Special Olympics athletes go for the gold at TU

By Ben Rosenbaum & Kyle Hobstetter on June 9, 2019

Towson University welcomed close to 1,500 local athletes for the 42nd Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games

In what has become a summer tradition, Towson University was the proud host of Special Olympics Maryland’s 49th annual Summer Games from June 7-9.   

With events in Burdick Hall, SECU Arena and the Tigers Athletic Complex, there were close to 1,500 Special Olympics Maryland athletes and Unified Partners, 250 coaches, 900 volunteers, and spectators participating in the Summer Games.

The Summer Games are the largest state-level competition for Special Olympics Maryland. It was the 42nd year that Towson University has played host to the Summer Games. 

“The Summer Games celebrate our athletes, who through their actions and accomplishments remind us every day that they are champions,” says Jim Schmutz, CEO and President of Special Olympics Maryland. “Our exceptional host and partner Towson University provides our athletes with world-class venues and an environment of welcome, dignity and respect where they can thrive.”

More than three dozen members of the Towson University community volunteered over the weekend, including students and student athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball, football and field hockey teams.

TU quarterback Jeff Miller served as a Unified Partner in his hometown in Southern California and took on the role again this year. Unified Partners are individuals without intellectual disabilities who train and work with Special Olympic athletes.

"I love working with the special needs kids," Miller says. "Working with the Special Olympics is something I started my junior year of high school, and I just fell in love with it. I just always loved doing it, and the kids and connections we make with the athletes and the kids is just something you never forget."

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The weekend started with the annual block party held in Lot 20 near SECU Arena. Special Olympic athletes, their families, coaches and volunteers were able to relax and have fun before competitions began. They also got to meet members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as get a photo with TU mascot Doc.

"It's always a good time to bring the community out to Towson University," says Juwan Gray, a redshirt junior on the Tigers men's basketball team. "Giving back to our community is big to us, and it's great to see everyone having a good time." 

Special Olympics athletes competed in several events over the weekend, including cheerleading, swimming, bocce, softball, and track and field competitions.

On Sunday morning the TU field hockey team helped with the day’s track and field events in Johnny Unitas Stadium®.

"Everyone likes a challenge and these are gritty athletes and they work hard," says Tigers field hockey coach E.A. Jackson. "An event like this is very uplifting and it's pretty special to be a part of it." 

For many of the Towson University student-athletes, it’s the first time they have volunteered for the Summer Games. After getting to experience the joy of helping their fellow athletes go for gold, it won’t be their last.

"My heart if filled just to be able to interact and let people know we care about the community and we do support them," says Ryan Holder, a senior on Tigers women's basketball team. 

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University:  TU Matters to Maryland.