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GREENWOOD, IN - The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) had close to 40 HCAC student-athletes participate in a unified bowling activity with approximately 40 Special Olympics of Indiana athletes from Johnson County at Expo Bowl in Indianapolis, Indiana on Sunday afternoon. The event continued the conference’s and NCAA Division III’s partnership with Special Olympics and capped off the inaugural NCAA Division III Week festivities.
The bowling activity followed the annual HCAC SAAC spring meeting, which was held at Valle Vista Golf Club in Greenwood, Indiana. Louise McCleary, Director of NCAA Division III, was in attendance and delivered a presentation on the Division’s Identity Initiative and partnership with Special Olympics to the student-athletes.
"The Special Olympic partnership continues to grow and strengthen. Introduced in 2010, this student-athlete initiative has positively impacted both Division III student-athletes and Special Olympians,” says McCleary. “It was a pleasure for me to speak to student-athletes from the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and listen to all of their initiatives with Special Olympics.”
Special Olympics is a global, nonprofit organization which gives participants the chance to develop fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and share those skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and community members by providing year-round sports training and athletics competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
“Year one of the partnership between NCAA Division III and Special Olympics has revealed that it’s perfect to match the athletes of these organizations,” stated Michael Furnish, President/CEO of Special Olympics Indiana. “The HCAC has become the lead conference in showing how SAAC can make a real difference for Special Olympics athletes in their communities.”
The partnership between the HCAC SAAC and Special Olympics aligns with the Division III strategic-positioning platform as the student-athlete becomes more involved in the local community.
“I am very pleased that we are able to partner with Special Olympics,” says HCAC Commissioner, Chris Ragsdale. “The timing of this event fit perfectly with the conclusion of NCAA Division III Week and helped further expand the conference’s community outreach efforts with Special Olympics. Today’s event has been designed specifically to promote and challenge our membership to continue their own outreach with Special Olympics.”
At the event, student-athletes from the HCAC exchanged a gift from their institution with their Special Olympic athlete pair to help commemorate the event.
“It is a rare and very special moment when you are able to create a sporting event (bowling) where Special Olympic athletes and intercollegiate athletes are able to share a competitive experience. The experience of sharing in the joy and excitement of competition together is a moment neither group will soon forget,” added Ragsdale.
Furnish showed a video during his presentation to illustrate the negative impact the "R" word has in today's culture.