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Playing sports offers countless benefits. From increased self-confidence and critical thinking skills to developing character and a sense of teamwork, athletics give people of all abilities the tools they need to thrive and increase their physical fitness. No one knows this better than Special Olympics, a nonprofit organization that offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to train and compete in authentic, quality sports.
On April 22, 2023, the state chapter, Special Olympics New York, partnered with Niagara University to host its Western Regional Basketball Tournament. About 175 Special Olympians competed in this year’s event, including 20 athletes from People Inc.
In addition to the days of practicing basketball on campus, People Inc. participants also worked with the coaches in a classroom setting at Niagara University, learning about and helping to plan every aspect of the tournament.
Brandon Mazur, an athlete who is also enrolled in a number of People Inc. programs, appreciated the skills he gained from the experience. “I enjoy learning how to pass the ball, shooting and dribbling,” he explained. “I like working with the coaches because they spend time with me and teach me how to play basketball. I really enjoy going to the university and being part of the program.”
Kyle Stern, another Special Olympian who takes part in People Inc. programs, was excited to join the tournament for a second year running. “I did this last year as well,” he expressed. “It's really a lot of fun and it's really enjoyable to see a lot of familiar faces. I like dribbling the ball and passing it to my teammates.”
The event was a huge success and People Inc. was proud to be a part of it.
“As an agency, we work hard every day to create a culture where people are accepted and valued for who they are,” shared Elizabeth Duncan, director for People Inc. Day Habilitation Programs. “We look forward to continuing this partnership with Special Olympics and Niagara University and working together to build a more inclusive future.”