Before she started working with the organization, Gabrielle Salomon didn’t know that Special Olympics were offered at the collegiate level.
“I actually did not hear about Special Olympics College until my time working with them,” said Salomon, a senior sport and recreation major and co-founder of the club. “It’s just something I didn’t realize until now and knew that Temple’s campus was definitely a scene where this was feasible.”
Temple will become the fourth school in the “City Six” to offer sports for physically and mentally handicapped students. Salomon, along with junior early childhood education major Alison Georgescu, are looking to add Special Olympics as a university-sponsored club, helping Temple join the likes of Villanova and Drexel with the brand name “Special Olympics.” St. Joseph’s currently offers a similar service but is unaffiliated with Special Olympics, said Kirstin Cuprzinski, the manager and supervisor of special events and marketing at Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
Salomon said she thought of bringing the Special Olympics to Temple University during her summer internship with Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Through social media, Salomon was able to find Georgescu to join in the project.
“I found out that [Salomon] was doing this so I messaged her just to help out and be a part of it,” said Gerogescu, the club’s president and co-founder. “I feel really strongly about this. I work with special education so bringing this here would be really important to me and it means a lot to me. It means a lot to me because I want to work in the classroom with people with disabilities.”
Salomon said her brother inspired her to help start the club.
“My brother has autism himself so the Special Olympics is near and dear to my family’s heart,” she said. “Being able to work with [Special Olympics] this summer in a professional aspect, it has given me a new leeway in the industry [of sports], so it’s given me a lot of opportunities.”
The project Salomon and Georgescu are working on started in July, and they said they are working closely with student affairs to see how feasible it is at Temple.
The two women held their first Temple Special Olympics Meeting Thursday, Sept. 3, and are looking to gain more and more people with every meeting. The positions currently available on the new Temple Special Olympics’ executive board are vice president and treasurer. There are still committee spots and “anything you can really think of,” Salomon said.
“I want it to be well known on campus and for everyone to know that you can get involved with it, it’s just such a great opportunity,” Georgescu said.
The Special Olympics have been around since 1968, when Solider Field hosted the first Special Olympic Games, according to the organization’s website.
The Special Olympic Mission Statement reads, “The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
In order for Temple to be considered Special Olympics eligible, Cuprzinski said three “buckets” must be fulfilled: youth leadership, sports/competition and involvement from the campus. Cuprzinski added that depending on how the students want to start their Special Olympic campus organization, it could be fast and easy or slow and tedious.
“The more motivated the students are, the faster it goes,” she said.
The next Temple University Special Olympic meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 17 on the fourth floor of the Student Center.
Jason Croft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CroftJasonC.