HAVERFORD, Pa. – Haverford College was one of 53 Division III athletic programs that completed the NCAA 50 for 50th Special Olympics Challenge. The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) challenged all Division III institutions to have at least 50 student-athletes participate in at least one Special Olympic event during the 2018-19 academic year.
The NCAA 50 for 50th Challenge came about as the Special Olympics celebrated its 50th anniversary in July 2018. The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) initiated the Special Olympics partnership at the 2011 NCAA Convention and officially launched the partnership on August 1, 2011. The purpose of the partnership is to enhance the lives of Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes through a mutual learning experience; provide a platform for recognition of Special Olympics athletes and Division III student-athletes within their communities; and raise awareness of Special Olympics, its programs and services.
Haverford College far exceeded the 50 student-athlete minimum with its annual participation in the 2018 Special Olympics Fall Festival at Villanova. Every varsity team for the Fords – with the exception of men's soccer who was in the midst of winning a Centennial Conference Championship that weekend – was represented. With 22 of the 23 varsity teams participating, Haverford was well-represented with over 200 student-athletes taking part in the weekend activities. In addition to this event, women's soccer and both the men's and women's basketball teams hosted on-campus Special Olympic Clinics throughout the year.
Since the NCAA Division III and Special Olympics partnership begin in the fall of 2011, over 78,000 Division III student-athletes have dedicated over 450,000 volunteer hours and raised over $360,000 through the program which has benefited more the 120,000 Special Olympics athletes. Division III student-athletes across the country are encouraged to participate in existing Special Olympics events, create their own events, or otherwise serve to support Special Olympics organization. Service activities with Special Olympic athletes range from unified events to sports clinics to bowling as well as pizza parties or fundraising efforts.
This partnership provides the opportunity for student-athletes to engage with Special Olympics and collaborate with existing student-led programs on campus. It also serves as another opportunity to demonstrate the citizenship and comprehensive learning attributes of Division III student-athletes. Student-athletes giving back to their local (and often national and international) communities not only adds to the comprehensive learning component of Division III, but also provides a venue for passion and service.