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Special Olympics “Flame of Hope” passes through Fayetteville

DeWitt Police Officers participate in the 2013 Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

DeWitt Police Officers participate in the 2013 Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics. Submitted photo

— Fundraisers like the LETR help ensure that all New York State athletes and their families do not have to pay to participate in the Special Olympics, which are held every two years at different locations across the state. Athletes as young as 8 and as old as 80 come from all corners of New York to compete in one of the largest Special Olympic games in the world.

“We’ll have about 1,600 athletes competing,” said Rucker. “The thing that is least understood about Special Olympics is that we’re a year-round organization – just because it’s Olympics doesn’t mean it’s every four years. Here in New York State, we have 61, 582 athletes and we are the largest Special Olympics program in the U.S.”

In fact, New York State ranks fifth in the world in terms of size - only four countries have bigger programs. Athletes compete in 22 different sports – from soccer, to power lifting, to track, to floor hockey to horseback riding. Any athlete who earns a medal is entered into a drawing to be eligible to compete on the national or world level.

Rucker said that once the Summer Games are done, the summer season will end and they’ll take a few weeks off to give the coaches, all volunteers, a short break. But then it’s back to training for the fall season and eventually, the Winter Games, which will be held in Syracuse in February.

The Special Olympics of New York State has over 30,000 volunteers. For more information about the Special Olympics or how to volunteer, visit nyso.org.

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