Police Foundation: Special Olympics and Law Enforcement – a strong bond!

I recently had the opportunity to represent the Police Foundation at a meeting hosted by the President of Special Olympics North America, Marc Edenzon.   Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There are currently some 4.7 million Special Olympians in 170 countries and 35,000 of them are here in Florida with 1,530 throughout Palm Beach County.  Mr. Edenzon is a new resident of Palm Beach Gardens and is looking to help create new, or enhance existing programs being offered here in the northern part of Palm Beach County.

In Palm Beach Gardens, TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is in its 10th season under the umbrella of the PBGYAA (Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association). The program is designed to bring the opportunity of learning and playing soccer to any boy or girl with an intellectual or physical disability and currently has 85 participants. They play every Monday night at the Klock Soccer Fields off of Burns Road. The program is geared toward player development rather than to competition.

Other local programs exist or are being formed in various different sports such as golf, flag football, swimming, bocce, bowling and basketball. 

Mr. Edenzon kicked off the meeting with a general overview of Special Olympics and Special Olympics Florida and then talked about the traditional sports and unified sports programs that all start at the local level and eventually lead some athletes to participate in Athlete Leadership and Healthy Athlete programs.  Some athletes even go on to participate in the Special Olympic games.

Participants in the meeting were representatives of various different organizations, many from the field of law enforcement, all of whom had a connection or direct interest in youth with intellectual disabilities whether it be Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or others. The president of the PBGYAA, Tony Badala along with the president of TOPSoccer, Damien Murray also participated in the meeting. 

Edenzon went on to define the steps in creating local programs including recruitment – not only the athletes, but also of a volunteer committee and volunteer coaches and assistants. He spoke briefly about the need to secure equipment, facilities and uniforms.

A lively and informative discussion followed Mr. Edenzon’s presentation and the participants all agreed to reconvene at a later date to help form other sports programs that would kick off in the Fall of 2017.

Individuals who have a specific interest and are willing to volunteer their time and efforts in helping to create and enhance local programs can call the Police Foundation office at (561) 799-4440 for more information.

Subsequent to the meeting (and prior to the publication of this article) there were two law enforcement special events, both focused on raising funds for Special Olympics.

• “Tip-A-Cop at Duffy’s Sports Grill” was held on April 20th at three Palm Beach County Duffy’s including the one on US Highway One and PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens. Dozens of law enforcement personnel from local agencies volunteered their time as “celebrity waiters” and received tips which all go to the Special Olympics program.  This year nearly $10,000 was raised during the one-night, four-hour Duffy’s event! 

• On April 26th, hundreds of law enforcement personnel from throughout Palm Beach County participated in another fund raising event, the County’s “Special Olympics Torch Run®” in Lantana. This is part of the state-wide Torch Run to benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Florida. Over 5,000 officers carry the “Flame of Hope” on what is a 1500-mile relay throughout 67 counties in Florida. The run culminates at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games on May 19th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista.
 
The Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation is proud to be a sponsor of Special Olympics Florida and is especially proud of the many Palm Beach Gardens police officers, volunteers, civilian employees, and their families and friends who participate in these events.  With the assistance of the Police Foundation, the relationship our Palm Beach Gardens Police Department has with our community is growing stronger than ever. 

For more information on Special Olympics visit specialolympics.org or specialolympicsflorida.org

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