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Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) held the 2019 Summer Games at Penn State University in State College, PA, from Thursday, June 6 to Saturday, June 8, 2019. This year marks the 32nd consecutive year that Penn State University will host Summer Games, and the 27th successive year that Sheetz, Inc. will serve as a state-wide corporate partner. This year, in addition to celebrating athletes, Special Olympics PA celebrated 50 years of Summer Games. While the very first Summer Games was a track and field meet held at West Chester University 50 years ago that hosted a total of 135 athletes, Summer Games has now become the largest statewide competition bringing more than 2,000 athletes and 750 coaches from across the state of Pennsylvania together to compete in 8 sports (aquatics, athletics, basketball, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis). Weeks of hard work and dedication in training will be rewarded as athletes are cheered on and supported during this three-day competition by more than 1,000 enthusiastic volunteers.
Opening Ceremonies was emceed by Kellie Goodman-Shaffer, President and CEO of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce, and Bedford County athlete Christa Mereen. Opening Ceremonies featured special guests, entertainment by the State College Area High School Marching Band, Penn State’s multidisciplinary performing arts club Harmony, and ended with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by the Flame of Hope carried by participants of the ninth annual “Be a Fan” Torch Run. The Torch Run is a 3-day, 150-mile run from Pittsburgh to State College. This year’s Torch Run is sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Guardians of the Flame Premier Sponsor, Energy Transfer. Over 400 members of law enforcement representing more than 50 teams from across the state participated by carrying the torch from home plate at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on June 4th to the Pegula Ice Arena in State College to celebrate and kickoff the 50th Annual Summer Games on June 6th. On Friday, June 7, competition began as early as 8:00 a.m. at eight venues in individual skills, individual events, relay, and team events. The day concluded with a Family Ice Cream Social and formal Victory Dance, presented by Comcast, in the Pegula Ice Arena from 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Final competition and awards took place at each venue between 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 8th.
Summer Games also hosted Healthy Athletes programs in Pollock Commons on June 6th and 7th where health promotion, fun fitness, eye, ear, dental, and podiatry health screenings will be offered. Our Healthy Athletes program provides health services and education to Special Olympics athletes free of charge and is changing the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities. The program has made Special Olympics the largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities in the world.