Let the Games Begin!

By Jenny Barnett, May 17, 2022

Special Olympics to be hosted at Ithaca College in June.

Officials from Special Olympics New York and Ithaca College joined with community leaders in the Athletics and Events Center on Monday, May 16, to announce that this year’s Special Olympics New York State Summer Games will be held at IC and sporting venues throughout the area on Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25.   

president Cornish

President La Jerne Terry Cornish speaking at Special Olympics press conference. (Photo Credit: Miles Olivetti)

“Our community is thrilled to host the summer games,” said La Jerne Terry Cornish, president of Ithaca College. “And we are overjoyed that this prestigious event will be making its home right here on our campus for the next three years. As our commitment to serving the public good and enriching the lives of others resides at the core of who we are, we are pleased to offer our state-of-the-art competition facilities, residence halls, and logistical support to create an unforgettable experience for all.” 

Cornish also commended the exceptional athletes and coaches “for their passion, their focus, and the spirit that has empowered them to excel. We are so excited to witness the culmination of their training and cheer them on as they compete in pursuit of their athletic dreams this summer.” 

The mission of Special Olympics—founded in 1968—is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.  

The organization strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers.  

Around 1,150 athletes from across the state will be competing in the 2022 Games.  Together with their coaches and families, they will be housed in IC residence halls for the weekend. 

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Special Olympics New York Athlete Derek Warren will be one of the swimming competitors at the 2022 State Summer Games. (Photo submitted)

The Games will kick off with an opening procession on Friday evening at Ithaca College. The eight sporting events take place throughout the day on Saturday with a closing ceremony that evening. IC will host aquatics, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis; track and field and powerlifting will be at Ithaca High School; bowling at Midway Lanes, in nearby Vestal, NY.  

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” Ithaca athlete Robbie Gale said at the press conference, echoing the Special Olympics athlete oath. Gale, 35, is looking forward to the bowling event. A long-standing participant in the Games, he first competed in the under-18 league. “I enjoy the fact that it is a judgement-free area. Everyone is so friendly and I love meeting new people,” he said. After a two-year hiatus, Gale is “excited to be back, and doing what I love to do.”  

Kinsey Henry, 22, from nearby Groton, NY, has been competing in the Special Olympics for 10 years. She started out in bowling in seventh grade. The Games have taken her around the world—to Austria for the 2017 World Winter Games as a snowshoe athlete, and Dubai in 2018 for the summer event, where she competed in track and field; she medaled at both. She will be running the 200m and 400m and participating in the long jump in Ithaca. Aside from her sporting achievements, Henry has learned a lot through her involvement with the Special Olympics. A member of the State Leadership Council, Henry has been visiting schools to encourage younger athletes to participate. 

“I cannot say enough about what the Special Olympics means to me,” she said. “I have so many coaches, family and friends that are supportive. I have many people cheering me on to accomplish my goals. I have become a better speaker, I am more confident and I am able to proudly represent people with autism.”  

“State Summer Games is our largest statewide competition of the year,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacy Hengsterman. “Athletes and coaches from throughout New York have been training and they’ll be ready to go for the gold.”  

She urged everyone from the local community—families, high school students, sports teams, coaches—to sign up to volunteer. No sports experience is necessary. “We have jobs for everyone. I promise you, you will have the time of your life,” she said. “But another way to volunteer is just to be a fan on the stand,” said Hengsterman. “Everyone likes to be cheered on!” 

Call for Volunteers

Volunteer jobs include set up, parking assistance, meal distribution, coordinating awards, athlete escorts, photography, timers, scorekeepers and other specific venue needs. Volunteers must be vaccinated and pre-registered. Sign up here and select “2022 State Summer Games.”  

“Tompkins County is so excited to be part of this incredible event,” said Tompkins County Legislature Chair Shawna Black. “And we look forward to sharing our Ithaca beauty with the athletes and their families.” She also called for the community to volunteer—and donate if they can.   

“This is a great way to highlight and celebrate the achievements of athletes from across New York State,” said Black. “I can’t wait to see the champions who come out of these games.” 

Learn more about the games.