-By Sophia Yanik
The 2,500 acres of Mercer County Park has donned the orange, blue and red of the Special Olympics in preparation for one of New Jersey’s biggest events of the year.
The atmosphere will be perfect for the nearly 3,500 athletes that will be competing in New Jersey, June 14-21. That’s not to mention the 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers, and the expected 70,000 family and friends that will be in attendance to cheer them on.
Among the 10,000 volunteers, various USTA Middle States staff members will be present during the week of June 14-21st, fulfilling volunteer roles from ball retriever to media assistant.
“We are honored and privileged to have the national Special Olympics in our Section,” said Marlynn Orlando, Executive Director of USTA Middle States. “The Middle States staff is excited to be part of the Special Olympics tennis event and volunteer alongside the amazing athletes and thousands of volunteers and supporters that help make this one of the best sporting events in our country”.
Since 1961, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (sister of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy) has been pioneering efforts for equality for those with physical and intellectual disabilities. According to Shriver, the Special Olympics give those with disabilities “the chance to play, the chance to compete and the chance to grow”.
A unique aspect of this year’s USA Games is that it is being billed as the Games of Welcome and Acceptance. Both traditional and unified play will be occurring, meaning that the community has the ability to support and play along with the athletes, making it “the most inclusive Games in Special Olympics history, according to the Special Olympics.