Delaware North Co-CEOs Lou Jacobs and Jerry Jacobs Jr. today presented Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman with a $50,000 gift to support the growth of the organization’s Unified Sports program in Western New York.
The donation was presented during Special Olympics New York’s Law Enforcement Torch Run, which passed in front of Delaware North’s global headquarters building in downtown Buffalo. More than 75 associates were on hand to cheer for the athletes as they took part in the torch run, which is an annual tradition for Special Olympics New York and brings together nearly 6,000 police and peace officers from close to 500 agencies in a 56-leg relay that carries the Flame of Hope across New York state.
“Delaware North is thrilled to support Special Olympics athletes because we know that sports have a special way of bringing people together,” Lou Jacobs said. “Special Olympics New York ensures that everyone in our community has the opportunity to participate in fun, inclusive, and confidence-inspiring events. We look forward to cheering on these incredible athletes throughout the year.”
Unified Sports include participation by students with and without intellectual disabilities playing on the same team. Statewide, Special Olympics New York partners with more than 145 Unified Champion Schools (UCS) and 6,000 students who have committed to its three-component UCS model of Unified sports, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement to create school and community climates of acceptance and inclusion.
There are 25 Unified Champion Schools in Western New York that engage more than 1,500 students. Organization officials say that, with the continued support from Delaware North, Western New York could become the most inclusive community in the country.
“Unified is the fastest growing sports movement in the world, thanks to students, coaches, and administrators who are leading an ‘inclusion revolution’ – ensuring students with all abilities have an opportunity to represent their school by playing a sport,” said Hengsterman. “Western New York is on pace to become the most inclusive community in the country, with continued support from leaders like Delaware North who recognize the value of promoting acceptance and inclusion in and out of school.”
Brian Pane, a Unified basketball coach at a Western New York high school, joined executives at today’s event.
“The Unified Champion School movement is a joyful and powerful experience for all involved. In three years, the Unified program has grown to become one of the largest sports programs in our school, and every ounce of effort that we have put into it has been worth it,” Pane said.
Special Olympics New York serves nearly 68,000 athletes – including 3,900 from the Western New York region — across New York with year-round sports training and athletic competition that ranges from the local to international level. The organization also partners with nearly 150 schools statewide to offer unified sports, where students with and without intellectual disabilities compete on a level playing field, and incorporates health screenings for its athletes at all major events – all at no cost to athletes,
their families or caregivers.