COMMUNITY ADVOCATE – On Sept. 16, athlete Gregg Gallant of Shrewsbury delivered a special message at the Yawkey Sports Training Center in Marlborough, headquarters for Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA), where he works as a receptionist.
“I am excited and honored to announce that in August of 2016 my fellow athletes and I will be competing in the new annual Marlborough Special Olympics tournament,” he said. “This tournament will bring out the best in the Marlborough community.”
Formerly held in and around Amherst, the inaugural event is scheduled for the weekend of Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28. Approximately 1,000 athletes from around the state are expected to compete in bocce, cycling, golf and softball. The tournament will feature Unified Sports, an initiative that brings athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together as teammates.
Marybeth McMahon, SOMA president and CEO, expressed her hope that next summer’s tournament will increase the athletes’ inclusiveness in the community year-round.
“Our goal is to really make it an inclusive community tournament,” she said. “Our athletes are in our communities and in our schools every day. Our athletes go out the door every day wondering what’s going to hit them when they get out there. You can help us spread the word that what should hit them every day is inclusion opportunities.”
McMahon invited Gallant to give a soccer ball emblazoned with the phrase “Special Olympics: Play Unified” to Mayor Arthur Vigeant. She said, “I’m going to have Gregg present the ball to the mayor, so that he has something in his office to remind everyone that comes in that we are a year-round inclusive community.”
Vigeant welcomed the chance for SOMA to expand its presence in Marlborough.
“We were so pleased with Special Olympics announcing a few years ago that they would be moving to Marlborough as their home turf and having their headquarters here,” he said. “Since then, we’ve been trying to get programs moving so that we could actually have some of the events here in the city. I’m looking forward to next year and kicking off those games.”
Matt Ruxton, SOMA vice president of sports, is overseeing the logistics of the tournament’s venues in and around Marlborough.
“We’ll have state-of-the-art facilities for all of our athletes to compete in for this event,” he said.
The bocce competitions will be held at Fore Kicks in Marlborough. Softball games are slated to be played at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough. Locations are still being sought for cycling and golf.
Tim Cummings, executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, noted that the sports tournament will also benefit area hotels and restaurants needed to accommodate the many visiting athletes, coaches, supporters and volunteers.
“Calling attention to such a great event that will be centrally located here in Massachusetts is a great fit for both the city and region, and for the Special Olympics,” he said. “The end of August typically tends to be a slow period of time, so it’s a great way to bring some economic activity to the area that weekend prior to Labor Day.”
This annual event has been traditionally known as the “August Tournament,” but the name will likely change along with its host city, according to McMahon.
“We’ve named this event ‘August Tournament’ for many years for no other reason beyond lack of creativity,” she acknowledged. “’August Tournament’ doesn’t really say what we’re trying to do in the community, so we’ll be launching a social media campaign for the most creative idea.”
This article by Ed Karvoski Jr. originally appeared here.