From Friday, June 10 through Sunday, June 12, 2016, 2,500 athletes will participate in the annual Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) Summer Games.
At Summer Games, the culminating competition event of the summer season of sports for Special Olympics athletes in New Jersey, athletes will compete in aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, softball, tennis, and track & field. Competitions will take place at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing, Mercer County Park in West Windsor, and Schafer School of Gymnastics in Lawrenceville.
Leading up to Summer Games, more than 3,500 athletes trained and competed at the local level in these seven sports, hoping to find themselves a place amongst the talented athletes at Summer Games.
“Summer Games is our biggest competition event of the year, and is an event that every athlete, coach, parent and volunteer looks forward to,” said Heather Andersen, President and CEO of SONJ. “This event opens the playing field to our athletes, giving them an opportunity to show off their talents as serious competitors.”
The weekend’s festivities kick-off during the day Friday, where local school students with and without disabilities will participate in a Youth Summit, where they will learn leadership skills, and a Unified Game Day, where they learn sports skills and about inclusion, both at TCNJ.
On Friday evening, all are welcome to attend as Summer Games kicks into high-gear at the Opening Ceremony, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in Lions Stadium at TCNJ.
The ceremony will include a parade, as the athletes march into the stadium, joined by Carli Lloyd, 2-time US Women’s Olympic Soccer gold medalist, Mike Woods, weather authority from Fox 5’s Good Day New York, and many Rutgers Football players.
After the parade of athletes, the Opening Ceremony continues as SONJ unveils its new cauldron, NJ 101.5’s Big Joe Henry will broadcast live, and there will be a fireworks display. SONJ’s new cauldron was fabricated by R.S. Phillips Steel, LLC of Vernon, thanks to a generous donation by the Perlman Family, in memory of Bessie Perlman, founder of SONJ.
Competitions will take place throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday at the various venues, and spectators are encouraged to attend to cheer on the athletes as they compete.
In addition to competition, Young Athletes™ will host developmental sports activities, a Future Stars Track Race and Strider Bikes Race for children ages 2-7 with intellectual disabilities; Healthy Athletes will offer athletes the opportunity to meet with healthcare professionals in vision, dental, hearing, podiatry, and health education, and can receive a concussion baseline screening; and athletes will have access to the Olympic Village and Athlete Experience, both of which offer activities for the athletes while they are not competing.
All of the weekend’s events are completely free of charge to the athletes who compete, including food, housing, travel, entertainment and meeting with healthcare professionals.
The 2016 SONJ Summer Games are supported by Wakefern Food Corp./ShopRite, which donates lunch for those in attendance.
For a more detailed event schedule, including a listing of all athletes who will compete, visit http://www.sonj.org/pdfs/sports/2016-Summer-Games-Schedule-of-Events.pdf.
Following the 2015 SONJ Summer Games, photos will be available for free download at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sonewjersey.