February 2016

Greetings Supporters,

On January 29th, the 20th annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge kicked off when Governor Larry Hogan addressed over 600 plungers representing Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters and EMS. Governor Hogan thanked them for their service to Marylanders across the state and for their support of Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD).

On January 30th volunteers from Founding Partner Aerotek registered over 5,000 Marylanders who took the plunge to support SOMD. Wawa volunteers handed out over 3,000 cups of coffee and hot chocolate. Media partners WBALTV 11, 98Rock and WBAL1090 AM helped us celebrate this Maryland tradition by featuring our athletes in stories that demonstrated the power of Special Olympics to transform lives.

Between January 30 and February 6 we conducted seven Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Indoor Bocce district tournaments. Winning teams advanced to the state championship held on February 10th. In all 32 teams made up of Special Olympics athletes and their non-Special Olympics teammates, 256 athletes in all, competed in the IUS Indoor Bocce State Championship at Hagerstown Community College. Then, on February 17, over 200 student athletes (teams including Special Olympics athletes and their non-Special Olympics athlete teammates) from 8 schools competed in the Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) Strength and Conditioning State Championship at Chesapeake Community College.

Basketball season is also in high gear. Howard County is hosting weekly league play thanks to the exceptional commitment and support from Glenelg Country School. On February 14th Montgomery County hosted an all-day tournament at Georgetown Prep. On February 21st Anne Arundel County hosted a tournament at The Severn School hosted a tournament while the Landon School and Montgomery County hosted a 3 v 3 half court tournament.

On February 20, our friends at Pizzeria Uno and Honi Honi hosted the 18th Annual MSP/NRP Deep Creek Dunk for the benefit of Special Olympics Maryland. On February 22 and 23, 116 athletes competed in alpine skiing while 86 competed in snow shoeing at our annual Winter Games. The Whitetail Ski Resort team embraced our athletes and coaches along with an exceptional volunteer management team that provided our athletes with a high quality competitive experience.

I share this event timeline to illustrate a sample of the activity over the last month. We are fortunate to have so many Marylanders investing in our athletes. Those who plunge and dunk are great supporters. I want our individual donors and corporate partners to know that their investment is making a difference every day in the lives of our athletes, unified teammates in schools and the community, volunteers and families.

I want to close by remembering Jimmy Myrick (see a brief tribute in this issue) who died on February 12th after a long battle with Leukemia. I opened this message by referring to the Governor at the Plunge. What I didn’t tell you is that at the Plunge the Governor also announced the first ever Special Olympics Maryland Governor’s Medal of Courage Award winner. It was Jimmy. He could not be at the plunge because he was at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) for treatment. So the Governor presented the award to several athletes who accepted it for Jimmy. However the following Monday (February 1st) the Governor surprised Jimmy in the hospital where he went to present the award to him in-person. Jimmy and the Governor had forged friendship during time when they were both being treated for cancer at UMMC.


James C. Schmutz
President and CEO

I am pictured here with our Master of Ceremonies athletes David Godoy (left) and Alicia Gogue (right) during opening ceremonies at the 2106 Winter Games.

Jeff Michaels 

Hometown:  Oakland, MD

Joined Special Olympics: 2008

Sports:  snow shoe, bocce, bowling, cycling

Excited about: participating in the Winter Games 

Wants you to know: He loves the Steelers and Pirates, and works at Cross Roads. 

Video link:  click here to meet Jeff and hear his message

Upcoming Events


  • IUS Indoor Bocce Tournament:  Hagerstown Community College, 2/11/16
  • IUS Strength & Conditioning Competition:  Chesapeake College, 2/17/16  Click here for results
  • 2016 Winter Games:  Whitetail Resort,2/22-23/16 Click here for Results
  • 2016 Basketball Tournament:  Hood College & other locations in Frederick, 4/2-3-16

In 33 years Jimmy Myrick impacted countless lives in a way that rivaled the world’s greatest athletes, best known celebrities and most prominent politicians. Affectionately known as the mayor, Jimmy was larger than life with the rare gift to make everyone he touched better. He could brighten the darkest days with his beaming smile and infectious laughter. Jimmy just made you feel better.

Jimmy competed in multiple Special Olympics sports including aquatics, golf and cheerleading among others. Jimmy’s leadership efforts included participating in the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge as an original super plunger (24 plunges in 24 hours) back in 1996. Jimmy served as an advocate for his fellow athletes and all individuals with intellectual disabilities on and off the field, in action and in through words. Over the last five years Jimmy demonstrated courage beyond measure as he beat cancer once and then this past year was forced to fight again. Last night Jimmy lost the fight. But anyone who knew Jimmy knows that his courage, love, caring and kindness represents a legacy of which we can all be proud and that will live forever. The Special Olympics Maryland family mourns today the passing of a hero. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Myrick family. Jimmy know that you will live forever in the hearts of many…may you rest in peace.

Meet Dan Cowerdy, Games Management Team Member

Here's Dan pictured with Special Olympics athlete Ralph Gemmill at the recent On Snow time trials held at Whitetail Ski Resort

Special Olympics Maryland Winter Games Management Team (GMT) is a veteran group of volunteers who give generously of their time teaching, instructing and managing the venues at the on-snow training course and Winter Games. These games include the sports of Alpine Skiing and Snowshoe.

Dan Cowdery from Annapolis, Maryland is one member of this group of dedicated individuals who make so many things happen seamlessly. He has been with Special Olympics Maryland for over 25 years. Sharing his knowledge and time since 1988. In his other life, Dan is a Project Manager for a commercial construction company. He helps build a lot of dental offices he told us.

We caught up with Dan at the On Snow Time Trials at Whitetail Resort on February 07th, 2016 to learn a little more about his involvement with Special Olympics Maryland.

Dan began his volunteering with us in the mid-eighties. As he describes

"I first started skiing in 1986. I loved it so much that I joined 5 ski clubs. Two of the ski clubs, Baltimore Ski Club and Crabtown Ski Club, both advertised if anyone would like to help out with Special Olympics, would you like to sign up and help out.

I have always figured if you want to get good at something you have to give back.

So I signed up for it. It took a couple of years but finally George Hergenhahn (Baltimore Ski Club) called me up and asked was I still interested in helping out with Special Olympics.

I said “Yeah sure, when do you want me?” He said “Right now.”

One of the regular coaches had sustained an injury and was no longer able to come and help at the winter games. So when George Hergenhahn said “Right Now” he meant it.

Dan said he made some phone calls to get out of work and started volunteering for Special Olympics that very weekend.

Dan went on to share in the beginning “I didn’t really know what to do. I wasn’t a great skier myself but I always felt good working with the athletes. I worked with the beginner athletes to start. “

Dan currently has many roles including training of the athletes, training of the coaches, course maintenance, and course construction. “Just about everything and anything they ask me to do.”

One of the lessons that is most important to Dan in his training is to help athletes move quickly as possible to be parallel skiers instead of power wedge skiers. Parallel skiing can create more controlled turns, faster speeds and less strain on the legs. All these culminate in greater performance on the slopes. Dan also incorporates the lessons he learns as a Certified Ski Instructor at Liberty Mountain because “being an instructor is a great experience. It has helped in training the athletes and helped me with my own skiing too.”

We asked if any stories or athletes stand out as a success stories from his years of training….”All of the athletes have their own successes. Just to see them make their turns for the first time or to ski in their first competition is really rewarding. I like to see people enthusiastic about skiing.”

There is one moment that does stand out personally for Dan and that occurred in 2000 when he attended the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Anchorage, Alaska as a coach for Team Maryland/Team USA.

2016 Winter Games

250 athletes, 75 coaches and 150 volunteers from across the state attended the 2016 Winter Games held at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, PA on February 22-23, 2016.  Athletes competed in alpine skiing and snow shoe events over the 2 day period.  The weather cooperated for the most part, but athletes did see some rain and fog during the second day of competition.  Click here to see the individual results from this competition.

Special Olympics Maryland Delegates Make Case of Impact and Need for Critical Funding on Capitol Hill


Pictured from left to right is Candace Whiting, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Rosa Marsellino and Adam Hays   

Special Olympics athletes, leaders, and family members from 39 states converged on Capitol Hill on February 10 for Special Olympics’ 14th annual “Capitol Hill Day.”  Throughout the day, Special Olympics athletes from across the nation held 290 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate to advocate for continued federal support for critical health and education services provided by Special Olympics. These services transcend the playing field and are transforming the lives of 700,000 US athletes and families.

Special Olympics Maryland athletes, serving as self-advocates, educated lawmakers and their staffs about the significant consequences that arise from the stigma and stereotypes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities face. They described how that impacts their lives in the areas of sports, health care, education, and employment. The goal of Capitol Hill Day was to effectively convey the high-impact and cost-effectiveness of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues, and to secure continued support from legislators.

Among the Maryland athletes were Adam Hays, Candace Whiting, Julian English and his sister and Unified Partner Alexis, Kegan Zimmerman, Elaina Camacho and Rosa Marcellino. They were joined by Dr. Jennifer Smart from Towson University Audiology School who talked about the benefits of the Healthy Athletes program.

One of the Special Olympics Maryland highlights was the reuniting of Senator Barbara Mikulski with Rosa Marcellino, the namesake for Rosa’s Law. This law was sponsored by Senator Mikulski and was the impetus in having all references to mental retardation changed to intellectual disabilities in all federal government documents.  Click here to read the rest of the story...

MYTH:  The term "mental retardation" is socially acceptable

FACT:   In 2008, Special Olympics launched the www.r-word.org website to combat the inappropriate use of the R-word in common usage and helped lead protests against media use of the word in response to the film ‘Tropic Thunder.' In 2009, the youth-led "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign launched with rallies in K-12 schools and universities around the country, enlisting young people to combat use of the word and collecting more than 100,000 signatures to pledge inclusion and respect towards all people.

On October 5, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama officially signed bill S. 2781 into federal law. Rosa’s Law, which takes its name and inspiration for 9-year-old Rosa Marcellino (from Maryland), removes the terms “mental retardation” and "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.” The signing of Rosa’s Law is a significant milestone in establishing dignity, inclusion and respect for all people with intellectual disabilities.

Click here to read an article written by Special Olympics Maryland athlete Adam Hays that is now appearing in the Baltimore Sun. 

If you're interested in learning more about this opportunity, please click here.              

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