The Association for Blind Athletes of New Jersey (ABANJ) was pleased to participate in its second Olympic Day during our bi-annual Sports Clinic. The mission of ABANJ is to provide and promote the wide range of recreational and competitive sports available to blind and visually impaired athletes. The sports clinics are held with the hope of reaching out to those blind and visually impaired children and adults who have not yet been exposed to the world of blind sports. Our Spring Clinic/Olympic Day Event was held on June 28th, 2014 at Camp Marcella in Rockaway, NJ and our participants ranged in age from 7 to athletes well into adulthood. The sports introduced at this clinic included Track and Field, Goalball, Soccer, Swimming, Canoeing and Judo.
The Olympic Day event began with Cindy Simon, Daniel Gallant, Dan Palmadessa and April Saunders, four of New Jersey’s Paralympic Athletes, processing with our participants to the flagpole, while the Olympic Theme was played. The Olympic and American flags were ceremoniously raised and the National Anthem was played. Before introducing the Paralympians, Michelle Gizzi, one of the event coordinators, briefly spoke about Olympic Day, focusing on the importance of the four Olympic ideals, Respect, Fair Play, Sportsmanship and Perseverance. Before introducing the Paralympians, Michelle reminded our young blind athletes that the Paralympic athletes standing before them were once sitting among them. Each Paralympic Athlete was assigned the Olympic ideal that he or she seemed to most embody and excel at. They spoke about how that ideal has impacted both their journey to the Paralympics and their personal life experiences. Our Olympic Day 2014 was officially opened with a Proclamation from a representative of the Rockaway Mayor’s Office, John Wojtasik, and the day’s sporting events began.
Throughout the day, the groups of children rotated through the five sports being offered where they had the opportunity to work directly with the Paralympic athletes, as well as with the two Paralympic and World Coaches present at the event. Sharon Gunderman, Paralympic Women’s Goalball Coach taught goalball. And Charlie Gunderman, Paralympic Swimming Coach. During lunch Paralympian Skiers Staci Mannella and Lindsay talked about their experiences in Sochi 2014. A question and answer period followed.
At the end of the day, there was a short Closing Ceremony where each participant child an official Olympic Day 2014 Certificate of Participation along with medals from ABANJ.