ALTOONA, Pa. – At Penn State Altoona's tennis match on Sunday, September 30, the men's and women's tennis teams welcomed athletes from the Special Olympics of Blair County to the Adler Tennis Courts for Special Olympics Awareness Day.
The day kicked off Penn State Altoona's participation in the NCAA Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee's "50 for 50th Challenge." This past July marked 50 years of the Special Olympics, and to honor the milestone, the NCAA Division III National SAAC has challenged each Division III institution to have at least 50 student-athletes participate in Special Olympics events by February 28, 2019.
All institutions who complete the challenge will receive a prize from the NCAA. The three institutions with the highest percentage of student-athlete participation will face off in a Special Olympics Spotlight Poll in March 2019.
The challenge is aimed at highlighting the special partnership fostered between the Special Olympics and NCAA Division III.
"It's the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. With the NCAA partnering with the Special Olympics and their athletes, the goal this year is to get 50 student-athletes from each institution to work with Special Olympians to raise awareness for their cause," said Penn State Altoona men's basketball junior Cameron Gardner-Nicholson, who is the campus' national Division III SAAC representative. "We want to show that the Special Olympics athletes work just as hard as we do."
Prior to this past Sunday's tennis match, the Penn State Altoona tennis teams held a meet and greet with athletes from the Special Olympics of Blair County. The Lions and Lady Lions tennis players also practiced with the Special Olympians, breaking out their racquets and hitting around on the courts. After the start of the match, the Special Olympians stayed in the stands and cheered on the Penn State Altoona women's tennis team.
"We're lucky to have a great partnership with the Special Olympics of Blair County. The men's and women's tennis teams from the Special Olympics came to our tennis match to help us raise awareness here in our community," said Penn State Altoona SAAC advisor and men's basketball head coach David McGreal. "It was a great event. The Special Olympians and our tennis teams both had a great time interacting, playing together, and getting to know each other."
Sunday's Special Olympics Awareness Day is the first of several events that Penn State Altoona's NCAA Division III teams have planned to help fulfill their commitment to the "50 for 50th Challenge."