Kristopher Ruppersberger, the first student to complete the ARC College Experience program at Hobart and William Smith, was recently included in an article in the Finger Lakes Times about the recent Special Olympics New York Fall Games. Ruppersberger was a competitor. The article also notes Hobart and William Smith Colleges students were among the volunteers at the games.
The full article about the Games follows.
Finger Lakes Times
Olympians see no shortage of support
David Taube • October 4, 2009
SENECA FALLS – In contrast to the precise, gentle tosses of bocce balls rolling slowly to the middle of a court, the last two throws of a championship game Saturday slammed against a piece of wood more than 40 feet away.
That’s because Ontario County athletes Joe Iannopollo and Kristopher Ruppersberger – who made the throws – had already won, extending their streak of gold medals from a super-regional competition in Rome.
But win – as they did with Yates County teammates Elaine Bailey and Chuck Knapton – or lose, there was no shortage of support.
It came from fellow athletes, local businesses, volunteers and others who turned out for the Special Olympics New York Fall Games at New York Chiropractic College and other nearby sites Friday and Saturday.
Participants came from all regions of New York. The organization divides the state into nine sections, which include Long Island, New York City, Hudson Valley, Central, Genesee, Capital District, Southern Tier, Western and North Country.
“To compete in your own backyard with friends and family watching, that makes [it] all that more special,” said Seneca Falls resident Carlo Lorenzetti, the event’s sport director and a Special Olympics volunteer for more than 30 years.
He said his favorite part is seeing athletes smile and clench their fists with pride when they hear that they are winners.
“That’s what brings you here and brings you back,” Lorenzetti said.
But volunteers and athletes stressed that everyone who competes is a winner.
“[Whether] we had a team win or lose, everybody’s smiling,” said Danielle Kennedy, an operations and sales manager for Yates ARC who has volunteered for Special Olympics events for three years.
“All the athletes here did a tremendous job,” said Andrew Marshal of Farmington, who took bronze in the skill assessment division in bocce Saturday with his three teammates.
“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, just how you played,” he said.
The Special Olympics began in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died this year, to provide training and competition for people with developmental disabilities.
Sports for this fall’s competition included 5-kilometer and 15-kilometer cycling races and a 1.8-mile cross country run at New York Chiropractic College, bocce at the SMS Hall in Seneca Falls, an equestrian competition at Lehman Farms in Pittsford, and golf team and skills competition at Seneca Falls Country Club.
Most of the volunteers were from the Seneca Falls area, said Laurie Kennedy, Special Olympics New York’s upstate regional director. Coordinators said the bulk of volunteers were students from New York Chiropractic College and Hobart and William Smith Colleges along with employees from BonaDent Dental Laboratories in Seneca Falls.
BonaDent and Seneca Falls Savings Bank were the lead sponsors for the event, which allows athletes to compete at no cost.
Carla Lorenzetti, who helped out at the bocce event with her father, said she saw a lot of first-time volunteers.
In an opening ceremony Friday, National Women’s Hall of Fame Executive Director Christine Moulton told audience members that they embodied Shriver’s determination, grit and inspiration.
Moulton said Shriver and Special Olympics athletes have challenged the heart and outlook of the world. She compared the women’s rights movement to that of Special Olympics, telling athletes that they challenged her to better her community and world.
“They have such sportsmanship and camaraderie, it’s a wonderful growing experience for me,” said Roxanne Iannopollo, whose son contributed to the four-person bocce team from Ontario and Yates counties.
Another coach whose son participated was Steve Marshall, a Geneva native.
“It just takes all the stress out of you to see them enjoy themselves,” he said.
Regional and state competitions allowed Marshall’s 30-year-old son Andrew – who was diagnosed with autism at age 2 – to meet friends from across the state, he said.
Coordinators for the cycling event expressed surprise about athletes at the event.
One cross country runner out of the event’s 10 participants was 9 years old, just a year past the age limit, said Meghan Quinn, program specialist for the state’s central region.
Jim Hogan, owner of Geneva Bicycle Center who assisted with cycling events, commended participating riders’ abilities.
“There’s some really fast racers here at the front of the pack and really good efforts at the back,” he said.
Individuals behind the scenes observed that volunteers get just as much out of the event as participants do.
Hank Riegel, a Waterloo resident who officiated the bocce competition at the SMS Lodge in Seneca Falls with his 12-year-old son Paul, said his most memorable moments have included the praise of others and victory dances.
“It doesn’t matter what team they’re on, they just cheer for each other,” he said.