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Games for the Physically Challenged comes to Brockport

by Lou Venditti
Tue, Oct 10th 2017 09:35 pm
For 31 years, Camp Smile has been hosting annual Games for the Physically Challenged at The College at Brockport where hundreds of people participate each year.
For 31 years, Camp Smile has been hosting annual Games for the Physically Challenged at The College at Brockport where hundreds of people participate each year.

Camp Smile will be hosting its 31st annual Games for the Physically Challenged at The College at Brockport this coming weekend. Starting with an opening ceremony and a parade of athletes into the SERC on October 13, the games run until the next night. There are expected to be around 250 athletes participating this year.

The games are being put on by the Webster Lions Club, which has been running the games since 2011. The first games were held in Long Island in 1984, to which the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation decided to offer programs for the games every year following. 

However, funding was cut for the program in 2011, putting the games in doubt. The community has rallied since then, not allowing the games to end. 

Brockport first hosted the games in 1986, two years after Long Island, and has been holding the games every year since. 

The games themselves are for those with physical impairments. The athletes, who are now referred to as paralympians, range from being blind to having Cerebral Palsy. There are 27 events to participate in, from swimming to track and field events held in the SERC. Athletes usually tackle six events or so, depending on their skill level. All of the athletes are paired with a buddy who takes them to their events and around the games. The buddy is typically a Brockport student or a community member.

The buddy system is run through adapted physical education programs, according to Games Director Susan Maxwell. Adapted physical education programs cater to students with physical impairments, and it’s part of the physical education program at the college. 

The students playing in the games typically come from schools with adapted physical education programs. They typically don’t train, per say, but they are prepared for the games through the physical education programs at their schools.

For Maxwell, the games are a little more personal.

“I have a son with cerebral palsy,” Maxwell said. “We came to the very first games held at Brockport.”

 She’s been organizing the annual Games for the Physically Challenged for 29 years now. She volunteered for two years before she was hired. Volunteers make up a large part of the people running the show according to Maxwell. 

The community is one of the most important features of the games. Since funding for the games was cut in late 2010, Brockport has been on their own to put the games on. In stepped the Webster Lions Club, who teamed up with Camp Smile, a day camp for children with visual impairments. 

The two groups came together and gathered sponsors over the years and have put on the games since the funding was recently pulled. Other sponsors for the games include The College at Brockport, Wegmans, U.S. Food Service and Wendy’s.

The deadline for registration has come and gone, closing on September 23. The registration process was fairly easy, with only two forms for students to fill out, including a form for parental consent. Volunteer registration is also closed.

Camp Smile and the College at Brockport have teamed up once again to bring the Games for the Physically Challenged to the SERC. Brockport has a rich history of hosting the Special Olympics as well, but the Games for the Physically Challenged have a history just as rich. Thanks to volunteers and contributions from the community, the games will go on.

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