2014 Special Olympics USA Games

2014 SO National GAmes logoSpecial Olympics International recently sat down for a little Q&A with Lillian Narvaez, COO of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, hosted by New Jersey. Special Olympics Louisiana is sending 56 athletes to these games!

SONA: What’s your Special Olympics Story?
LN: “I graduated from college in 1985 and began working at the Mercer County Arc (NJ), and coached Special Olympics. In 1987 was chosen to coach the women’s basketball team that went to the World Summer Games in Indiana, and soon thereafter joined the Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) staff as a Program Representative, working with the local programs.

In 1989 I became the Training Director and 1995 became VP of Sports. I took the position of COO of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in 2011.”

SONA: As the USA Games COO, what are you finding different about this role compared to your previous Special Olympics experience?
LN: “Putting together an organization is unique – this job is like starting a new business. From hiring and recruiting high caliber people, building operational plans, there are so many intricacies unique to a National Games.”

SONA: What can people look forward to in 2014?
LN: “Some of the innovative things we’re doing for the Games is the emphasis on special events for the athletes…I don’t want to give anything away, but we think they’ll have an unprecedented experience. We’re also providing a unique opportunity for students to be engaged with the Games, as school will still be in session. From a sports perspective, we really want to bring a “wow’ factor to the competition and venues. We also want to make these truly national games via media coverage and awareness so that at the end, people don’t think “those were great New Jersey Games,” we want them to say they were great national games. Lastly, we want these to be the Games of welcome and acceptance, from the minute they get to the airport and throughout everyone’s whole stay. Jersey gets a bad rap sometimes, but there are so many people and communities that already embrace Special Olympics New Jersey and we can’t wait for people to see that that will extend to all of the athletes, families and fans that come to the Games.”

SONA: What are you, personally, most looking forward to in 2014?
LN: “I’m personally looking forward to seeing the first Cessna Citation land. And my dream is to see our athletes perform at their best at standing room only venues.”

SONA: What are some facts about you that people may not know?
LN: “I’m a huge NY Giants fan, I enjoy cooking, and I love to play golf.” Additional fun fact: she would rather anyone else be interviewed besides her. Thanks for being a good sport, Lillian!

Get to Know Jed Collins

We asked New Orleans Saints Fullback, Jed Collins, to answer some fun questions for us.  He discusses his favorite Saints memory, what he wants to do after football, and even his favorite movie.  Check out Jed’s answers below!

What is your favorite movie?Jed Collins
One of my favorite movies growing up has to be “Major Payne.”  My brothers and I can quote that entire movie.

What is your favorite quote?
“Proud of the past, Focused on the future, Enjoying the Now”

Who was your favorite player growing up?
I always like watching Jeremy Shockey because of his personality and his hair definitely inspired me to grow mine out. But, I was more of a basketball fan growing up and my favorite was “The Admiral” David Robinson. I heard he could walk the length of a basketball court on his hands and always thought that was cool.

Favorite Saints memory?
It has to be the play Drew [Brees] broke Dan Marino’s 27 year old Season passing record. I got to be in on the play, and to be a part of history is something I will never forget.

Do you have any hobbies?
Right now, my interest is reading all kinds of things. From Biographies about great coaches like John Wooden, popular trilogy Hunger Games, to sports psychology books. My other interest is finance. I would like to become a Certified Financial Planner when I am done playing to assist players in how to handle their financial futures.

What gives you inspiration?
Right now my inspiration is to focus on the positives in life!

A huge thanks to Jed for taking the time to answer our questions!  Good luck to Jed and the rest of the New Orleans Saints as they take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday!  WHO DAT?!

Loretta Claiborne

“Loretta Claiborne is one of the most inspirational athletes I have personally encountered. Watching this video moves me because she is a great role model, reminding me that we are no different from one another. Meeting and listening to her in Baton Rouge (State Indoor Games 2012) inspired me because she has been through so much. It is both amazing and inspirational to hear how Special Olympics makes a huge impact on a persons life. Special Olympics has made a huge impact on Loretta’s life and watching this video shows how it has.”

Special Olympics Louisiana athlete Ashley Arceneaux

Click the picture for the video on Loretta Claiborne.

Get to know Coach Cindy Landry

Special Olympics Louisiana is very proud to announce that one of our very own, Coach Cindy Landry has been awarded Special Olympics “Honorable Mention” Coach of the Year for North America. Coach Cindy has been involved for over 25 years and coaches several different sports. She took a few moments out of her busy schedule from teaching and coaching to answer a few questions for us:

  •  How has Special Olympics changed your life? “It makes me feel good about myself.
    Coach Cindy Landry Greece 2011

    Coach Cindy Landry at the 2011 SO World Games in Athens, Greece (white shirt on right with sunglasses)

    It has made me realize the value of life. Life is not what we come to own or possess. It is about the gifts that we have been blessed with and how we use them. It’s made me aware that we can all accomplish any task we attempt.”

  • How did you feel about attending the National Games? “It gave me the opportunity to see individuals succeed, compete and make friends.”
  • What did attending the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games mean to you? “I am was excited about being part of Team USA.”
  • What are your most proud accomplishments? “Winning the Ellen King Gillentine Volunteer Award.”Coach Cindy also says that she is proud that she has attended several Special Olympics National and World Games competitions.

Extra: Coach Cindy Landry helped the students of Iberia Parish learn about Eunice Kennedy Shriver by creating several inclusive activities. Students without disabilities took part in exercises such as playing softball, going through the lunch line, etc. with a disability. These students learned first hand how difficult it can be to accomplish everyday tasks. The students now have a broader understanding of Special Olympics and many of the students have volunteered at local Special Olympics events and become Unified Partners. Because of Coach Cindy’s dedication we will have a “Special Olympics Global Celebrity” visiting us in March…stay tuned for more details!