GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Monday, the faces behind the New York Special Olympics came to town with the announcement that the annual Fall Games would be making their return to Glens Falls.
And the goal is to actually follow through; something they were rendered unable to do when they first announced that same return last year, just a month and change before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Special Olympics New York President Stacey Hengsterman was joined by athletes and local leaders at the Queensbury Hotel on Monday to announce the games return, set for Oct. 22-23 across city locations like Cool Insuring Arena and SUNY Adirondack.
And now that it’s announced, organizers like Hengsterman are in for a planning rush like never before.
“We usually have, I don’t know, a year or so, to plan for these events,” she said. “We have a few months, but we are so committed.”
That work is being done to accommodate a goal number of 900 to 1,000 athletes this October. Some were in attendance on Monday, including softball players Darren Harris, Pat Casey and Bryce Reynolds; powerlifter Tommy Mooney; and golfer Ben Purick.
Purick, a Glens Falls native, was visited earlier this summer by Special Olympics representatives, and was one of two local athletes invited to play in the Special Olympics USA Games at Disney World next June.
Hengsterman commented on how much the Special Olympics games mean to players like Purick.
“A lot of us missed a lot of things during COVID, but the athletes really missed one thing, the one thing that’s available to them.”
The announcement is big for Special Olympics New York, too. The Fall Games’ last visit to Glens Falls in 2015 was the last year the event was held at all, subsequently falling to budget cuts.
Sports to be featured at the Fall Games include bocce, cycling, golf, equestrian, soccer, softball, and cross-country running.
Monday’s event was introduced by Michael Bittel, CEO of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, who will serve as chairman for the games.
Bittel thanked local law enforcement from Warren and Saratoga counties and the city of Glens Falls who were in attendance.
He also turned attention to what the community can do to help the event happen, again coming back in no small part to the short window they have to pull the games off.
“We need you,” Bittel said. “We need you to come and volunteer, we need you beforehand, we need you during the games, and we need your financial support as well to make these games a reality.”
Bittel spoke to the effect of the games on the local economy, which Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall was also present to second.
“Anything you can give, from time or treasure, will be put right back into this local economy.”
The games are able to happen this fall thanks to loosening restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. With the delta variant and rising case numbers bringing some concerns back, Hengsterman said that athletes were doing their part and getting vaccinated; and asked spectators to do the same.
“Get your vaccine if you want to come cheer them on,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s as safe an environment as possible for them.”
Those interested in donating or volunteering can contact Michael Bittel at the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce.