March 2015

Greetings Supporter,

Over 740 Special Olympics Maryland Basketball players and 95 Unified teammates enjoyed their own version of March Madness culminating in our State Tournament in Frederick March 21-22.  Click here to see the competition results.  For those unfamiliar with Special Olympics basketball we offer a range of opportunities to play the game designed to include athletes of all abilities, including individual skills, 3v3 half court play and the standard 5v5 full court option. As a way of transitioning “skills” athletes to on court play we offer a player development unified (PDU) program where non-Special Olympics players facilitate play helping to accelerate skill development and game readiness. Finally, unified teams with an on-court composition of three Special Olympics athletes and two non-Special Olympics athletes of similar ability provides a valuable experience for all team members. Every possession validates the value of unified teams as players defend the ball, pound the boards, fill the lanes on fast breaks and share the ball on offense all together as one team, each player contributing in a meaningful way.  

While attending qualifying tournaments at Glenelg School and McDaniel College leading up to the state tournament I felt the energy and passion for the game that permeates gyms everywhere. Our athletes love to play and they want to play more. Melissa Sachs competes on a 3v3 team for Montgomery County. When she told me that the Glenelg tournament provided her with her first game this year, I asked her if she wanted to play more games. She responded be telling me that she would like to play 12 games, a clear indication that she simply wants to play more.  Click here to see my video interview with Melissa.

At McDaniel I spoke with Carroll County Area Director Laurie Brewer about her basketball program. She shared that her teams played teams from Howard County the week prior to the McDaniel tournament. She then reinforced the interest among her coaches and players to play more games. Laurie’s solution is simple, offer league play for our teams. I had a similar conversation with Howard Coach, Jim Bourdin at the Tuscarora High School during the state tournament. The teams in Carroll and Howard want to play more games.

As you read about the adult Unified Basketball League in Baltimore City (see article below) you will learn that we already have a model that is working. I attended the last two weeks of the six week league where I had the opportunity to speak with Chip Woods who is the Executive Director from 
St. Peter’s Adult Learning Center. He made it a point to emphasize how much his athletes looked forward to playing basketball every Wednesday night.

Thanks to supporters like you, we will continue to evolve our program and next year at this time I look forward to sharing stories about how our athletes loved playing more games because of the new basketball leagues that we planned and facilitated to meet the demands of our athletes and coaches.


Play hard, #Play Unified, Have Fun.

James C. Schmutz
President and CEO

Munir Vohra  

Hometown:  Laurel, MD

Joined Special Olympics: 2004 

Sports: basketball, softball, flag football and tennis

Excited about: the upcoming softball season and Summer Games.

Wants you to know:  I want everyone to know I am Muslim because everyone likes my beard, and that my basketball team won second place at the 2014 USA Games.

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

Click here to read Munir's full story and follow him throughout the rest of the year as he trains and competes in alpine skiing, track & field, and sailing.  

Upcoming Events


Special Events:

Athletes join Governor Larry Hogan during Annapolis Day

Pictured from left to right:  Top Row: Chris Dooley, Annu Singleton, Governor Larry Hogan, Adam Hays, Thomas Smith Bottom Row:  Desi Holland and Ben Stevig

As Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD) athletes gain confidence and feel empowered, they often seek new challenges. They want to build on their successes, including their social skills. They can become mentors for other athletes. They can train to become coaches and officials. This is all part of the Athlete Leadership Program or ALPs as it is commonly referred to at Special Olympics.

They can also move toward a more public role as a speaker or spokesperson, telling audiences about the remarkable changes that Special Olympics helped bring to their lives. Coinciding with Spread the Word to End the Word Day on March 4th, six SOMD athletes visited Annapolis to thank representatives and Senators for their support of Special Olympics Maryland and to ask them to pledge to stop using the word “retard” or “retarded”.

Chris Dooley (Upper Shore), Annu Singleton (Baltimore City), Adam Hays (Frederick County), Thomas Smith (Howard County), Desi Holland (Prince George’s County) and Ben Stevig (Howard County) took leadership to a new level as they represented SOMD at a morning breakfast followed by individual visits to their respective representatives. They were joined by 12 athletes and Unified partners from Southern High School in Anne Arundel County who also shared their stories of inclusion and how interscholastic sports has made Southern High School a better place to be a student for ALL students regardless of ability.

The day culminated with a chance to meet the new Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan. Governor Hogan spent a good amount of time with the athletes and even had time for a photo or two. 



Volunteer Spotlight on Matt Otwell


We caught up with Matt Otwell who has been a significant volunteer with Special Olympics Maryland for a number of years at a variety of different events.

Matt was kind enough to answer a few questions for us on his volunteer experience.  One of the questions we asked was why did you want to get involved?

"I've always been interested in Special Olympics. When I was young I remember asking my mom to sponsor an athlete.  I still have the ribbon and letter from 1985!  I recall as a child seeing how individuals with intellectual disabilities were treated differently, and never understood why.  So when I was afforded the opportunity to participate in an event that showcased how those individuals are not so different, I jumped right on it.  How I got involved was very simple; someone I was training with one day simply asked me if I could ski and I replied "Yes".  Next he asked "Have you ever wanted to help with Special Olympics" and my reply was "Yes". Next thing I know I was on a ski slope carrying poles and here I am 16 years later."

Why is it important for you to volunteer?

I believe every person naturally wants to help others, the difficult part is making the time. Knowing that so many athletes have an opportunity to experience so much in life is my biggest motivational factor.  Next it is for the energy that I feel when I'm around so many others who have given their time to dedicate to such a cause.

Click here to read the rest of Matt's story...

Do you know a volunteer with Special Olympics Maryland that would make a great story or interview? Then let us know by emailing Sue Jacobs at or Jason Schriml at

 "When are We Going To Play Again?"

This photo was taken during one of the league championship games held on March 11, 2015.

Chip Woods, Executive Director at St. Peter’s Adult Learning Center in Baltimore, has been serving individuals with intellectual disabilities at St. Peter’s for the last 11 years. The mission of the Center is to empower adults with developmental disabilities to be contributing members of society through work training and job placement. Chip takes a holistic approach to the continued development of these individuals which over the last six years has included forming teams to play in a Special Olympics Baltimore City Unified Basketball league hosted by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks (BCRP) at Farring Bay Brook Recreational Center in Curtis Bay. Thanks to the commitment and leadership of Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and BCRP Recreation Program Assistant, Robert Sigonor, the league runs every Wednesday night for six weeks starting in mid-February with six Unified teams eager to play their weekly game as part of a triple header.

Unified sports combines Special Olympics athletes with their non-Special Olympics peers of similar ability to form teams for competitive play. In Basketball the on-court composition of three Special Olympics athletes and two non-Special Olympics teammates provides a valuable and fun experience for all team members.  Chip expressed pride in the value of the program and noted that the number of players recruited to play doubled from eight players last year to 16 for this year’s league.

Click here to read the rest of the story...



Special Olympics Maryland athletes are not capable of telling their story or representing themselves in public forums.

FACT:   Special Olympics Maryland athletes have been demonstrating their leadership skills for years as the face and voice of this Program. SOMD’s commitment to Athlete Leadership Programs has most recently focused attention on training more athletes to be ambassadors in order to have a more frequent widespread presence in communities across the state. The effort is working as over the last four months athletes have combined to make over 100 athlete public speaking appearances. Athletes have presented to corporate partners like Bob’s Discount Stores (sales teams) and Sam’s Club (associates meeting). Most recently athletes were in Annapolis and Capitol Hill thanking our government leaders for their support.  In Annapolis our athletes even go to meet the Governor. SOMD athletes are the face and voice of this Program.

Help support the Maryland Delegation of athletes at the upcoming World Games

You can help one or all six of our athletes who will be representing Maryland at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games being held this July in Los Angeles, CA. Just click here to meet our athletes and follow the links to their giving page.

Volunteer Opportunities

If you’re inspired by the lives being transformed through Special Olympics Maryland, there are dozens of ways you can get involved. Visit us online to learn how you can volunteer.

Casino Night, Raising Money and Transforming Lives

Jerry Clark is pictured here on the right with lifelong friend and athlete Michael Heup. 

If you are looking for an evening that combines fun with raising money for Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD), then consider joining us on April 25th for the 4th Annual Al Packer’s Ford Casino Night. Under the leadership of Al Packer’s General Manager Jerry Clark working with the SOMD team combined with support from NSA Marketing, efforts are accelerating to enhance the experience and grow the event to include over 700 attendees at this year’s event. Once again Joe Flacco is scheduled to appear at the event and will be joined by Dennis Pitta at a designated photo opportunity area for those who attend. Special Olympics Maryland athletes will be on hand to great attendees and share their stories during this event that raises money to support 7,169 athletes who train and compete in 27 sports year-round across the state.

This event exemplifies the power of Special Olympics Maryland to transform lives. In 2012, Jerry Clark advanced the idea of hosting the event by taking his showroom along with several tents to convert his dealership into a welcoming, fun Casino Night venue. While the event has raised nearly $100,000 in its first three years it is equally notable for influencing Jerry’s life in a way that he never predicted as he is relentless in his year-round support of SOMD. Most profoundly, Jerry has forged what will be lifelong friendships with Special Olympics Maryland athletes like Michael Heup.

Click here to

Spending Wisely in Maryland

86% of every dollar raised is spent on sports training and competition, and athlete retention and recruitment.


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