Special Olympics student athletes celebrate mental and physical progress

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — One hundred local students were celebrated Wednesday for the skills they’ve learned through a Special Olympics program.

Crossroads Center for Children in Schenectady teamed up with Special Olympics New York for their Young Athletes Program, which prepares the next generation of athletes for Special Olympics training and competition when they become eligible.

“It’s just our littlest guys and girls, learning those basic motor skills,” said Stacey Hengsterman, Special Olympics New York CEO and President.

This is Crossroads’ second year bringing the program to their students ages 12 and under. However, they couldn’t have an end-of-year celebration last time around because of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, parents, grandparents, and a team members from Special Olympics New York gathered at Crossroads to see what the kids have learned.

Crossroads integrates children with and without special learning needs, building friendships with people who are different from themselves, and fostering tolerance and empathy.

The students played with a parachute and maneuvered through obstacle courses. The smiles on their faces made it clear they were having fun, but today’s celebration was really an acknowledgement of the mental and physical progress they’ve have made this year.

“We collect data on everything here, but one of those things was a benchmark for the skills related to Special Olympics activities. We have the data to show that, for most kids, this was really successful,” said Crossroads Center for Children Executive Director Kelly Young.

Phyllis McGill, a grandparent of a child in the program, says the previously timid 2-year-old with autism has come out of her shell through the Young Athletes Program.

“We’ve just seen her engage more, and interact more, and just show us who she is,” said McGill.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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