SAN ANTONIO--- The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Special Olympics announced a partnership during the Division III business session, part of the NCAA Convention. The community outreach effort will link hundreds of SAACs at Division III institutions and conference offices with local Special Olympics Programs in each state. In an effort to engage athletes of both organizations and to build and maintain mutually-beneficial, sports-centric friendships, both the Division III SAACs and Special Olympics will officially implement the campaign for the 2011-12 academic year.
Roughly two dozen Special Olympics athletes from the San Antonio area joined SAAC members to kick-off the initiative before more than 1,000 Division III delegates, coaches and administrators. SAAC chair, Marie Godwin introduced the campaign through a video highlighting the shared values between the organizations and the life-long benefits both parties will receive from the partnership.
“We believe this relationship with Special Olympics is a perfect fit for Division III,” said SAAC chair Marie Godwin. “Special Olympics is an established, internationally recognized organization with Programs offered in every state, and they involve hands-on interaction and physical activity, which are elements our committee believes are important with an initiative such as this.”
Bill Shumard, President & CEO of Special Olympics Southern California, alongside Jessaca Bond, Special Olympics Texas athlete and Global Messenger, were on-hand to address the crowd on behalf of the Special Olympics Movement and presented a commemorative plaque in appreciation for the work and support of the NCAA DIII SAAC.
“The relationship with Special Olympics and Division III is a perfect connection,” said Rich Fellingham, Special Olympics Iowa President Emeritus and co-founder of the partnership. “More than 200 Division III schools already conduct outreach efforts involving Special Olympics and, today, we not only strengthen those existing relationships, but we start building new connections through the power of sport, the importance of fair-play and the need for inclusive respect on and off the playing field.”
To facilitate the effort, the SAAC will establish a subcommittee to work with conferences to coordinate at least one Special Olympics activity per academic year. With the aid of activation ideas and toolkits provided by SAAC, individual campuses also will be encouraged to initiate their own outreach.
“Community outreach goes on every day on Division III campuses and in Division III communities,” said NCAA Division III Vice President Dan Dutcher. “This initiative is designed to channel those activities in a way that will benefit the education of our student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes, alike.”
The NCAA honored the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder and honorary chair of Special Olympics, with the Association’s Theodore Roosevelt Award at the 2002 NCAA Convention. Shriver passed away in August 2009 at the age of 88.
About NCAA Division III: The college experience is a time of learning and growth - a chance to follow passions and develop potential. For student-athletes in Division III, all of this happens most importantly in the classroom and through earning an academic degree. The Division III experience provides for passionate participation in a competitive athletic environment, where student-athletes push themselves to excellence and build upon their academic success with new challenges and life skills. And student-athletes are encouraged to pursue the full passions and find their potential through a comprehensive educational experience.
About Special Olympics: Special Olympics is an international non-profit organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition health screenings, and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in all regions of the world and in community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.
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