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Special Olympics

Inspiring day

It was a day of friendly, spirited competition, a wonderful day of smiles and cheers as Widener University’s Athletic Department welcomed the Special Olympics.

More than 130 Widener student-athletes, as well as coaches, served as volunteers throughout the day on Saturday, April 12, as Special Olympians competed in the one-day invitational. Nearly 500 Special Olympians representing nine counties took part.

“Not only are our student-athletes working with the Special Olympians here, but they’re working with each other,” said Larissa Gillespie, assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator, as well as women’s field hockey coach at Widener.”

“They may not know each other, being from a different sport. So it’s the camaraderie. It’s the sportsmanship. They’re all here for a common cause, and that’s to gain the experience and see the experience from a different point of view,” Gillespie said.

Special Olympians took to the basketball court and the pool. In addition to those competitions, food was served, participants enjoyed karaoke and other games, and the “Olympic Village” provided for plenty of fun interaction with activities in a noncompetitive setting.

Enthusiastic crowds were on hand for the opening ceremonies and throughout the day’s events.

“I’ve helped out with Special Olympics for three years. It’s a great way to bring our community together and connect it with the outside community of the surrounding Philadelphia region,” said Maggie Karmeris, a junior biology/pre-physical therapy major from Wilmington, Del., who plays goalkeeper on the field hockey team.

The event was the culmination of the NCAA’s third annual Division III Week, which calls attention to each school’s campus and highlights student-athletes’ achievements. Widener highlighted five athletes for their efforts on and off the field: seniors Laura Harris (Phoenix, Md.) from swimming, Veronica Vizzard (Havertown, Pa.) from volleyball, Erica Szpynda (Berwick, Pa.) from track and field and Jakub Valdner (Bratislava, Slovakia) from men's soccer as well as junior Anthony Davis (Upland, Pa).