Going for Gold: Special Olympics Pennsylvania Eastern Fall Sectional Returns to DeSales
Hundreds of athletes brought the spirit and energy of Special Olympics Pennsylvania to DeSales University as the campus once again hosted the Eastern Fall Sectional.
More than 400 DeSales students volunteered in the University’s largest service event of the year. Athletes tested their skills in six events: volleyball, soccer, flag football, long-distance running/walking, bocce, and powerlifting.
“Today’s Eastern Fall Sectional theme is called Hollywood, and it encourages everyone to bring their best skills and never back down from a challenge,” said Aaron Keller, co-emcee of the opening ceremonies, who competed in long distance running and walking. “I cannot wait to get out there and go for the gold.”
Special Olympics Pennsylvania is a family affair for Brandon Batres. The global messenger of this year’s event has been involved with the organization since middle school. His mother and sister both serve as coaches.
“My whole family is dedicated to empowering people with intellectual disabilities through sports. When I first started, I didn’t know anything about the program and what Special Olympics was about. What I like the most is competing in sports, meeting a lot of people throughout the state, and trying new activities. I’ve also enjoyed having the opportunity to go to places that I never thought I would go.”
Batres was just one of the hundreds of athletes to return to DeSales for the competition after a two-year wait due to COVID-19. While other states have had to postpone competitions until next year, Special Olympics Pennsylvania and its host sites have taken extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
All athletes, volunteers, and spectators were required to wear masks both indoors and outdoors. All competitions were also held outdoors, except for volleyball and powerlifting.
“These athletes have worked for two years to be able to show off their skills,” said Kathleen Maloney ’23, director of support services for the DeSales Special Olympics Committee. “We’re so excited to finally give them the opportunity to compete and to celebrate all of their hard work.”
Justin Poccia ’23, treasurer of the committee, thanked the entire campus community—from faculty and staff to students—for getting involved.
“They were behind us all the way, pushing us to work hard and do the best we can for these athletes,” he said. “There is no experience quite like being here on the day of the event.”