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Celebrating Gold

by Josephine Cusumano

Special Olympics New Jersey wrapped up their 2016 Summer Games this past June at TCNJ, where local men, women, boys and girls strived for greatness and competed. Yet, everyone celebrated gold in moments of sport, victory and emotion, which Carmen Bannon, SONJ’s chief program development officer, believes turns every athlete into a winner.

As Special Olympics athletes prepare for opportunity to qualify for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games taking place in Seattle, Bannon tells South Jersey Magazine just what makes SONJ powerful and more than just a community of athletes.

What was a highlight of the Summer Games?
The opening ceremony is always one of my personal favorites. One young man [who] was walking in for the first time asked if this was all of him and, of course, I told him it was. There’s 10,000 people in the stands cheering, a band on the stage and he was just excited.

What does SONJ teach its athletes?
It’s much more than just competing and running down the track. It’s making sure they are properly trained and everything from putting on sunscreen before you go outside, hydrating to stretching before you run to working out.

How has the community helped with SONJ?
SONJ’s volunteers run events, fundraise and help. You really can’t say enough about the support of individuals and they’re everyone from school teachers to business people. There’s no stereotype volunteer, just people who come out and help over time.

For more information or to get involved, visit

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 14 (July, 2016).
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