Special Olympics focuses on competition, camaraderie

Owen Scher, Staff Reporter

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Tulane Special Olympics is a relatively new club on campus that is making a major impact on the New Orleans community. Tulane students — among them Erika Cheung, current associate director of NCAA compliance — established the club five years ago. Membership for both athletes and Tulane volunteers has steadily increased since the club’s creation. 

The club focuses on creating leagues where athletes with intellectual disabilities are able to partner with Tulane volunteers to compete in various sports. The club partners with Special Olympics New Orleans and other local parishes to coordinate events and leagues for the athletes. They offers a variety of sports for athletes including football, basketball, swimming and more. 

Co-presidents and Tulane undergraduates Sarah Donato and Ian McLaughlin helped oversee the flag football league this fall. The league functions in the same manner as most youth or intramural leagues, with teams being made up of roughly half Tulane volunteers, half athletes.

 “We have a champion, and it is competitive,” McLaughlin said. “The goal is to keep it as competitive as possible but also as encouraging an environment as possible.”  

The competitive environment is important for the athletes and makes the hard work they put in worth it. This combined with the aspects of fair play and sportsmanship Special Olympics emphasizes creates an ideal setting for all participants.

Tulane students who volunteer with the club have had a rewarding experience from working with Special Olympics athletes. As Donato recalled, the best part about working with Tulane Special Olympics is witnessing the positive impact of her actions. 

I can see the joy that we provide for these athletes at the end of the day,” Donato said. 

Furthering the involvement of the athletes and parents will be important to continue to grow the club and Special Olympics in the greater New Orleans area. Possible additions of soccer or an additional sports league may also be options for Tulane Special Olympics in the future. 

Even though the club has only been on campus for a short time, strong membership, leadership and participation have allowed Tulane Special Olympics to quickly fill a need in the community.