Fulfilling their philanthropic mission to support non-profit organizations in their goals, Pratt & Whitney was once again sponsor and host to the floor hockey competition of the 32nd annual Special Olympics Winter Games.
Opening ceremonies took place on March 1 at the Pratt & Whitney Hangar & Museum in East Hartford, Conn., where Pratt & Whitney and Special Olympics representatives addressed an enthusiastic crowd. Special guests included Gov. Dannel Malloy, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc and Father Michael Gallasso from the parishes of Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Peace in East Hartford. The Pratt & Whitney Screamin' Eagles Jazz Band and the Pratt & Whitney Chorus provided music for the ceremonies.
Following the presentation of the Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Honor Guard and the East Hartford Police Department Honor Guard, a rousing round of applause was given to the athletes, partners and coaches of the Special Olympics teams of: Favarh Serpents, Favarh Vipers, Hamden/New Haven Mighty Ducks, Hamden/New Haven Nighthawks, Hamden/New Haven Bruins, HARC Capitols, Newington Wolf Pack, Newington Whalers, Trumbull Tigers, West Hartford Lionhearts, Gengras Moose, Groton Red Wings and Mansfield/Tolland.
present to our host, Pratt & Whitney," said DiNino. "Accepting for Pratt & Whitney will be Tizz Weber, director of communications for Pratt & Whitney. Tizz has also been a long-time volunteer and supporter of SOCT."
Dan Widing, also a Global Messenger, led the crowd in repeating the official Special Olympics Oath, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
The Officials Oath was read by Gary Voccio, followed by the lighting of the Flame of Hope by John Brixner of the Mighty Ducks, who was passed the torch by Tom Madera from Eastern Connecticut State University and the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Connecticut.
"It is now my honor to officially declare the Floor Hockey venue of the 2014 Special Olympics Connecticut Winter Games officially open," said Mayor Leclerc. "Good luck to all the athletes, and may everyone thoroughly enjoy the weekend."
With the cue to, "Let the games begin," hundreds of spectators, coaches and volunteers witnessed the athleticism , determination and skill of the competitors, as they played throughout that day and the next.
Events on Sunday, March 2 included an Awards Ceremony where, again, crowds gathered to cheer on the athletes as they accepted medals on stage for their accomplishments. Also known as the Games of Welcome and Acceptance, this celebration of human spirit seemed infectious, with those watching as well as competing showing outward joy with smiles and hugs for one another, posing for celebratory photographs and dancing in the aisles.
Special Olympics Game Director David Erasmus, who is the accounts manager, New Business Office, at Pratt & Whitney, said he attributes the success of the weekend mainly to the volunteers. "Without them, we could have not had these games."
Erasmus coordinated a volunteer committee of five individuals from Pratt & Whitney (himself, Jameson Mayr, Nancy Hemingway, Cindie Esposito and Bob Gallipeau). Many dozens of volunteers also worked in the facility on behalf of Pratt & Whitney and the Special Olympics.
Erasmus said the two-day event was also successful due to, "being able to use the Pratt & Whitney Hangar & Museum facilities, the dedication and commitment of the coaches, the athletes and their families and friends."
According to their website, www.soct.org, the mission of the Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Pratt & Whitney and Otis are Bronze sponsors of the Connecticut Special Olympics Winter Games. UTC is also a Partner Sponsor of Special Olympics Connecticut as well as Presenting Sponsor of the Summer Games.