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Late night events support Special Olympics

Kristen Durbin | Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hundreds of Notre Dame students and staff members gathered for a night of athletic competition and philanthropy Saturday at the 25th annual Late Night Olympics.

The RecSports-sponsored event, which raised funds for Special Olympics of St. Joseph County, offered students the opportunity to compete for their residence halls in a variety of athletic contests, including broomball, dodgeball, kayaking, water polo and volleyball. Students also competed in women’s and men’s basketball, racquetball and table tennis, and an inflatable obstacle course was a new addition to the event roster this year.

“We try to plan an event that we think students would like to participate in to help Special Olympics,” RecSports coordinator of special events and family programs Tim Novak said. “Notre Dame students have a competitive nature, so sports are a good way for students to do something extracurricular on the weekend while supporting Special Olympics.”

The main attraction of the event was the traditional basketball game between local Special Olympians and members of the Notre Dame staff — a rivalry in which the Special Olympians have prevailed for 25 consecutive years. This year, the Special Olympians beat the Notre Dame all-stars 46-20.

“This is a big event that the Special Olympians look forward to every year,” Novak said. “The joy they have on their faces when they participate is indescribable.”

Novak said Late Night Olympics provides an outlet for students and Special Olympians to interact.

“It’s hard to describe why you help Special Olympics because you kind of have to experience it,” Novak said. “The students who have the opportunity to meet some of these athletes know how big of a difference it makes in the lives of the athletes.”

Students who participated in the event agreed it was a fun way to spend time with friends while aiding a worthwhile cause.

“It’s a really cool event with a good atmosphere,” Carroll Hall dodgeball team member Steve Zerfas, a freshman, said. “Even though we lost really fast, it’s okay because it’s for a good cause.”

Freshman Neal Ravindra enjoyed competing in the obstacle course and volleyball for Stanford and Farley Halls in his first Late Night Olympics.

“It’s a good way to relax and have fun with friends, and the music created a good mood,” Ravindra said. “Plus, it was fun to do something with girls’ dorms.”

Defending their 2010 second-place title, Lewis Hall sophomores Taylor Sticha and Sydney Speltz competed to win the overall competition and to support Special Olympics.

“Lewis loves events like this because we get to dress up and have fun,” Sticha said. “Lewis has an excellent history of athletics, and we enjoyed competing, watching the basketball game and doing the penny war last year.”

“We’re trying to make a comeback to win this year, so we’re going hard,” Speltz said. “It’s also good that the dorms can come together to help Special Olympics.”

In addition to making a personal difference in the lives of Special Olympians, Late Night Olympics also makes an impact on the financial well being of Special Olympics of St. Joseph County. A $1 donation was required for entry into the event, and T-shirts were sold for $5 each.

“A lot of Special Olympics communities around the country have had to cut their programs due to rapidly decreasing donations,” Novak said. “Luckily, St. Joseph County has not had to cancel any events in the last two years, and they’re part of a small group of Special Olympics groups that haven’t made cutbacks.”

Novak said RecSports was aiming to reach the $8,000 mark in donations, but the final fundraising and dorm competition results were unavailable at press time.