By Susan Heckler
New Jersey will be the host for this year’s Special Olympics USA Games. From June 14-21, nearly 3,500 athletes will compete in 16 Olympic-style team and individual sports. According to their website, “The Special Olympics USA Games will celebrate the Special Olympics movement, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport and showcase athletes from throughout the U.S. and the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities.” In addition to the athletes, the event will have the support of 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and 70,000 family, friends and spectators.
There are 270 athletes who were chosen to represent Team New Jersey. Millstone’s own Zachary Stroik,24 years old and a student at the Keep Achieving at Brookdale (KACH) program at Brookdale Community College, will be competing for his 16th year. Zach says “The 2014 USA Games will be held in New Jersey, my home state. This makes me very proud. I’m looking forward to showing athletes from all over the country how nice we are in New Jersey. But we still want to win all the gold medals, so not too nice.”
Zach’s mother Joan stated, “As a parent, I have seen that Special Olympics has given my son a community in which to shine. He has grown up with pride in his athletic skills, joy in his friendships and a feeling of expectation of learning something new every day. Special Olympics has helped him to become a young man confident in his ability to participate fully in all aspects of life instead of just watching others from the sidelines.”
The games are being held in different venues: Sun National Bank Center, Princeton University, Rider University, The College of New Jersey, Mercer County Park, The Lawrenceville School, The Hun School of Princeton, Peddie School, and Brunswick Zone-Carolier Lanes.
An event of this size really needs the help and support of the community. Volunteers are needed for various roles, donations are always welcome and an audience to cheer them on would be terrific. If you are interested in helping in any capacity, you can contact Team New Jersey at www.sonj.org or Special Olympics through their website www.2014specialolympics.org.
By Susan Heckler