In the last weekend of January, Union’s Theta Chi chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) volunteered at the Capital Region Special Olympic Games at West Mountain in Queensbury, NY. Athletes from across the New York State participated in Snowshoe, Nordic Skiing, Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding.
According to the Special Olympics New York State website, The Special Olympics were founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, providing people with “intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities trealize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.”
Dorothy Buehring Phillips established the Special Olympics New York program in the following year. Today it is the largest program in the U.S., with its’ headquarters based in Schenectady.
The Special Olympics New York State website inspirationally states: “Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities.” The Special Olympics has created a community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts.
According to DKE President, Matt Rametta ’17, DKE has developed a close partnership with the Special Olympics over the past five years. He shared how the events held provide “such an important service to an often-overlooked community.” Normally, DKE participates in approximately three to four events with Special Olympics throughout the year. The fraternity annually participates in the Winter Games at West Mountain, bringing about 30 brothers to volunteer each year. At the event, brothers assist athletes in both the Nordic and Alpine skiing events, along with cheering the athletes on.
Although there is no personal connection among the brothers, Rametta stated how important the Special Olympic events have become to DKE. He shared how although all experiences related to the Special Olympics are memorable, the Winter Games have become a favorite among the brothers.
This is due to “how great it is to see how happy all of the athletes involved are while they are there. According to Rametta, the brothers of DKE are extremely invested in the events, so much so that many of them lost their voices after cheering enthusiastically throughout the day.
This year, 30 brothers were able to come and volunteer, with a few unable to attend due to Indoor Track commitments. The Special Olympics event was not mandatory, as DKE does not hold a mandatory amount of community. Yet, Rametta stated that most brothers personally aim to have at least five hours of community service per trimester.
DKE has two major philanthropy-related focuses within the community: the Special Olympics and Safe Inc. (a local youth development program that assists teenagers in Schenectady with everything from education to housing).
Rametta stated that in addition to these two groups, the brotherhood is also heavily involved on Union’s campus, participating in community service events, such as: Movember, John Calvin Toll Day, Dutchment Dip, St. Baldricks, the Community Pride Walk, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, COCOA House, as well as coaching youth soccer teams within the Schenectady community.