BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Earlier this month, the St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn) student-athlete committee had the opportunity to host the Special Olympics for a fun-filled day at The Hill Center. Bears from various teams competed against the Special Olympics of Brooklyn floor hockey team prior to the basketball doubleheader on January 6.
Feeding off the experience of attending the recent NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum, SAAC representatives Victoria Mahoney (softball) and Gemar Lezeau (men's soccer) coordinated the event bringing together over student-athletes from various teams on an early Saturday morning during the holiday break, further challenged by the recent snowstorms.
"After many long hours of planning that consisted of meetings with James [Lally, Athletic Director], emails and phone calls between our school and the Special Olympics hockey team manager, we were finally able to get the event underway," commented Lezeau.
"Learning how to play a sport was such a great way for all of the athletes to intermingle," remarked Mahoney. "It was such an amazing experience and I am so grateful for the opportunity that we had to be able to connect with others through a common ground of sports."
For many of the Bears who hadn't played floor hockey before, they were impressed by the passion and skill of the Special Olympics team.
"I enjoyed learning and playing the game and it fed my competitive personality," said men's basketball sophomore Stephane Etheart. "I developed respect for field hockey and for the people that played with and taught us, who became our new friends."
"The game brought out the competitive nature in all of us and the more physical it got, the more fun we all had," added Lezeau. "I had absolutely no idea how to play and it was so much fun to learn versus people who had so much more experience," commented softball junior Maria Gentile.
After the floor hockey game, the Bears and the Special Olympics athletes shared a lunch provided by Panera Bread, who sponsored the event. The Special Olympics athletes then stayed and cheered on both men's and women's basketball teams to a pair of victories and stood beside the Bears during the national anthem and introduction of the starting lineups.
Women's basketball junior captain Victoria Porcasi added, "It was really great having them there to gather for the national anthem and high-five us during intros. Overall, it was a rewarding experience. I even made friends with a few of the team members and connected via Facebook after the event!"
"It was especially rewarding when I had multiple athletes come up to me and ask if we can do something again in the near future," concluded Mahoney.