UVM Becomes First Division I School to be a Special Olympics College
- By Lisa A. Champagne
Vermont Athletics, led by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), has formalized a partnership with Special Olympics Vermont by joining the Special Olympics College program. The Catamounts are the first Division I school in the country to be recognized as a Special Olympics College. UVM has been longtime supporters of Special Olympics, hosting and providing volunteers for the Spring and Summer Games and volunteering for other events that the organization holds. In past years, UVM's SAAC organization has sponsored the Catamount Country Talent Show to benefit Special Olympics Vermont.
Joe Gervais, associate athletic director for Student-Athlete Services, has been a part of organizing the student-athlete volunteers for Special Olympic events and said of the formalized partnership, "We've had a wonderful long term relationship with Special Olympics, hosting Spring and Summer Games at UVM for many, many years. It's exciting to see the partnership grow and expand in new directions."
Lisa DeNatale, president and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont, has been very involved in working with Vermont Athletics and SAAC on several projects, including the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, having a Special Olympics representative on SAAC and beginning a mentor program to pair Catamount athletes with Special Olympians. "We are so grateful to the UVM SAAC for committing to this partnership through Special Olympics College, a nationwide network of college students working to bring inclusion and acceptance to their campuses. The partnership unites UVM SAAC and Special Olympics Vermont through sport, friendship, advocacy and other activities. This is a wonderful opportunity to build strong connections in the community between UVM and Special Olympics Vermont, both on and off the field," said DeNatale.
Kyle Chu, a senior captain on the track and field team and current SAAC Chair, works closely with SAAC's Special Olympic representative, "Fostering this relationship is important for Vermont Athletics and Special Olympics moving into the future. After helping Special Olympics in the past with their R-word Campaign, fundraising for them through our Catamount Country Talent Show, and providing mentorships to their athletes, we are proud to be able to say we are the first Division I school to officially be a Special Olympics College. They have helped us by placing a representative, Harrison Boutcher, into our bi-weekly SAAC meetings and continue to support our endeavors. We are excited for this partnership and our kickoff event between Vermont student-athletes and local Special Olympic athletes. This partnership will prove to be greater than the sum of its parts and act as a model for other colleges interested in pursuing this partnership."
SAAC and Vermont Athletics officially kicked off the Special Olympics College partnership by hosting a Unified Soccer event at Redstone Green on Oct. 13, where they played soccer games with athletes from the Edmunds Unified and Burlington High School Unified soccer teams.
See coverage of the kickoff event on this edition of Catamount Weekly: