NEW JERSEY – In the 1960s, specialist teachers in Bayonne and Trenton realized that students with intellectual and physical disabilities were being underserved. They have individually taken it upon themselves to organize sports matches for them.
In 1969, the precursor to the New Jersey Special Olympics emerged, “when six participants from the Bayonne Recreation Department and 12 participants from the ER Johnstone Training Center in Bordentown represented NJ in the Eastern Regional Special Olympics”.
But during the COVID pandemic, the traditional Summer Games – in which athletes with intellectual or physical disabilities compete for gold medals – had to be put on hold.
This month, the event is back in force. Commencement ceremonies on Friday, June 10 at the College of New Jersey at Ewing drew about 1,500 athletes with disabilities, report says on News 12 NEW JERSEY.
And despite the weekend rain, the Summer Games were able to feature seven sports in events across the state, the organization said. Athletes competed in gymnastics, weightlifting, bocce, softball, swimming, tennis and track and field.
For 2 to 7 year olds, there was Young Athletes events, with a guided game program to “show the benefits of participation”.
Events were held across the state in all seven sports. The organization has yet to release its photos and video of the events, but says they will be posted here at 2022 Summer Games website.
Kimberly Ackerson, an intellectual disability teacher at Passaic High School, was cited saying, “It’s amazing to see them go head-to-head in these games…the pride and camaraderie
they have is unlike anything else.”
The games ended with a closing event.
Special Olympics New Jersey runs programs in every county, which you can find with this link.
To get involved, donate, or learn more about Special Olympics New Jersey, Click here.