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Spring 2023 Newsletter

After a whirlwind of events over the past couple months, we thought it would be a great time to catch you up on all things Special Olympics Vermont (at least our major happenings)!

Holiday Games

From late October through January, regional bowling events were held at Rutland Bowlerama and Spare Time Colchester. The southern bowling league that played in Rutland was composed of teams from Rutland Intermediate Middle School, Rutland High School, and Mill River Union High School. The northern league had teams from South Burlington Schools, Edmunds Middle School, Essex Middle School, Essex High School, and Mount Mansfield Union High School.

In addition to the Unified Champion Schools bowling leagues, Bellcate School, CVU, Shelburne Community School, U32, and Montpelier High School participated in scrimmages throughout the season.

This year, we partnered with the Edge in South Burlington to host our swimming competition. About 30 athletes from Addison, Chittenden, Franklin County Maple Leafs, and Bellcate School competed in different combinations of 25m, 50m, and 100m freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke events. We saw some great finish times and everyone did an incredible job!

Finally, we had floorball games at Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center. Chittenden and Franklin County with 2 teams each competed against each other for first through fourth place awards.

These events would not have been possible without the coordination and support of local HODs, UCS liaisons, and our host venues. Thank you!

Winter Competitions

Vertical Challenge at Saskadena Six

Special Olympics Vermont athletes were invited to participate in the Vertical Challenge at Saskadena Six. On March 5th athletes, coaches, parents, and volunteers from Addison and Mount Snow Adaptive joined us for a beautiful day on the mountain! 13 athletes competed on the novice course set up exclusively for Special Olympics Vermont, while 23 skiers and snowboarders competed on the Vertical Challenge course. We'd like to thank all our partners at Saskadena Six and Vertical Challenge for hosting us at this fun event, and our volunteers, HODs, and coaches that helped make this event successful!

Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing

We hosted our cross-country skiing and snowshoe competitions at Rikert Nordic Center this year where 27 athletes competed in snowshoe races, while 10 skiers raced in various distance events.

Members of law enforcement were able to join us and draped medals at award ceremonies, and cheered athletes on in their competitions. We also had members from the Middlebury College Unified Club volunteer and assist us throughout the day.

Congratulations to all athletes and coaches from Addison, Bennington, and Chittenden. We’d like to thank our delegations and partners at Rikert for being flexible after having to cancel our original date due to unsafe driving conditions, as well as all our volunteers, HODs, and partners that made this a successful and fun-filled event!

Unified Recreational Basketball Tournament

We hosted a middle school recreational basketball tournament for the first time at Albert D. Lawton School (ADL) in Essex. This was a great way for middle level students to be introduced to Unified Basketball which is more common at the high school level. One Bellcate team, two ADL teams, and two Edmunds Middle School teams played a round-robin format and were awarded with participation medals at the end of the day. Stands were filled with supporters of each school cheering for their teams. We'd like to give a shoutout UCS liaison Catherine Parlante and the staff at ADL who were an incredible help in organizing this event!

Penguin Plunge

Our largest and most anticipated fundraiser of the year went remote due to frigid temperatures expected on the day of the event. Fundraisers were encouraged to show their support for SOVT by recording or taking photos of their creative alternatives to the usual in-person plunge into Lake Champlain. Despite having gone remote, plungers continued to fundraise, and we even exceeded our fundraising goal for the Cool Schools Penguin Plunge by $20,000! The VIP Party on the eve of the Plunge took place at Hotel Vermont for the first time. Sponsors, top fundraisers, SOVT board, staff and members of the community enjoyed live music, food, and drinks in celebration of the Plunge. We capped off the 2023 Penguin Plunge with a Premiere Party held at Foam Brewers on March 21st to watch the production of remote plunges put together by our friends at Media Factory.

On March 11th, we headed down to Manchester for the Southern Vermont Penguin Plunge. About 100 community members from Manchester and neighboring towns raised over $17,000 for Special Olympics Vermont. The Manchester Fire Department sprayed water from one of their tower trucks for plungers to run through. It was a lively event despite the gloomy weather, with music from Burr and Burton student DJs, and hot coffee and freshly made pizza by Sam's Wood Fired Pizza Co.

Altogether, the 2023 Penguin Plunge raised over $525,000 for Special Olympics Vermont. This would not have been possible without the support of our many sponsors, partners, and over 1,000 dedicated plungers!

Athlete Spotlight

SOVT staff member and athlete leader Bennett Townley has been representing athletes and Special Olympics Vermont at local events and at a national level. Early this year, Bennett was part of the Vermont delegation to head to Washington DC for Capitol Hill Day to lobby for funding for Special Olympics. Bennett presented to Senator Peter Welch as well as staffers of members of congress, sharing how his involvement in Special Olympics Vermont programming has impacted his life.

More recently, Bennett was the keynote speaker at the Vermont Association for Middle Level Education (VAMLE) Conference which took place at Champlain College. Hundreds of middle school students and educators from all over Vermont attended this conference aimed towards reducing bullying. Bennett spoke about his experience as a student before and after his high school adopted Unified Sports. Teachers and students gave great feedback on his speech and Bennett said, "this felt like a really good opportunity to teach young people about Special Olympics and those with unique abilities."

Champions Premiere

On March 6th, athletes and their families, volunteers, sponsors, donors, plungers, and many other members of the SOVT community joined us at Palace 9 Cinemas for an early screening of the movie Champions. Vermont resident and co-star Casey Metcalfe helped kick off the movie by sharing his acting journey with us and how he landed his role in Champions. Turnout was incredible and it was amazing to see so many people with the same care for our mission come together to watch a film that represents Special Olympics athletes.

Upcoming Events

  • Norwich Basketball Tournament, April 16th, Norwich University

  • UCS Bocce Tournament, May 10th, Brattleboro Union High School

  • SOVT Benefit Golf Tournament at Burlington Country Club, May 22nd, Burlington Country Club. Click here to learn more.

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