Today, Nazareth College, Special Olympics New York, and the Golisano Foundation announced the grand opening of the Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College. The three organizations have partnered to create the first of its kind collaboration of inclusion, fitness, and wellness for athletes of all abilities. Nazareth is poised and ready to be a national model of “Wellness for All” as the only college or university that has ever developed an inclusive training center that levels the playing field for athletes of all abilities and ages.
Nazareth first broke ground on the 108,000-square-foot training center in June 2018. People with intellectual disabilities were considered in every aspect of the design and construction of the facility. The Genesee region's more than 3,000 Special Olympics athletes participate in more than 30 regional competitions annually. Appropriate space for training and competitions has been an ongoing challenge for Special Olympics New York.
“Everything we do at the College has an impact on both the college and the community. When we first envisioned partnering with The Golisano Foundation to develop the center, we quickly realized that a model like this does not exist anywhere else in the country. The Golisano Training Center is the first collaboration of its kind,” said Nazareth President Daan Braveman. “The inclusive environment will benefit Special Olympics New York athletes in their quest for year-round fitness. Special Olympics athletes will partner with Nazareth Health and Human Services students in fields like physical therapy, audiology, speech and more. Through the partnership, the College will provide free health screenings and wellness programs for Special Olympics New York athletes. At the same time, the partnership will offer our students in health and human services the unique opportunity to develop a specialty in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities.”
Today’s special ceremony included remarks from entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader Tom Golisano; Nazareth alumnus, former NBA coach, and ESPN basketball commentator Jeff Van Gundy; New York State Senator Rich Funke; former NFL wide receiver, entrepreneur, and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Dale Moss; CEO of Special Olympics New York Stacey Hengsterman; and Special Olympics Chairman Dr. Timothy Shriver. Shriver leads the International Board of Directors of Special Olympics, which serves over 5 million Special Olympics athletes in 190 countries to promote health, education, and a more unified world through the joy of sports. More than 100 Special Olympics athletes also helped open the Center complete with a torch lighting and the Special Olympics cauldron.
The ceremony included competitive unified basketball games (where people with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team), tennis drills with Special Olympics and Nazareth athletes, and information about Special Olympics Healthy Athletes ® screenings. At future events and programs, Nazareth Health and Human Services students will conduct screenings for Special Olympics athletes, focusing on three of the seven disciplines in Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes arenas : FUNfitness (physical therapy), Healthy Hearing (audiology/speech and language pathology), and Health Promotion (better health and well-being).
“700,000 good and gifted athletes participate in the Special Olympics movement every year, and we are so grateful that Tom Golisano has made it possible for them all to be healthy! Today, we celebrate a further commitment to the gifts and potential of people with intellectual differences as Nazareth College and the Golisano Foundation inaugurate the new Golisano Training Center. This will be an amazing facility but even more amazing will be the countless moments of connection, friendship, and inclusion that will happen here. Each one of these athletes deserve the opportunity to play, train, and compete every single day. By playing and learning together, we are creating a more inclusive world,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman. “Nazareth College and the Golisano Foundation are leading the Inclusion Revolution and are role models in providing inclusive sport and health for all. They are investing in their students by providing hands-on training in effective communication and caring for individuals with intellectual differences. I hope that every college and university around the country is watching and learning how we can all work together to change the course of inclusion for an entire community.”
The Golisano Foundation gave Nazareth $7.5 million for the development of the $23.8 million training center, which is the largest gift in the College’s history. This gift brings Tom Golisano’s support for Nazareth College to more than $12.5 million. In 2003, Tom Golisano donated $5 million to Nazareth to create the B. Thomas Golisano Academic Center. And in 2014, the Golisano Foundation donated $100,000 to support the construction of the college’s York Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute.
“I am proud to support this new training center that will serve as a model for inclusive sport and health,” said Tom Golisano, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader. “This exciting project demonstrates Nazareth’s commitment to join the Golisano Foundation's work with Special Olympics Health by training the next generation of health care professionals to care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Together, we are creating a shared athletic space that benefits athletes of all abilities, fosters understanding, and acceptance.”
About The Golisano Training Center:
- Hosts an indoor track, courts, turf field, and training facilities to promote the fitness and wellness of Nazareth students and student athletes.
- Nazareth College and Special Olympics New York teamed up to create an innovative and inclusive center that provides a training and competition center for people of all ages who have intellectual disabilities.
- It creates opportunities for Nazareth students to work with Special Olympics New York program participants, offering health screening services and wellness programs on a regular schedule in a convenient location. Nazareth Health and Human Services students will gain invaluable experiences that strengthen their skills and knowledge and help them become competent, compassionate professionals comfortable working with people of all abilities.
- On a wider scale, this exciting initiative aims to create a new model of innovation and partnership for Healthy Communities across the U.S. and the world, while also providing education for coaches, mentors, athletes, and supporters.
Nazareth selected LaBella Associates, a multi-disciplinary firm headquartered in Rochester, to design the project. In collaboration with key members of Special Olympics, Sportsnet, and Kids Miracle Making club, the design team merged deep expertise in athletic facilities, higher education pedagogy, and inclusive design principles from the project’s inception. LeChase Construction Services then brought the building to reality. RG&E provided vital infrastructure support to help ensure maximum energy efficiency for this impressive facility.
As a result, the building design includes features such as:
- Large flow patterns to accommodate large groups and those with alternative modes of mobility
- Family style restroom and open format locker rooms for improved flow and accessibility for people of all abilities
- Wall and curtain choices to encourage focus on activities and mitigate distractions
- Sensory room to help participants who become over-stimulated or overheated, a space that doubles as a dark space for concussion safety protocols
- Specific planning in layout and form of track to accommodate those who use wheelchairs and who have other mobility challenges
- Specialized equipment in the weight and training areas
Nazareth is uniquely qualified to achieve this vision as the only Rochester‐based college to offer an array of professional health care programs that includes nursing, physical therapy, speech therapy, social work, creative arts therapy (art and music), occupational therapy, as well as pre‐medical and pre‐dental. Nazareth is one of the only schools in the United States, outside of those affiliated with academic medical centers, offering a full array of on‐campus clinics where students have the opportunity to work with real patients under the watchful supervision of faculty members.
About The Golisano Foundation
The Golisano Foundation (www.golisanofoundation.org ) is now one of the largest private foundations in the nation devoted to opening doors to opportunity, changing negative perceptions and stereotypes, and forging unprecedented partnerships to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have pathways to personal dignity, independence and the best possible expression of their abilities and talents throughout their lifetimes. With more than $40 million in gross assets, it has awarded more than $24 million in grants, about $2 million annually, to non-profit organizations in Western NY and New York's Finger Lakes Region and Southwest Florida.