Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver And Minority Leader Brian Kolb Honor Special Olympics Athletes In Albany

Bi-partisan event marks organization’s 40th anniversary
March 17, 2010

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua) today co-hosted a bi-partisan celebration in Albany to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Special Olympics New York (SONY). The event was designed to honor SONY’s mission and the many athletes who participate in Special Olympics programs around the world.

The Assembly Members and their colleagues were joined by Neal J. Johnson, SONY President and CEO; Kevin Brown, Athlete Representative to SONY Board of Directors; Commissioner Diana Jones Ritter of the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD); and many SONY athletes, friends, families and supporters.

“Since they were created four decades ago, the Special Olympics have been a source of self-confidence, pride and inspiration for New Yorkers with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends,” Silver said. “The training and competition provided by Special Olympics of New York has inspired and encouraged the participation and volunteer spirit of thousands of New Yorkers. Congratulations to this wonderful organization as it celebrates this important anniversary.”

“I’ve always been impressed by the hard-working people at Special Olympics New York, and their mission of promoting unity, respect and tolerance,” Kolb said. “It was an honor to co-host this milestone anniversary. I’d like to thank Neal Johnson and the entire Special Olympics family for allowing me and my colleagues to join them here today.”

“Congratulations to the Special Olympics and thank you for 40 years of inspiring us all. The athletes, their families and all involved with this magnificent organization continue to share their spirit of hope, pride and joy, enriching the lives of all they touch,” said Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari.

“For 40 years, Special Olympics New York has provided youngsters and adults with intellectual disabilities across the state the opportunity to pursue their potential through sports training and athletic competition,” Johnson said. “We are proud of the difference we have helped make in the lives of hundreds of thousands of our athletes, their families, our volunteers and their communities. Special Olympics New York is recognized as a movement leader as it has grown to be the largest Special Olympics program in North America and the sixth largest program in the world.”

“As the Athlete Representative to Special Olympics New York’s Board of Directors, I am looking forward to meeting with members of our State Legislature and friends to celebrate our 40th anniversary,” Brown said. “For more than 35 years, Special Olympics has allowed me to travel across the state and throughout the world representing not only our athletes in New York, but the entire country as a member of Team USA. This memorable event will truly be an exciting experience for me and my fellow athletes, and a wonderful way to acknowledge the impact that Special Olympics has had on thousands of lives throughout the years.”

“I am extremely honored to take part in today’s commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Special Olympics New York,” said Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R,C,I-East Meadow), ranking minority member of the Assembly Mental Health Committee. “These athletes are an inspiration to me, because they know that anything is possible with hard work and determination. I applaud the Special Olympics for their continued efforts to improve the lives of athletes and their families.”

“I would like to congratulate the Special Olympics on their 40th anniversary. The Special Olympics has empowered thousands of young adults who face intellectual disabilities and helps them to strengthen their bodies and focus their minds to compete in Olympic games,” said Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz. “These athletes not only gain self respect, courage, confidence, enthusiasm and pride, but they teach all those around them that a mental health disability does not stop one’s spirit to live a full, productive and happy life. I congratulate and thank all of the many people over the years who participated in this wonderful program, and I pledge to wholeheartedly support your efforts as the new Chair of the New York State Assembly Mental Health Committee. I look forward to working with you.”

“Every year, the Special Olympics touches lives across the great state of New York,” said Assemblyman Michael Cusick. “The Special Olympics will make a difference for close to fifty thousand developmentally disabled New Yorkers this year. As the Chairman of the New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, I would like to congratulate both athletes and organizers for the good they do in our communities.”

“OMRDD sends its sincere congratulations to Special Olympics New York upon its 40th anniversary, and also for having grown the program to include more athletes than any other state in the country,” said Ritter. “With 48,000 athletes participating this year – the largest program in all of North America – OMRDD is proud to salute every Special Olympics New York participant, because every Olympian is a winner. On behalf of the entire OMRDD family, we wish you many more successful years transforming the lives of adults and children with developmental disabilities.”

SONY has traditionally used sports as a vehicle to improve the lives of adults and children with intellectual disabilities. Currently, tens of thousands of athletes participate in Special Olympics programs throughout the state. Because of SONY’s esteemed reputation, New York is known as a pioneer and a model program for all states, as well as the 185 countries around the world where Special Olympics programs are offered.