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Encountering Joy in Embracing Each Other’s Dignity: DeSales Hosts Special Olympics Pennsylvania Eastern Fall Sectional

by Jesus Delgado ’24 Oct 3, 2023
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With more than 800 competing athletes, an amazing group of volunteers and coaches, and beautiful, sunny weather, the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Eastern Fall Sectional was ready to begin.

The energy in the opening ceremonies was incalculable. Student cheerleaders welcomed the athletes onto the field with enthusiastic encouragement. The student dance team performed a lively routine alongside perfectly chosen music. 

Local and national speakers stressed the importance of being involved in something much bigger than themselves. Student ROTC cadets marched in unison and presented the American and Special Olympics flags. And when the torch was lit, the games began. 

“Happiness, joy, and a party.” This is how Kathleen Maloney ’23, a recent DeSales graduate who returned to campus to volunteer, described this year’s Special Olympics. 

That joy was certainly experienced by each athlete across all six events—from powerlifting to bocce to volleyball—and by all the coaches and student volunteers as they worked tirelessly to keep the event moving forward. 

For some volunteers, their work had personal significance. Leana Janukowicz, an instructor of clinical nursing, found it amazing to have the opportunity to work the medic tent along the long-distance running course. She found this volunteer opportunity fitting not only because her children are in sports, but also because she has a nephew with Down syndrome. 

“Thinking about other people, participating in your community … that is what ‘Be who you are and be that well’ is all about,” Janukowicz said. 

Overall, the most beautiful aspect of the event was seeing how every person embraced and loved one another. St. Francis de Sales taught about the importance of hospitality, caring, and welcoming all members of the community. The DeSales community has lived up to that teaching. 

“Special Olympics promotes the human dignity and talents of people from all different backgrounds and unites us in the one goal of celebrating each other,” said Amelia Monteiro ’24, a health science major who served as co-chair for long-distance running.