ITHACA, N.Y.—In a raucous Ithaca High School gymnasium, Special Olympics leaders and prominent local education figures celebrated the return of the New York Special Olympics Summer Games to Ithaca for a second consecutive year.

One of the ceremony’s main messages: 400 volunteers are needed to pull off the games, which are being held June 9 and 10, with an opening ceremony on June 9 at Ithaca College. Events are being held at IC and at Ithaca High School.

“We have more than 800 athletes and coaches from across the state coming here to compete in seven sports,” said Stacey Hengsterman, the president and CEO of Special Olympics New York. “They can’t wait. They’ve been training all year for this. […] When they get here, they are going to be ready to go for the gold medal. What we’re doing here is to make sure the Ithaca community is also ready.”

Special Olympics athletes led the crowd in their pre-competition oath Wednesday. Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

IC will host swimming, basketball, powerlifting, gymnastics, and tennis, with track and field events at Ithaca High School. Bowling will be held at Midway Lanes in Vestal, NY. Additionally, the State Summer Games weekend will officially start at Stewart Park on June 8 with “A Night of Champions,” which will honor local figures and raise money to support the state games.

“This is a special, special opportunity for our school district,” said Dr. Luvelle Brown, Ithaca City School District superintendent. “We know that the key to increasing student achievement, the key to improving social and cultural health, the key to being better leaders, is to do something before or after school.”

Brown said whatever the chosen extracurricular activity of the students in attendance, they could all be useful to the Special Olympics volunteering efforts, emphasizing that this gives IHS students a chance to give back to the community in a meaningful way.

Brown was joined by Ithaca College President La Jerne Terry Cornish and Tompkins County Legislature Chair Shawna Black, both of whom echoed Brown’s requests that students get involved.

After the press conference, speakers cleared the floor for a fast-paced game between the Ithaca High School’s unified basketball teams, with plenty of crowd enthusiasm from the gathered students in attendance.

The school’s unified basketball team held a game to wild crowd approval after the press conference.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at