Area26 news & updates

Spring 2023 | Issue 36
Let me win, but if I cannot win,
Let me be brave in the attempt.
In this edition...

  • Basketball State Games / Winter Season
  • Cross Country and Downhill skiing, snowboarding and snowshoe
  • Commanders visit
  • Ft Belvoir Fair
  • Tennis
  • Cinco De Mayo Fundraising Event
  • Athletes in Action
  • Fit5 Spring
  • Athlete's Corner
  • Health Corner
  • Virtual Activities
  • Upcoming Events
  • Area 26 Participation Policy 
  • Registration Resources
  • Staff Directory

Spring Sports practices have begun!!
Basketball Championships
Opening Ceremonies

Saturday evening was highlighted by the Torch Ceremony and the masked fun of the Masquerade Dance.. (photos from multiple sources...)
Elaine - your Cruise Director!! The HOD getting all of those rooms ready...
Fairfax Thunder on their way!!
Dinner Service at the Assessment
Holiday Inn Conference Center Fredericksburg - home away...`

Once again the Area 26 Crew was hosted at the newly renovated Holiday Inn Fredericksburg

Their brand-new meeting suite, the Mary Washington Room was the site of the Area Breakfast on sunday!
For our first time back at Champs since 2020, many of our teams were placed in VERY difficult divisions. While they played their hearts out, the challenge was mighty.
The first regular basketball season since COVID was filled with exciting action as 30 teams re-engaged on the hardwood. Here is the story of the season in pictures....
2023 Basketball Season Highlights
***Practice before the season...
Photos by Debbie Bennett
***PVI Training Camp
-Photos Courtesy of Christine Fowler

On January 28th, Paul VI hosted a return to its traditional skills camp. Hosting several teams for practice in shooting, ball handling, passing and other key elements. Pictures follow....
***Loudoun Invitational

Basketball season opened on January 7th with an Area 14 led invitational tournament at 4 Loudoun area schools. Teams from Area 26 joined in the fun with their first official court appearances since the 2020 Games.
Cannons after a double win!!
Left to right back row: Coach Dick, Noah Lelchook, Rick Schneider, Alex Casey, Andrew Chelson, Asst. Coach Bill Hanczaryk. 
Front: Amber Brownell, Tara Lanigan, Luke McDonald
Legends at Riverside HS, and ready to rumble!!
Green Machine looking sharp
Loudoun Referee Squad
Area 26 Invitational

January 22nd saw the first Area 26 tournament. Games were held at Madison HS, Oakton HS and South Lakes HS with 44 teams from three Regions participating.
Some of the wonderful volunteers who made South Lakes a great place to play....
During the Tournament, an athlete was injured, and players, coaches and volunteers from several teams got together to form a wall of privacy while the medical staff took care of the situation...THAT is sportsmanship!!
Area 26 Open

Our second Area tournament was held on the 29th, at the same locations, again with 44 teams in the mix at three locations.
State Games Prep tournament
The final Area 26 matchups took place on February 19th, as a warmup to Stafford. Area schools Episcopal, Bishop Ireton and Poe hosted...

{from the EHS FaceBook Page...} The Episcopal High School service council connected with Special Olympics Virginia to host the Area 26 End of Season Basketball Tournament. With over 40 volunteers, the games were a huge success! We look forward to welcoming the organization back in April for the track and field competition.

{from the Bishop Ireton FaceBook...} Our school and Godley Gym hosted the Bishop Ireton Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, which featured teams from around the region in their last tournament of the season. Congratulations to all the teams and THANK YOU to the amazing volunteers who helped in so many ways.
State Games Team Photos

Here are the 12 Teams from Area 26 made the trek to Stafford for the two day State competition.
GMU Patriots - Silver Medal
Fairfax Thunder - Bronze Medal
Eagles Blue - Bronze Medal
GMU Green Machine - 4th place
Eagles Red - Gold Medal
Gold Rush - Bronze Medal
Eagles White - Bronze Medal
Turbocats - 4th place
Legends - 4th place
Mighty Titans - Bronze Medal
Fairfax Bulls - Bronze medal
Eagles Gold -Bronze medal
Kyler learning the ropes with RB Coach Jennifer King.
Commanders Football Special Day

Global Messenger (and SOVA Fitness News staff reporter) Kyler Reese had the opportunity to join his fellow writers at a visit to Commanders Park to meet with staff and players from our Home NFL Team.
In the team briefing room...
Fitness News Staff with Charles Leno Jr.
Kyler rings the "Score" Bell
With the Trophies!!
Host: OT Charles Leno Jr.
QB Taylor Heinke
Kyler keeps hold of the ball. during a drill with Coach King
DE Chase Young
Ft Belvoir Event...

SOVA Sponsor Proctor and Gamble hosted a special event at the Ft Belvoir Commissary on January 6th, where three of our athletes (Jay Choi, Sean Minnick and Global Messenger Kyler Reese) interacted with customers to describe both SO and the support provided to SOVA by P&G. They were great ambassadors for our programs!

A display about the program and P/G products was the focal point for the three hour event. Here are some photos
Boars Head Xperience Tennis Invitational...
by Jay Choi


For my first time, I got invited to compete at the 2023 Special Olympics The Xperience at Boar's Head Resort in Charlottesville VA. I represented Special Olympics Virginia along with 3 other athletes. It has been my dream to play at Xperience touramount since I started playing tennis. I had a great time and met some of the best tennis players around the US. I was honored to be selected to do the “Athletes’ Oath” during the opening ceremony. I utterly enjoyed playing tennis for two full days. 
My favorite moment was when I was losing the first set and came back and won the super tie breaker thus securing the second spot in my division. After the second match was over a lot of people were surprised how well I did and came up to me to congratulate and tell me how well I performed. It was a very stressful yet very exciting match.
Matches were overall super competitive. I won a silver medal in my division. I competed with a player from Georgia and a player from Maryland. I learned a lot from playing at Boar’s Head Xperience and looking forward to coming back stronger next year and competing a division up higher.
Cross Country and Snowshoe 2023...
  • by Nancy Julia

A small but excited group of Special Olympics Virginia Area 26 athletes traveled to West Virginia to compete in the Winter Classic at White Grass Ski Touring Center January 26/27. Due to Covid and some restrictions the team hadn’t been able to compete for almost three years. A mix of cross country skiers and snowshoers were ready for the snow and cold. 

Thursday brought high winds and very cold temperatures but no one complained as we got our equipment and headed out to practice on snow for the first time this year. Even the athletes who were competing for the first time were enthusiastic about the chance to win medals! The medal rounds were Friday and each athlete came home with at least one medal!

Michael Villalta and Sharmarke Jama competed in snowshoe-50, 100 and 200 meters. Greg Steiner, Steven Steiner, Stacey Steiner, Bruce McGiboney, Jinho Chang, Khang Le, Joe Lower and Anthony Luu competed in cross country events ranging from the 50 meter all the way up to the 3K.  The team was supported by Jeff and MaryJane McGiboney, Marjorie Gray and Nancy Julia. The was the first year in a long time that we were actually able to ski at White Grass on the cross country trails due to a lack of snow. 
Cross country and Snowshoe Team at Whitegrass Ski Touring Center
Jinho Chang and Anthony Luu
Stacey Steiner
Marjorie Gray helps Stacey Steiner get ready
Bruce and MaryJane McGiboney chat before his race
Khang Le-Gold,
Bruce McGiboney-Silver
Coach McGiboney helping Anthony Luu get suited up...
Sharmarke Jama earns Gold Medal
Coach Nancy Julia helps Jinho Chang as he figures out how to get up after falling
Jinho Chang on the Podium
Steven Steiner-5th, Stacey Steiner-3rd,
Greg Steiner-1st

Anthony Luu-Gold
Joe Lower-Silver
Steven Steiner-5th, Stacey Steiner-3rd,
Greg Steiner-1st
Steven Steiner-5th, Stacey Steiner-3rd,
Greg Steiner-1st
Downhill Ski Championships...
  • by Ed Morrissey

The Area 26 Alpine Ski Team competed at the Pennsylvania Winter Games at Seven Springs Resort February 14-16. Weather proved challenging for winter outdoor competitions with 65 degrees and sunny the first day, and 50 degrees and raining the second day. However, the athletes put forth their best performances!

Many thanks to the dedicated coaches and volunteers that helped the team throughout the season, from pre-season training through on-snow practice, and competition.

On May 4th at 7pm., the improv troupe Party Mix will be performing at the James Lee Community Center for the benefit of our Alpine team! Mark your calendar and watch for more details in a spring BLAST newsnote!
Intermediate level-Daniel Israel earned a bronze medal in Super-G and two 5th place ribbons in his division. Ryan Morrissey earned a silver medal in Slalom, plus 4th and 6th place ribbons
Novice level - Ashleigh Tootle brought home 3 gold medals in Giant Slalom, Super Giant Slalom (Super-G), and Slalom, , and Sebastian McNeal took 3 silver medals. 

All year long our athletes play hard indoors and outdoors. Here are some of them in their active moments...
Area 26 Hyper-Runner Karen Dickerson has now managed to complete marathons in 37 States on her way to her goal of 50... my feet hurt thinking about it. GO KAREN!!
Coach Bill Creighton bounded into the cold waters in Prince William County to support Area 26 in the Polar Plunge. Thanks Bill!  

The GMU Swim crew was on deck here for an early season practice for spring - good thing it is indoors - it was 22 degrees out that day. Talk about PLUNGE...
Cinco De Mayo fundraiser...
Fit5 On the Court...

Fit5 Crew were all over the courts this Basketball Season!! Here they are at Champs...

Did YOU keep busy this Winter?
Jay Choi - Driving the Lane
Tom Merz guarding the basket during warmup
Max putting up a deep 3 pointer with 4.5 seconds to the buzzer!!
David Kellet-Forsyth getting ready for a rebound
Kyler Reese on a steal
Athletes Corner
  • by Max Hershberger
Hello Area 26!!!!!

I got the chance to interview some more athletes while we were at the basketball championships. Here are my talks with Tom, Nick, Tony and Jeyoon...


Interview: Tom Merz

Q:  How long have been a special Olympics athlete?
A: Since 2013

Q: What sports do you play and the name of your teams?
A: Basketball-Eagles Gold

Q: What is your favorite pro sport team?
A: LA Lakers, Yankees and Patriots

Q:  What do you do outside of sports?  
A: Hang out with friends and play video games

Q:  Who is your hero?
A: Kobe Bryant

Q: What was favorite part about winter state games?
A: Playing against teams from other areas at the highest level

Q: Did you get a medal?
A: Yes we got a bronze medal 🥉
INTERVIEW: Nick Ortega

Q: How long have been a Special Olympics athlete?
A: I’ve been an SO athlete for almost 8 years
Q: What sports do you play and the name of your teams?
A: Basketball- Legends 🏀
Q: What is your favorite pro sport team?
A: The Washington Commanders
Q: What do you do outside of sports?
A: College at Mason Life Freshman. I love to play video games, watch anime, tv shows, movies and hanging out with friends
Q: Who is your hero?
A: Martin Luther King Jr
Q: What was favorite part about winter state games?
A: Dance parties that everyone would dance to every year and play hard as a team.
Q: Did you get a medal?
A: Yes bronze medal 🥉
INTERVIEW: Tony Linthicum

Q: How long have been a Special Olympics athlete?
A: From 2008 to 2023
Q: What sports do you play and the name of your teams?
A: Basketball- Patriots 🏀
Q: What is your favorite pro sport team?
A: Washington Commanders
Q: What do you do outside of sports?  
A: Going to the movies
Q: Who is your hero?
A: My Mom
Q: What was favorite part about winter state games?
A: Hanging out with my friends and my teammates
Q: Did you get a medal?
A: Yes Silver

Q: How long have been a Special Olympics athlete?
A: 3 years
Q:  What sports do you play and the name of your teams?
A: Basketball-  Green Machine 🏀
Q:  What is your favorite pro sport team?
A:  Washington Wizards
Q:  What do you do outside of sports?  
A: Take a walk with Scooby Coach Mike’s dog
Q:  Who is your hero?
A: Kobe Bryant
 Q: What was favorite part about winter state games?
A:  My favorite part about State Games was Hanging Out with my friends and my Green Machine team mates
Q:  Did you get a medal?
A: Yes Bronze
More athletes next time, keep working out!!

Hope you’re doing well and staying in shape!! Did you all enjoy winter sports? You know I did!! I play for a division 1 basketball team - The Gold Rush!!
It was great watching and playing with you all at the basketball tournaments!! You’re all winners.
My favorite parts about State Games are the opening ceremonies, DJ dance, and hanging out with my teammates. Athletes I am so proud of you at Stafford … you all did amazing job..
I am looking forward for spring sports. I will be doing Track & Field as a Distance runner.  I wish all of the Athletes good Luck with your spring sports as well. Let the games begin!!!!!
Talk to you all in the Summer in the next newsletter 😊!!

Max Hershberger

Coaches/Volunteers of the Quarter
  • by Billy Duquette
Christopher Mcllvanie
Christopher is the assistant coach of the Area 26 Gold Eagles basketball team. He also was a volunteer as an onsite medical provider in past basketball tournaments. He currently only involved in basketball with Special Olympics. Chris got involved with Special Olympics, was when he was doing lacrosse, or football, or basketball, he enjoyed coaching in sports. He thought to be a win-win to volunteer as a coach, and to get involved with a great organization like Special Olympics. As an added bonus, he got to coach with his best and closest friend (Coach Brian O-Donnell).

Coach Chris had many of good moments in the past 2 years, but there was one that stand out as his most memorable was the Marymount tournament from last year. When Khang Le, one of the team players hit a three pointer at the buzzer, and the all of the students in the student section went wild. He says that it was a great tournament and the icing on the cake. His advise to all of the SO athletes to stay engage with SO is that he would tell athletes that the most important advise that he would give is to focus on teamwork. He states in the best part of sports is working as a team to accomplish a common goal. Most retired professional athletes would say that they miss playing sports is in the locker room and being apart of the team. Not only team work is vital in sports, but is extremely important in everyday life.
Bryan O-Donnell

Bryan O’Donnell is a basketball coach for the area 26 Gold Eagles since 2012. He has only been as a basketball coach, but golf has had some interest for him to get involved with the sport. Bryan got involved with Special Olympics by his high school football coach and recent SO basketball coach Dave England, told him how he would enjoy coaching, and would join the ranks as assistant coach. He does not have a favorite moment that would stick out, but his favorite day would be the first practice of the season, to be excited to see young athletes to come back to first day of practice of the spirt of friendship and completion. His advice that he would give back to an athlete to stay engage within Special Olympics, it would be the athlete, and that would matter to him. Every player, on every team, has an important impact of the team. Whatever a player has in playing skills on court or has a positive support to show other teammates. The athlete participation makes the team very special, not just for the teammates, put for the coaches as well.
Health Corner...
by Kyler Reese
HI Everyone!!

Even though we are almost back to warm weather, we can still catch the flu, COVID and all of those other bad things, so make sure you wash/sanitize your hands regularly, and don't go to events with friends if you are not feeling good.

Drink LOTS of water, every day but especially when you are working out. When it gets later in April, you should be putting on sunscreen also when you go outside. Sunburns both hurt and can cause you to get cancer later if you aren't careful

I hope you have a great Spring season!

Talk to you next time,
Virtual Activities...
Hi Athletes,

As always, details and schedule can be found on the online resources page on the Website.
Upcoming events...
Thursday, May 4th     Improv Comedy Ski Fundraiser at James Lee Comm Ctr
Saturday, May 6th     Cinco de Mayo Sailing Fundraiser at Eagles Aerie 871
Fri/Sun June 9-11 State Summer Games, University of Richmond
Sunday June 18th Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser @ Bronson Bierhall, Fairfax

Opportunities to volunteer and help at spring/summer events can be found at the button below...
Area 26 Participation Policy...
Face Mask 1
Area 26 is now operating under GREEN COVID protocols: Masks are recommended but not required.

Athlete families, please verify with your coaches that your paperwork has been approved before arriving for practice or events. The coaching and volunteer staff cannot accept the forms in person and grant immediate access, as SOVA has the approval authorization.

NOTE: When you submit the athlete paperwork via the email address (and volunteer packages to the address) they go both to the Area AND to SOVA for processing.

-- See the Registration Resources section (farther down) for links to all forms --
Registration Resources

Athletes require renewal of their medical certifications every three years (dated from the doctor's signature). Athletes with an expired Medical Form will have to submit updates to all forms. The package now contains 7 pages - please complete and submit the full package (button below).
Athletes, please email completed athlete forms to: (this will deliver them to both the Area AND to SOVA - only the one email address is required)

See the button below for Volunteer Class A Certification Process on the Area 26 website. 

Volunteer Class A, and coach certifications must be updated every 3 years. Many certifications have expired, and many are due to expire. All volunteers are also required to have a COVID19 Waiver on file (button #1 above... ).
Volunteers, please email completed volunteer forms and certifications to: (as with the athleteform email, this will deliver them to both the Area AND to SOVA - only the one email submission address is required)
Stay Healthy, Stay Active!!

We love to have pictures and articles of/about your Special Olympics activities. If you write them, we will post them!!
Revealing the Champion in all of us...
Please continue to share information about this newsletter and website with those you know in the community so that we can better share the wonder of our special athletes and volunteers. To sign up to receive the newsletter, go to our webform Newsletter Subscription
Area 26 Points of Contact
Area 26 Council

Elaine Tilton

Chuck Adkins-Blanch
Patrick DeLapp
Billy Duquette
Jeff Eskridge
Christine Fowler
Max Hershberger
Jay Hoffmeier
Veronica Jennings
Nancy Julia
Katherine Martin
Jeff McGiboney
Tejas Patel
Nancy Robbins
Abby Whidden
Bernie Woolfley
Area 26 Special Olympics |
Season Directors
Elaine Tilton, Fall/Winter

Nancy Julia, Spring/Summer

Barry Tilton

Volunteer Coordinator
Tejas Patel

Athlete Representative
Max Hershberger

Medical Coordinator
Christine Fowler

Senior Director, Potomac Region
Veronica Jennings
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