The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will host its sixth annual SOPA Hoops Saturday on January 14. The event, organized by the Pitt-Greensburg chapter of the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association (SPSEA) and the Pitt-Greensburg Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), brings Special Olympics athletes to the campus to play in an exhibition game during the half-time of the men’s basketball game (approximately 3:45 p.m.).
This year, the Pitt-Greensburg Bobcats will host Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) opponent Pitt-Bradford in a double-header, with the women’s game played at 1 p.m. and the men’s game at 3 p.m.
Approximately 14 Special Olympics athletes are expected to participate in the event, which also raises funds for Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) of Westmoreland County. All proceeds from the game, including ticket sales ($3 for children under 12; $5 for adults), 50/50 raffle, Lottery Tree, raffle baskets, and concession will benefit Special Olympics Pennsylvania of Westmoreland County. Over the past five years, Pitt-Greensburg’s SOPA Hoops Saturday has raised more than $5,000 for Special Olympics programs in Westmoreland County.
In addition to the exhibition game and the fund-raising activities, SOPA athletes were invited to visit Pitt-Greensburg prior to the SOPA Hoops Saturday event for a practice session with Pitt-Greensburg athletes and SPSEA volunteers. The volunteers served as coaches to the SOPA athletes as they went through a typical practice involving dribbling, rebounding, shooting, and passing.
The event has its roots in the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Initiative which seeks to improve the lives of Special Olympics athletes through their involvement with Division III student-athletes and to foster a mutual learning experience for both groups.
Division III student-athletes across the country are encouraged to participate in existing Special Olympics events, create their own events, or otherwise support Special Olympics organization. The activities vary and are tailored to best utilize the student-athletes’ time and local resources. Of the activity reported to the NCAA, approximately 6,800 student-athletes and 9,800 Special Olympics athletes have participated in activities across the country.
Special Olympics Pennsylvania Westmoreland County serves more than 600 athletes assisted by more than 900 coaches and volunteers. This nonprofit organization provides sports training and competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It is an all-volunteer organization that provides athletes from age eight and older with a lifetime of learning through involvement with sports. All donations made to Special Olympics Pennsylvania Westmoreland County are used within the local programs.
It is part of Special Olympics, an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly four million athletes in 170 countries. With the support of more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics is able to deliver 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 53,000 competitions throughout the year. Visit Special Olympics at http://www.specialolympics.org.
SOPA Hoops Saturday is just one of many community-oriented events in which Pitt-Greensburg students participate. Annually members of the women's basketball team participate in the Greensburg Salvation Army's Project Bundle-Up, helping disadvantaged children to pick out winter clothing at Walmart. Pitt-Greensburg students also volunteer in the Westmoreland County community during the campus’ Into the Streets event, an activity held each semester that allows students to volunteer over a two-day period of time with local nonprofit organizations. Pitt-Greensburg’s Chapter of SPSEA is active in several volunteer programs with schools in the Greensburg area, which not only provide experiential learning opportunities for the University’s education majors, but provide additional learning activities for children attending local schools.
Founded in 1963, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is a publicly assisted, four-year, liberal arts college in southwestern Pennsylvania. Pitt-Greensburg offers 27 baccalaureate degree programs, including new majors in Education, Spanish Education, Information Technology, Chemistry, and Spanish, as well as 19 minors. More than 18 percent of Pitt-Greensburg’s full-time faculty—the highest percentage of any University of Pittsburgh campus—have received the prestigious University-wide Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Visit www.greensburg.pitt.edu for more information about the campus and its programs.