The Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) team convened in Warsaw, Poland, from 14 – 16 November 2023 to discuss several topics. These range from strategic development and the World Winter Games 2025, to impactful projects like the Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion and Unified with Refugees, underscoring the organization's dedication to fostering a more inclusive world.
One notable highlight of the event was a visit by a group led by SOEE President & Managing Director David Evangelista to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver school for children with intellectual disabilities in Poland. The delegation witnessed firsthand the pivotal role sports plays in the educational mission of the school and the profound and positive impact they can have.
Special Olympics Poland National Director Joanna Styczen engaged with the SOEE team during their visit, joined by the SO Poland Vice-President for Organizational Development Grzegorz Kurkowski. The meeting also featured Ukrainian ‘Unified with Refugees’ volunteers Olga Sek and Pawel Gredka, who shared their compelling life stories.
Mariusz Damentko, trailblazer for Special Olympics in the Europe-Eurasia region and globally, was also recognized for his decades-long commitment to the cause.
David Evangelista said, "The gathering in Warsaw served as a pivotal moment for the SOEE team. Coming together is not merely a formality but an effort to strengthen our collective spirit, and develop a strategic course for the future. The impact of our collective work is felt far beyond meeting rooms and strategic discussions. It echoes in the stories of resilience and determination, such as the inspiring tales recounted by Olga and Pawel during our time together. Witnessing the incredible work at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver school in Poland was also a strong reminder of the transformative role sports and inclusion play in shaping the lives of all of us."
Evangelista continued, "Moreover, it is crucial to celebrate the trailblazers who have paved the way for our movement. Mariusz, a true pioneer in the Special Olympics community, stands as a testament to the enduring commitment that has fuelled our movement and its progress for decades. His long-standing dedication deserves not just recognition but guides and motivates us forward with a profound sense of purpose."
Mariusz Damentko added, “It is fantastic and so touching how my colleagues from SO Poland, SOEE with David Evangelista as President, SOEE Organizational Development Senior Director Krzysztof Krukowski and SOI CEO Mary Davis prepared my farewell ceremonies in Torino (Sports Conference) and Warsaw after 30 years of full time work for SOI and almost 10 years in Poland, Europe and the world.
“My job all these years was such a great adventure and fun because of people for whom -the athletes- and with whom I had the privilege to work. All the time in these four decades I could feel only positive energy coming from athletes, families, volunteers, coaches and of course my SOEE team.
As I said at our last common dinner in Warsaw, I have bad news—I must start my retirement at the age of 70. But also good news—I am sure that with our SOEE leadership with David, Martha, Christo, Will and Mirek…..our Region will be still on the top within Special Olympics at the next World Games and many other initiatives. I am so happy that there will be no vacuum after my leave but quite opposite, only improvement in all aspects of our services for our athletes.“