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2 | June 1-3, 2017

Central Michigan Life


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June 1-3, 2017 | 3

A Very Special Weekend F

or the 45th summer, Central Michigan University is host to more than 2,800 athletes and more than 3,000 coaches, chaperones and volunteers for the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games. Through the decades, the Summer Games has given thousands of Michigan athletes with disabilities the chance to maintain active lifestyles, excel, compete and build friendships that will last a lifetime. This edition of Central Michigan Life highlights Special Olympics Michigan and the inspiring stories of its athletes and volunteer partners. Michigan was one of the organization’s founding delegations in the 1960’s. Originally hosted at Western Michigan

McKenzie Sanderson CM Life Editor in Chief

University, the Michigan Summer Games moved to CMU in 1973 and has called our campus home ever since. The Mount Pleasant community has welcomed and supported the summer games in growing numbers each year, building connections with athletes and their friends and families. In addition to its service to people with disabilities, the Michigan Summer Games is also recognized as one of the largest volunteer opportunties at the university. More than 2,000 volunteers will assist athletes during this year’s competition. On behalf of the CM Life staff, welcome to our campus. We hope competing athletes have success in their events and build life-long friendships during your time here. Thank you for always inspiring us and giving us the opportunity to tell your admirable stories. Make sure you take a moment to follow all our coverage at and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

INSIDE »PAGE 4 World Winter Games gold medalist reflects on athletic achievements »PAGE 5 Thomas Carlisle was named SpartanNash’s Healthy Athlete of the Year SpartanNash feeds over 6,000 attendees at Summer Games »PAGE 6 Young Athletes program teaches children with disabilities Unified track relays added to the 2017 Summer Games schedule Swimming events moved to SAC pool »PAGE 7 2017 Summer Games General Schedule of Events

4 | June 1-3, 2017

Central Michigan Life

Running a joyful journey from Special Olympian to best man

World Winter Games gold medalist reflects on athletic achievements, family support By McKenzie Sanderson Editor-in-Chief


fter trekking more than three miles of snowy Austrian mountainside in his skis, Joe Kaczynski reached the most memorable moment of his athletic career. In March he won gold at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Prior to the competition, the 32-year-old cross-country skier from Midland said he dedicated his performance to his older brother, John. His sibling’s 10-year battle with lung cancer was the motivation behind his milestone in Austria. “I just based everything on my brother and what he was going through,” Kaczynski said during an interview with ESPN. “He was going through chemotherapy and surgeries, so I remembered that when I felt the physical pain during my training.” Kaczynski was always thought of as a quiet kid who mimicked every move his older brother made. His parents, Mary and Jerry, noticed their youngest son had more trouble pronouncing words and expressing emotion than other kids at the age of three. While living with a learning disability and autism traits, Kaczynski excelled in every Special Olympics sport he participated in, including gymnastics, basketball, softball, cross country skiing and his personal favorite, track and field. When he joined his high school cross country team his junior year, his father recalled that Kaczynski’s coach didn’t take him seriously. During one of his meets, Jerry noticed his son’s breathing wasn’t as frantic as his teammate’s, who was running by his side. “His coach always told him to stay with (his teammate) Ronnie,” Jerry

said. “They had about a mile to go and Joe wasn’t even breathing hard while Ronnie was having a hard time. He was in about 15th place and I yelled to him, ‘Joe, you need to take off’ during that last mile, and he ended up finishing third. After that, the coach realized that Joe could really run and had potential to be the best on the team.” During his senior year Kaczynski became the top runner on his track and cross country teams. Today Kaczynski continues to set a pace few others can follow - he runs up to 50 miles every week. “Running is a mental thing for me,” he said. “That’s what makes it fun. If you love doing something, and you want to be the best at it, that’s what you have to do. For me, I’ve always loved to run.” With the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games coming up June 1-3, Kaczynski has been preparing for the 1,500-meter run and shot put events taking place on Friday, June 2 at Bennett Track at Central Michigan University. He usually participates in the pentathlon, but a prior commitment will cut Kaczynski’s time on campus short this year. The day after he competes in Mount Pleasant he will leave the summer games to attend his brother’s bachelor party. On June 17, he will serve as the best man in John’s wedding. “(John) always supports me,” Joe said. “I always followed him around when I was little. I want to support him in his life, too. He has always been my hero.” While he looks up to his brother, his mother said it’s Kaczynski who is the real “superhero” in the family. It wasn’t until Kaczynski turned eight years old that Mary and Jerry became involved in Special Olympics as chaperones, volunteers and coaches. The experiences and friendships

they’ve made during their 20 years with the organization has changed the way Mary views and interacts with families who have children with special needs. “We’ve really grown as people through Special Olympics. (We) learned so much from the athletes,” she said. “You learn to be patient, understanding and dependable to them and their needs. It just makes you feel good that you can help these (athletes) live our their dreams.”

Midland’s Joe Kaczynski won a gold medal in the 2017 World Winter Games. Mary Lewandowski | Staff Photographer

June 1-3, 2017 | 5

Fighting cancer through healthy living Sparta athlete Carlisle named Healthy Athlete of the Year By McKenzie Sanderson Editor-in-Chief

Thomas Carlisle learned about different types of cancer in a small library at the Lemmon-Holton Cancer Pavilion in Grand Rapids. After he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, the Sparta native adopted healthy habits — including yoga and paying attention to nutrition labels — in hope of keeping his cancer under control. After losing more than 170 pounds and participating in Special Olympics Michigan, Carlisle was named SpartanNash’s Healthy Athlete of the Year. Every year, he looks forward to reciting the Special Olympics athlete watch, which is “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” The oath is something Carlisle lives by not just in competition but in every facet of his life. “I never give up,” he said. “No matter how challenging things are for me, I always do my best in everything I try.”

Tom’s mother, Rhonda Carlisle, described her son as “amazing and inspiring.” Now in his third year of aquatics, Carlisle finds himself teaching other SOMI athletes yoga poses between events. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– More than 50,000 24-pack cases of Spartan brand water will feature Tom Carlisle’s image in 500 stores in Michigan


“The autism doesn’t doesn’t allow him to understand the impact he has on the everyone around him,” Rhonda said. “These kids know who he his, they appreciate him and they look up to him.” Carlisle, who has competed in Special Olympics for 16 years, will face his fellow athletes in poly hockey and aquatics. He previously competed in bocce and basketball.

Between training and working part time at Goodwill in Alpine Township, Carlisle walks from his house to Family Fitness in Sparta and works out for three hours every day. He is also a goaltender for the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, an adaptive hockey program for people with physical disabilities. “I want Tom to thrive,” Rhonda said. “I want people (with disabilities) to live to their full potential. Existing gets you nowhere, thriving in your abilities gets you places.” More than 50,000, 24-pack cases of water will feature Carlisle’s image in 500 stores in Michigan. SpartanNash has been the sponsor of the Michigan Special Olympics Summer Games for 33 years. SpartanNash associates also prepare meals for hundreds of volunteers throughout the Summer Games. SpartanNash’s Healthy Athlete of the Year Tom Carlisle poses with his award at the Special Olympics Michigan 2016 Summer Games

Courtesy of Special Olympics Michigan

SpartanNash volunteers feed over 6,000 people at Summer Special Olympics By Mitchell Kukulka Staff Writer

For Frank Vandermeer, the 2017 Michigan Summer Games will mark his 33rd year of feeding athletes and spectators by operating the SpartanNash food tent. An over-sized tent set up in Lot 64, the parking lot directly west of the Kelly/Shorts Stadium, is where Vandermeer leads a group of over 20 volunteers. Serving food over the course of three days during the Summer Games, SpartanNash produces over 6,000 meals for athletes, volunteers and other participants.

The food tent begins serving patrons at the SpartanNash Tailgate Party at 4 p.m. until 6:15 p.m., on Thursday, June 1, immediately preceding the opening ceremonies. The tailgate meal includes hamburgers, pizza and chicken nuggets, with vegetable and salad options available. The food tent serves breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday. Breakfast will be served between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., and includes sandwiches, fruit, cereal and yogurt. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., and features a menu of hot dogs, bratwurst and pulled pork. A dinner will be served on Friday at 4 p.m., featuring pork loin, chicken

breast, potatoes and salad. Vandermeer has been operating the food tent every year since 1985. Along with fellow Spartan employee Bob DeYoung, Vandermeer originally served hot dogs to Spartan volunteers who worked at the Summer Games. Vandermeer and DeYoung have since retired from SpartanNash, though they still participate as volunteers. After 12 years of operation, Vandermeer and DeYoung were joined by Bryan and Linda Porritt, also Spartan employees. Bryan Porritt still works for SpartanNash, and manages the acquisition of the food donations that are served by the tent. Besides other volunteers from SpartanNash,

Vandermeer said most of the crew of the food tent is made up of friends and family of the original four members. As the size of the tent and its staff have grown over its 33 years of service, Vandermeer has remained active as a volunteer and organizer of the event. “Once I started this, way back when, I was hooked, and I’m still hooked,” Vandermeer said. “I get more back from doing this with the athletes then I could ever even think about giving. It’s very rewarding.” The SpartanNash company was founded in 2013 when Spartan Stores merged with food distributor Nash Finch.

6 | June 1-3, 2017

Central Michigan Life

Young Athletes program teaches the importance of fitness and socializing By Mitchell Kukulka Staff Writer

Jenna Jones plays during the 2015 Special Olympic Summer Games in the Young Athletes competition in McGuirk Arena. | Courtesy of Special Olympics Michigan


SUMMER GAMES ATHLETES TO USE SAC POOL DUE TO ROSE POOL CLOSURE All swimming events and programs for the Michigan Summer Games will be held in the Student Activity Center pool, due to the recent closure of the Rose Pool. The organizers of the Special Olympics were told of the closure a year in advance, and have been planning according for the past couple of months, said Ann Guzdzial, chief program officer for the Special Olympics. “The SAC staff have been really great working with us to accommodate this,” Guzdzial said. “Though it’s a different setting than usual, (the pool) still has six lanes, so we’ll hopefully be able to do it.” The swimming competition is on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. The developmental swim program, which was traditionally held in the SAC while the Rose Pool was still in use, has been moved to 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., on Friday, instead of the previously scheduled time of 10 a.m. – Mitchell Kukulka, Staff Writer

The Young Athletes program offered by the Special Olympics gives children too young to participate in the Summer Games the opportunity to learn more about fitness, teamwork and being around other children like themselves. The program is designed for children from two to seven years old with intellectual disabilities. The activities that the children take part in are designed to improve skills like running, jumping, catching, throwing and other talents typically needed in sporting events. The Young Athlete competition for the Summer Games will take place between 11 a.m. and noon, on Saturday, June 3, in McGuirk Arena. Though the Young Athletes program is offered year-round by

the Special Olympics, Summer Games serve as a culminating experience for children in the program, said Ann Guzdzial, chief program officer for the Special Olympics. The main goal of the event is to educate the children about sports and leadership. All participants will be awarded medals and ribbons for taking part in the activities. The Summer Games will also offer an opportunity for children in Young Athletes to go through the Healthy Athlete program offered by Special Olympics. Healthy Athletes includes programs like Opening Eyes, where local ophthalmologists perform free eyes exams and fit athletes for sunglasses, and Special Smiles, which offers free dental exams. The Healthy Young Athlete clinic will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, in the IAC Turf Bay.

An extension of the Healthy Athlete program will be offered to children from Rosebush Elementary School on Friday. In total, around 40 children from Rosebush will cycle through the Healthy Athletes clinic, with a morning class visiting at 10:30 a.m., and an afternoon class at 1 p.m. Guzdzial believes that the program benefits the children involved by teaching them the most important lessons about sportsmanship in an environment that feels inclusive. “For our young athletes, it gives them an opportunity to start working on their agility levels, and things like comprehension and following directions,” Guzdzial said. “It really helps them socialize more with their peers in that type of setting.”

Unified track relays promote cooperation and interaction between all student athletes By Mitchell Kukulka Staff Writer For the first time at the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games, 44 athletes will participate in Unified track relays. The relays begin on Thursday, June 1 to kick off Unified Sports Day. The event features teams of general education students competing alongside special education students. Unified events focus on promoting cooperation and unity between local student athletes without disabilities and athletes with disabilities. Dan Ekonen, director of

Unified Sports Initiatives for the Special Olympics, said collaboration sports programs help students with special needs become more involved in their community and more comfortable interacting with their peers. “The whole purpose of Unified Champions Schools is to create a more inclusive environment throughout the school,” Ekonen said. “The students are making friendships at practice that carry out into the hallways and classrooms. They make these connections through sports that hopefully will transfer into their school environment.”

Competing teams come from three schools across the state; Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, Bay City Center High School and Woodland Developmental Center. Ekonen said the decision to include the unified relay event resulted from local schools requesting more track-and-fieldoriented events from the Special Olympics. “For us, it seemed like a nobrainer to include track-andfield events,” Ekonen said. “A lot of other states are doing unified track-and-field, so we wanted to offer it and see if there was any interest.”

June 1-3, 2017 | 7


THURSDAY June 1, 2017 9:00 am-10:00 pm 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00-4:00 pm 12:00-2:00 pm 12:00-4:00 pm 1:00-4:00 pm 1:00-6:00 pm 2:00 pm 2:00-7:00 pm 3:00-10:00 pm 3:00 pm 3:30-5:45 pm 4:00 p.m. 4:00-6:15 pm 5:00-6:00 pm 5:30 pm 6:00 pm 6:00 pm 6:15 pm 8:00-9:00 pm 8:00-9:00 pm 10:00 pm 10:00 pm

Nerve Center @ SOMI Office Torch Run Capitol Ceremony East Steps of the Capitol Building Unified Sports Day Registration Begins SAC Front Entrance Lawn Unified Sports Day Bocce Event Field Hockey Field Unified Sports Day Track Event Bennett Track Delegation Arrivals at Residence Halls Opening Eyes Vision Screening at IAC Turf Bay Info/Volunteer Check In Booth on SAC Lawn Medical Opens - Rose Training Room Souvenirs @ Kelly/Shorts Will Call Booth Area Shuttle Bus - Continuous Loop Athlete drops & adds due at Nerve Center Delegation Dinner at Residence Halls Volleyball Coach Meeting Large Sports Forum Spartan Nash Tailgate Party Lot 64 – next to Spartan Tent VIP Reception - Courtyard by Marriott Parade Line-up Starts Lot 62 East or IAC Football Bay Housing Corrections Due at Residence Hall Front Desk Delegation Pre-Seating @ Kelly/Shorts Stadium Parade and Opening Ceremonies Kelly/Shorts Stadium Kiwanis Carnival - Lot 62 East Matt Moore Band - Lot 62 East (by the hill) Coach/Chaperone Safety Meetings Residence Halls Doors Locked - Residence Halls

FRIDAY June 2, 2017

6:30-8:30 am 7:00 am-10:00 pm 7:00 am-10:00 pm 7:30 am-4:00 pm 8:00 a.m. 8:00-9:00 a.m. 9:00 am-Noon 8:00 am-Noon 8:00 am-4:00 pm 9:00 am-4:00 pm

9:00 am-4:00 pm 9:00-11:00 am 9:00 am-Noon 10:00 am-4:00 pm 10:30 am-1:30 pm 10:30 am-1:30 pm 11:00 a.m. 11:00 am-1:00 pm 12:00–1:00 pm 12:45-5:00 pm 1:00-4:00 pm

Delegation Breakfast at Residence Halls Nerve Center - SOMI State Office Shuttle Bus - Continuous Loop Information/Volunteer Check-In on SAC Lawn Powerlifting Coach Meeting - MAC II Finance Meeting - Comfort Inn Board of Directors Meeting - Comfort Inn Competition - Sport Venues Opening Eyes - IAC Turf Bay Healthy Athlete Village - IAC Turf Bay Special Smiles, Fit Feet, MedFest, Health Promotions & STRIVE, Fun Fitness, SpartanNash “To Your Good Life”

Healthy Hearing - IAC Testing Center Parent Family - SAC, West Conf. Rm & Bennett Track Special Events - Rose Pond Area & Lot 32 West Souvenir Stand - Kelly/Shorts Will Call Booth Area Young Athlete Clinic - McGuirk Arena Delegation Lunch at Residence Halls Mott Campus Clown Show - Special Event Area Food Truck at Kelly Short Stadium, by Souvenirs Board & ELAC Lunch - Comfort Inn Competition - Sport Venues Emerging Leaders Advisory Council - Comfort Inn

FRIDAY June 2, 2017 (continued) 1:00-4:00 pm 1:00-4:00 pm 1:00 pm & 3 pm 2:00-4:00 pm 3:00-4:30 pm 3:30-6:30 pm 4:00-5:30 pm 5:30-6:00 pm 6:00-6:30 pm 6:30-7:00 pm 7:00-9:00 pm 7:00-9:00 pm 9:30-Midnight 10:00 pm

Play on the Way - Special Event Area Special Events - Rose Pond Area & Lot 32 West Mott Campus Clowns Shows - Special Events Area Parent Family SAC, West Conference Room & Bennett Track Celebrity Autographs - Event Center Atrium Delegation Dinner at Residence Halls Moose Riders Arrival at Kelly/Shorts Stadium Rev It Up Reception & Recognition Kelly/Shorts Stadium Moose Ride Procession to Stadium Kelly/Shorts Stadium Moose Riders Autograph Kelly/Shorts Stadium Meet & Greet with athletes Closing Ceremonies/ Victory Dance Kelly/Shorts Stadium Open Bowling - SAC Lanes Venue Volunteer Appreciation Riverwood Golf Course Doors Locked - Residence Halls

SATURDAY June 3, 2017 6:30-8:30 am 7:00 am-6:00 pm 7:00 am-5:00 pm 7:30 am-2:00 pm 8:00 am-Noon 8:00 am-Noon 9:00-11:00 am 9:00-11:00 am 9:00 am-Noon 9:00 am-Noon

Delegation Breakfast at Residence Halls Nerve Center at SOMI State Office Shuttle Bus - Continuous Loop Info/Volunteer Check-In Booth on SAC Lawn Competition - Sport Venues Opening Eyes - IAC Turf Bay Parent Family Hospitality SAC, West Conference Room & Bennett Track YA Healthy Athlete Opportunity - IAC Turf Bay Healthy Hearing IAC Testing Center Healthy Athlete Village IAC Turf Bay Special Smiles,

9:00 am-noon 10:00 am-2:00 pm 10:30 am-1:30 pm 11:00 am-12:00 pm 1:00-2:00 pm 1:00-4:00 pm 3:30-5:00 pm 5:00 pm (Schedule is

Special Events Rose Pond Area & Lot 32 West Souvenirs - Kelly/Shorts Will Call Booth Area Delegation Lunch at Residence Halls YA competition McGuirk Arena Special Events Rose Pond Area & Lot 32 West Competition - Sport Venues Delegation Dinner Residence Halls Check-Out

Fit Feet, MedFest, Health Promotions & STRIVE, Fun Fitness, SpartanNash “To Your Good Life”

subject to change)

Mary Lewandowski | Staff Photographer

TOP: Athletes and volunteers watch events at the 2016 Summer Games. LEFT: A Project Unify participant receives his medal at the 2015 Summer Games. RIGHT: Athletes run during an event at the 2016 Summer Games at Bennett Track.

8 | June 1-3, 2017

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