Special Olympians with the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president, Niagara University (center), and other presenters after the announcement of the return of the Special Olympics New York’s Western Regional Basketball Tournament to the Niagara University campus. Speakers included Dr. Dennis Garland, associate professor of special education; Mike Paglicci, associate director, programs, Western Region, Special Olympics NY; Stan Wojton, principal, Cataract Elementary School; Beth Duncan, senior day supervisor, People, Inc.; and NU students Ella Juron, College of Education, and Robert Harrington, College of Hospitality, Sports, and Tourism Management.

After three years, due to COVID and renovations to its recreation center, Niagara University will once again host the Special Olympics New York’s Western Regional Basketball Tournament on its campus. The tournament will take place on Saturday, April 22, in the university’s Kiernan Recreation Center. The Special Olympics event is a culminating experience for students who take the Special Olympics: Coaching and Games Management course (EDU 333/HRT 333) at Niagara University.

The course is taught by Dr. Dennis Garland, associate professor of education. Sections of the course are presented by the College of Education and others by the College of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management.

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.

About 175 Special Olympians will compete in this year’s event. Various Niagara University student organizations will be involved, as well, including the Niagara University Student Government Association, Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, Purple Eagles athletics, the ROTC program, Danceline, Cheer Squad, and Monte the Eagle.

“We have anticipated the return of the Special Olympics New York Western Region Basketball Tournament to the Kiernan Recreation Center since 2019,” said Dr. Garland. “Our students, the university community, and our regional partners have been preparing all semester for this Saturday. The athletes who will be competing here are the heart of our partnerships in the region and are the truest model of sportsmanship. We are thrilled to celebrate the day with them and their families.”

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