Photo courtesy of Special Olympics New York

Niagara University has hosted Special Olympics New York’s Western Regional Basketball Tournament every year since 2006 as a culminating experience for students who take the Special Olympics: Coaching and Games Management course (EDU 333/HRT 333).

More than 220 Special Olympians, comprising nine clubs, and their families participated in the 2018 edition of the event, which occurred April 21 at NU’s Kiernan Recreation Center.

Conceived by Dr. Chandra Foote, who is now dean of Niagara University’s College of Education, the course is taught by Dr. Dennis Garland, assistant professor of education. Sections of the course are presented by the College of Education and others by the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“I am beyond proud of how well our students fundraised, planned, practiced, studied and poured their hearts into this event,” said Dr. Garland. “I am also very humbled by and proud of the Western New York community for partnering with Niagara University to make this event a huge success.”

Special Olympics is widely known as an international organization with a mission to help persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society. Athletes are offered a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and to increase the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs.

Accordingly, the Special Olympics course at NU has multiple components, including:

  • Providing students with knowledge about the nature of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
  • Developing skills among teacher candidates to become certified Special Olympics coaches.
  • Training children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities to compete in the annual regional basketball tournament.
  • Planning and hosting a sanctioned Special Olympics regional basketball tournament.

Various Niagara University student organizations supported and volunteered during Saturday’s tournament, including the Niagara University Student Government Association, Alpha Sigma Alpha and Phi Sigma Sigma sororities, men’s and women’s basketball teams, men’s soccer team, ROTC program, ASL Club, Danceline and Monte the Eagle.

Special Olympics Basketball Tournament | 04.21.18

In addition, several individuals and community organizations contributed to the success of the event:

  • Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University
  • Maryalice Demler, ’86, anchor at WGRZ-TV Channel 2
  • Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster
  • Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan Dalporto
  • U.S. Border Patrol
  • Lewiston Police Department
  • SUNY Buffalo State College School of Education
  • University at Buffalo Dental College
  • Buffalo Bisons
  • Extreme Illumination & Sound

“It’s truly inspiring how much impact and influence our university has in bringing together the community on behalf of our members who deserve it the most,” added Dr. Garland. “I’m so proud to be part of this excellent institution and this event.”

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