner Pizza Bolis was on hand at the dance in SECU Arena and they were excited to kick off our partnership. These partnerships provide support that enables year-round training and competition free of charge. I am so grateful for this widespread support from so many who recognize the very best in each athlete.

I am inspired every day by our athletes to work on their behalf to make the world better. If you have experienced our athletes and find yourself inspired, think about how you can leverage that inspiration to make every day impactful and meaningful. Consider your experience and the incredible opportunity to spread the word about the power of our athletes to transform one life at a time and then share your experience with family and friends. You are a catalyst for change. You are helping build interactive inclusive communities of dignity and respect. Through sport, Special Olympics Maryland is creating a world where opportunity is not limited by disability.