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Olympics raise awareness, funds

Lisa Slomka | Sunday, February 12, 2012

The summer Olympics in London may not kick off for a few months, but that didn’t stop Notre Dame students from testing their athletic abilities early. Residence halls assembled teams and partnered with the Special Olympics of St. Joseph’s County to host Late Night Olympics on Saturday.

The event celebrated its 26th year at Notre Dame collecting donations for the Special Olympics.

Tim Novak, RecSports coordinator of special events and family programming, said the idea for Late Night Olympics actually originated somewhere besides Notre Dame.

“Late Night Olympics has been around [Notre Dame] for a while,” he said. “[But] it came from Indiana University (IU). They used to have an activity called Spirit of Sport, which was an all-night sporting event. Our director of RecSports is from IU, and she brought that idea with her.”

The idea to team up with the Special Olympics for this event, however, originated at Notre Dame.

“The Special Olympics approached [our director] … 26 years ago,” Novak said.“[They] asked her if there was a way we could collaborate, and she thought [Late Night Olympics] might be a good way. We’ve been doing [it] every year since.”

Novak said that although this year didn’t bring in as many donations, it was still successful.

“This year [donations] were a little bit down from last year,” he said. “We had a little bit less of a response from the student body, but we’re still over $3,000 right now, and that’s without even counting a lot of the money that we got in penny wars. We could probably be in the $3,500 to $4,000 range depending on how that adds up.”

Novak said student participation in the night’s activities also dwindled. But, she said, it’s quality, not quantity that really matters.

“[Student participation has been] going down a lot lately,” he said. “It’s kind of been tapering off, but the people that come are still really enthusiastic and energetic. I really appreciate the people that take the time to come and participate. People have a lot of fun.”

Novak said RecSports is looking for ways to increase the number of participants.

“We’re always looking for new ways to make [the event] better to encourage students to come out, so we’re always looking for feedback from people.” Novak said.

Despite the lack of numbers, Novak said the event will still be able to meet its fundraising goal.

“We provide enough funds for the special Olympians to attend their summer games down in Terre Haute, Ind., so it’s definitely a big fundraiser for them,” he said. “It’s really great being able to help them out.”