The Worcester Sharks announced on Tuesday they will host the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics -- a very personal initiative for the team's Head Coach, Roy Sommer.
Among goals of the Worcester sharks is player development for the NHL San Jose Sharks. But on Tuesday, they and Special Olympics of Massachusetts ignited excitement among 2,200 athletes with intellectual disabilities, including Colin Davidson of Northborough, who will come to the DCU Center for opening ceremonies March 2 just before the Sharks play the Providence Bruins.
The National Gold Medal is among a hundred medals Colin has won as a Special Olympian.
"It just changed my life because I didn't get judged for who I am or what I can or cannot do."
As for Sommer, he was a Special Olympics volunteer when he was 16. Little did he know, he'd have a son, Marley, who has Down syndrome and autism.
“You know what? No one ever phones Mo, to come and play with him,” said an emotional Sommer. “You know why? He's a little different. But you know what the Special Olympics offers? It offers a chance for him to go play with kids that don't care. When they go to Special Olympics, they meet those kinds of kids, you know, their own peers, their own level and those are mostly kids that they know for life."
In a recent press conference, Michael T. Lehr, Sharks President and CEO, echoed this sentiment.
“The Worcester Sharks Organization is committed to being a long-standing partner within the Worcester community. Since the Sharks moved to Worcester, we have vowed to do that; this is just another example. We are thrilled to be able to partner with such a reputable organization as the Special Olympics and we are excited to see the Athletes and their families flood the DCU Center for Opening Ceremonies.”
Since 1968, the Special Olympics have promoted understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities through year-round sports training and athletic competition. In Massachusetts, 9,300 athletes participate in the Special Olympics.
"We’re glad to be back in Worcester and we’re so thrilled to have the Sharks as a partner and supporter of our Winter Games.," said Robert Johnson, President and CEO of Special Olympics of Massachusetts. “Opening Ceremonies this year will be quite an event, and our athletes are really looking forward to kicking off the games at the DCU Center.”
The Winter Games will open at the DCU Center on March 2nd, and will run through March 4th. Directly following the Ceremonies, which over 5,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, families and supporters are expected to attend, will watch the Worcester Sharks take on the Providence Bruins.
The Games will take place in several different locations across Worcester and its surrounding towns including: Wachusett Mountain, Assumption and Holy Cross Colleges, Auburn AMF Lanes, Buffone Arena, Burncoat High School, Clark University, Forest Grove Middle School and Notre Dame Academy.
"If you come here for the Special Olympics, you'll see people who can do more than they can't do -- who are more like us than unlike us,” said Johnson. “And the athletes know they've won if they do the very best they can do every time they hit the field.”
Admission to all Special Olympics competition events is free and open to the public.
For more information, please call the Worcester Sharks office at 508.929.0500.