Historic 2018 for Special Olympics Massachusetts!

To close out 2018, we’re taking a look back at the top 10 Special Olympics Massachusetts moments of the year! From the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, to the unveiling of unprecedented partnerships and the celebration of Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary, 2018 has had plenty of memorable moments.

Xtra Mile Boston Marathon Team runs 26.2 miles for inclusion

On April 16, the 26 runners on the Unified Xtra Mile Boston Marathon team ran 26.2 miles for inclusion. The team raised over $318,800 for Special Olympics Massachusetts, an Xtra Mile team record! The team included board members, relatives of Special Olympics athletes, supporters of the organization and two athletes: Matt Millett and Sri Sundar. Thanks to our great partners at John Hancock Boston Marathon Non-Profit program.

Shrewsbury Pioneers selected for 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi

In January, it was announced that the Shrewsbury Pioneers basketball team would be a part of Special Olympics USA delegation for 2019 World Games Abu Dhabi. They are the only traditional team on Special Olympics USA and the first basketball team from Massachusetts to travel to a World Games. In September they traveled to the University of Delaware for training camp where they met athletes from across the United States who they will be traveling with to Abu Dhabi. Stay tuned for more updates on this team and their trip to World Games in 2019!

2018 Hall of Fame Night

In June, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston and Special Olympics athlete Melissa Reilly co-hosted the 2018 Special Olympics Massachusetts Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at Gillette Stadium. The new inductees included The Hastings Family, Liam Tierney, Paul Branagan, Art & Jean Merriam, and Laurie Halpin. We are already getting excited for the 2019 Hall of Fame.  Keep following us in the New Year to find out who will be inducted in 2019!

2018 Special Olympics USA Games – Seattle, Washington

One of the most exciting events of 2018 was Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington! Massachusetts sent a delegation of 50 athletes, coaches and support staff to compete in nine sports, including Unified flag football. In addition to the sports, two students from our Youth Advisory Council attended the Youth Leadership Experience, and Officer Larry Crossman and athlete Danny Williamson took part in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg, traveling all across Washington state! Team Massachusetts came home with 41 medals.

New England Revolution Partnership continues to grow

2018 marked the fifth year that Special Olympics Massachusetts fielded a Unified MLS team to compete against other Unified MLS teams. This year, the New England Revolution Unified team hosted the Philadelphia Union Unified team and won 2-0. The Revs organization also hosted the fourth annual “Bowl for a Goal” fundraiser in which Special Olympics athletes bowl alongside Revs players and corporate sponsors. This fall, Revs player Andrew Farrell was recognized as the MLS Humanitarian of the year for his work with Special Olympics.

Flame of Hope is lit on the shores of Hyannisport for Special Olympics 50th Anniversary

On July 10th, 2018, the birthday of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the eternal flame of hope was lit on the shores of Hyannisport with the help of Law Enforcement officers and athletes from across Massachusetts. The first Unified pair, Eunice and her sister Rosemary, played on that same property as children. Seven torches were lit to represent the seven regions where Special Olympics is now active around the world in 172 countries. Investigator John Bassi of the Pittsfield Police Department and his son Jake had the honor of accompanying the flame as it traveled to Chicago for the 50th Anniversary at Soldier’s Field.

Bank of America shares the story of the Zamansky brothers

Surrounding the 2018 USA Games, our partners at Bank of America shared the story of the Zamansky brothers of Haverhill. The four brothers play Unified flag football together and their team earned bronze in Seattle. Unified sports began in Massachusetts and this video shared the ways in which Unified sports strengthens communities and families.

Unified sports explodes in Massachusetts schools

2018 was a huge year for Unified sports in Massachusetts schools. Of the 150+ Unified Champion Schools in Massachusetts, 10 were selected as National Banner Schools for their dedication to providing inclusive opportunities for all students. These schools have gone above and beyond in the areas of inclusive youth leadership, Unified sports and whole school engagement.

In addition to being honored as a National Banner School, Auburn High School was named to the ESPN honor roll, a distinction received by only 10 schools in the United States!

The number of schools involved in Unified programming also exploded with 56 schools playing Unified basketball, 31 of which fielded Unified basketball teams for the first time.

Champions for 50 Celebration at the JFK Presidential Library

On September 27, Special Olympics Massachusetts hosted the Special Olympics Champions for 50 celebration at the JFK Presidential Library. Longtime athletes, coaches and volunteers were in attendance along with representatives from Champions for 50 organizations including Bank of America, John Hancock Foundation. Arbella Insurance Foundation, the Boston Bruins Foundation, Appleton Partners and the New England Revolution. Each partner received the Champions for 50 award in recognition of their commitment to the athletes of Special Olympics Massachusetts

Speakers of the evening included Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International, Mary Beth McMahon, President and CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts, Athlete and Special Olympics Massachusetts board member Melissa Reilly, Athlete Tyler Lagasse. Dr. Ronan Tynan, known as the Irish Tenor, also performed at the ceremony.

Governor Charlie Baker received the John “Jack” Brett Champions award, annually given to a person who has made a difference in the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Baker shared a heartfelt story about his experience knowing individuals with ID including Jack Brett. All of the speeches can be found on our YouTube channel

Boston Bruins Foundation commits $1 million in three year partnership

One of the most exciting things to happen in 2018 was the Boston Bruins Foundation’s historic commitment of $1 million in a three year partnership with Special Olympics Massachusetts. In the four months since the partnership was announced, athletes have had the opportunity to be recognized at Bruins games, meet players at the Bruins Foundation annual golf tournament, attend the Bruins Foundation’s annual gala, be a part of their calendar shoot and film fitness videos with members of the Bruins staff.

Kicking 2019 off right, a group of Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes will be attending Winter Classic on January 1st at Notre Dame! They will compete against a Unified floor hockey team from Illinois which will include Special Olympics athletes and NHL alumni. We look forward to seeing all that will be possible in the New Year as this relationship continues to grow and the message to #BInclusive reaches far and wide.

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