University Park, Pa. — Nearly 50 Penn State student-athletes, representing 10 different teams, helped Special Olympics Pennsylvania kick off the 42nd Annual Summer Games tonight on the University Park Campus.
Sponsored by Sheetz, Inc., the Summer Games bring together more than 2,000 athletes, 750 coaches and 2,500 volunteers from across the state. The event is being held Thursday-Saturday on the Penn State campus for the 24th consecutive year.
The athletes gathered outside East Halls this evening and marched county-by-county to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for the opening ceremonies, with the Penn State student-athletes carrying each of the county banners.
More than 20 members of the Nittany Lion football team participated in the opening ceremonies, along with student-athletes from: field hockey, women's fencing, women's gymnastics, men's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's track and field and women's volleyball.
Lady Lion Basketball assistant coaches Kia Damon, Fred Chmiel and Maren Walseth are organizing and officiating basketball games this weekend, along with Lady Lion players Alex Bentley and Dara Taylor.
The Nittany Lion student-athletes are among the 2,500 volunteers at the Summer Games, which will include events such as aquatics, athletics, basketball, bowling, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis.
One of the Nittany Lion football student-athletes who participated in the opening ceremonies was senior tackle Chima Okoli, who participated in his first Special Olympics Summer Games opening ceremonies.
"I like being a part of events like this," Okoli. "This is my first time at the Summer Games, but I was at another Special Olympics event in the spring. The sign up sheet (at Lasch Football Building) for tonight filled up right away. We want to give back to the community and our great fans."
Penn State field hockey coach Charlene Morett is the Honorary Chair for the Games. Morett is entering her 25th year at the helm of the field hockey program. She has guided the Nittany Lions into two National Championship games and five Big Ten titles. She is fourth all-time in Division I victories as a coach with 410. She has led Penn State to the NCAA Tournament in 21 of her 24 seasons.
Preliminary games competition began today. Competition continues on Friday at nine venues in individual skills, individual events, relay and team events and concludes on Saturday, June 11. Closing ceremonies will take place Saturday afternoon on the University's East Halls Lawn at 4:30 p.m. Steve Jones, the voice of the voice of Nittany Lion football and basketball, will emcee the closing ceremonies.
There is no admission fee for any of the events.
For more information on the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games or to volunteer at the Games, visit www.specialolympicspa.org or call 814-234-8750.