NORTH BOSTON, N.Y. – The Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference handed out its annual community service recognition awards this week, and the Penn State Altoona Athletics program picked up one of the conference's gold awards for its volunteer efforts with the Special Olympics.
At the end of each academic year, the AMCC recognizes exceptional community service efforts by its member institutions in several different categories, giving out gold and silver awards for the top two community service activities in each category. Penn State Altoona earned the gold award in the "Array of Events" category, thanks to the Athletics department's work with the Special Olympics of Blair County during this year's "50 for 50th Challenge" initiative, promoted by the NCAA Division III.
"We're very honored to receive this award from the AMCC," said Penn State Altoona Student-Athlete Advisory Committee advisor David McGreal. "Obviously, we don't do things like this for awards and recognition, but to enhance student-athletes' experience while at Penn State Altoona. I believe, through our work with the Special Olympics of Blair County this year, we've made a difference, not only in the lives of the Olympians, but also the lives of our student-athletes."
In honor of this year's 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics, the NCAA Division III challenged its members to have at least 50 student-athletes participate in Special Olympics-related volunteer events by the end of February 2019. Penn State Altoona more than met the criteria to fulfill the challenge, as the Athletics program came together to participate in several different volunteer events benefiting local Special Olympians.
Penn State Altoona's women's tennis, women's volleyball, women's bowling, and men's basketball teams each held events – both on and off campus – that allowed student-athletes to help local Special Olympians hone their sports skills through practices, coaching sessions, and competition. The Athletics department's annual Staff/Faculty vs. Student-Athletes charity basketball game capped the Special Olympics volunteer activities for the year. During that event, Special Olympians played a basketball game alongside Penn State Altoona student-athletes.
In total, dozens of Penn State Altoona student-athletes – through their teams, the SAAC organization, and individually – volunteered with over 90 local Special Olympians this year.
"Most of the credit needs to go to the good core group of SAAC members, who not only helped organize these events, but also gave up their time and resources to make these experiences as special as possible for the Olympians," said McGreal. "Thank you to my SAAC executive board for all they did to help garner this recognition."
Penn State Altoona's teams and student-athletes will continue their strong partnership with the Special Olympians during the 2019-20 year.