Dr. Dennis Garland with Special Olympic athletes Brandon and Kyle.

Dr. Dennis Garland, associate professor of education at Niagara University, received the Community Partner Award at the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY’s 36th Annual Development Disabilities Awareness Day conference on May 21, 2024. The award recognizes an individual or group working in the community that has gone the “extra mile” to help enrich the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

Dr. Garland was honored for his work with the university’s Special Olympics: Coaching and Games Management course, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the colleges of Education and Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management. Students in the course learn about the nature of children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and train them to compete in the Special Olympics New York’s Western Regional Basketball Tournament. Niagara has hosted the tournament since 2006 in partnership with local organizations. For the past three years, it has partnered with People Inc. 

“Through his work with his students, high school students, and those in adult programs, Dr. Garland has touched the lives of countless people,” said Beth Duncan, day habilitation program director at People Inc., who nominated Dr. Garland for the award. “He is inspiring a new generation of change makers. His students will go out into the community and spread the message of kindness, inclusion, and respect for all people. They will take what this course has taught them and go out into their professional lives—sharing the mission and vision of Special Olympics. That mission and vision directly aligns with the mission of People Inc. and so many other partner organizations. They will help to make the world a more accepting and more inclusive place for all.”

DDDAY is a marquis event of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY, a collaborative group of member voluntary agencies who provide services to people with disabilities in the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions. It brings together advocates, industry connected vendors and suppliers, local and regional agencies, and leading experts to present on a wide variety of topics during the volunteer-run event, which is the largest one of its kind in the United States.