DURHAM, NH – Special Olympics New Hampshire kicked off its Golden Anniversary year-long celebration in fine style this past weekend on the campus of the University of New Hampshire. From Opening Ceremonies Friday night to the closing dance celebration Saturday afternoon, it was two full days of sports competition and festivities for nearly 1000 athletes.

Opening Ceremonies Friday night featured the arrival of the “Flame of Hope” as the culmination of this year’s 35th Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run that has carried the Flame more than 500 miles across the Granite State on 28 different legs of the run. Law enforcement personnel and other dignitaries were joined on the Wildcat Stadium track Friday night by several Special Olympics athletes to escort the Flame up the steps and ignite the cauldron signaling the start of the games.

Masters of Ceremonies for the opening event were SONH athlete and board member Eric Retelle and Mike Elmer of Coca-Cola Bottling of Northern New England. Mr. Elmer is the immediate past chairperson of the SONH board of directors. Current Board Chair Kelly Gelinas of TD Bank welcomed the athletes, friends, families and some 1200 volunteers to the weekend’s celebration. A plaque commemorating 50 years of Special Olympics New Hampshire was unveiled during the ceremony and will be a permanent part of the UNH Wildcat Stadium.

Larry Johnston of McDonald’s/The Napoli Group presented this year’s Ray Kroc Spirit Award to the Fall Mountain team. The ceremony concluded with UNH Police Chief Paul Dean making the call to officially open the games.

Competitions were held in Track and Field, Swimming, Bocce, Equestrian, Powerlifting and Corn Hole as well as the Unified Sprint Triathlon. Beyond the competition of the weekend the Lundholm Gymnasium at the UNH Field House was the setting for the Healthy Athletes program sponsored by Anthem and Delta Dental. The program provides on-site health screenings including hearing, vision and dental exams.

Special Olympics New Hampshire President Mary Conroy noted that “The Summer Games is our largest gathering of athletes all year. It’s also a huge undertaking for our amazing and dedicated volunteers. From our local programs to these big gatherings, our volunteers are the driving force of Special Olympics New Hampshire.”

Contact: Mark Ericson, (603) 624-1250 x22, MarkE@sonh.org

Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH) is an accredited program of Special Olympics International (SOI) and is part of an international global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world.  We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.  Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance.  Learn more at www.sonh.org.