GREENWOOD, IN - The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) had close to 25 HCAC student-athletes participate in a unified bowling event with approximately 25 Special Olympics of Indiana athletes from Johnson County at Southern Bowl in Greenwood, Indiana on Sunday afternoon. The occasion continued the conference’s and NCAA Division III’s partnership with Special Olympics and capped off 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. The SAAC group elected officers for 2013-14 and witnessed a presentation by Special Olympics Indiana. Andrew Peterson, a Special Olympics athlete from Indianapolis, gave an inspirational speech on the impact of Special Olympics in his life as well as the partnership with NCAA Division III.
“SAAC’s collaborative partnership with the Special Olympics is just that, a partnership. This is not about collegiate student athletes doing philanthropic acts to better their community, it is far greater than that,” stated Marie Stettler, HCAC SAAC President. “This relationship is a two-way street, sharing passions to improve their abilities, exposure to diverse ways of living, and exchanging opportunities to see triumph in such a humbling setting. Hearing Andrew’s story was so uplifting; he is an amazingly articulate young man that knows what it takes to improve his athletic abilities, the community around him, and people’s attitude towards people with disabilities.”
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.
“As people with the same interests and passion come together, similarities are found and differences disappear. It is wonderful seeing NCAA Division III student-athletes interacting with our athletes, focusing on our mutual love of sports, rather than on disability,” stated Jeff Mohler, Vice President of Programs & COO of Special Olympics Indiana. “The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference is truly a leader in the NCAA Division III partnership with Special Olympics.”
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 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.
Stettler added, “Bowling with these Special Olympic athletes is always a good time. Many of these athletes are focused on self-improvement, having fun, and some healthy competition. These goals sound all too familiar because it is so relatable to a NCAA Division III athlete. Seeing these similarities adds to the experience that much more; it emphasizes the fact that we share so much more with these athletes than we may originally assume.”
“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.