Written by Melinda Stevens
The New Jersey Special Olympic Winter Games is making its debut in the township at Richard Codey Arena located at 560 Northfield Ave. on Sunday.
The competition begins at 9:15 a.m. and admission is free.
This is the first time the winter games will be held in the township, according to Heidi Vanderhoof, organizer of the winter games event and a coach for the Essex Special Skaters of NJ.
“This is the first year the special winter events will take place in West Orange,” Vanderhoof said in a phone interview with Patch. “They are a big supporter of the Essex Special Skaters Program.”
The Special Olympics of New Jersey is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization that provides opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to become athletes, according to the Special Olympics website.
Vanderhoof stated that some of the skaters in the special skaters program will be participating in the winter games on Sunday.
“Around 25 athletes from our program will be participating in the games on Sunday,” Vanderhoof said.
Vanderhoof stated that all of the winter games are usually held at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm, NJ, but it was more convenient for the athletes to hold the figure skating portion of the winter games at Codey Arena.
“Because we have so many athletes who train at Codey Arena, the Skylands facility where they had all the games previously is very nice, but during the week it is so hard for athletes to get there,” Vanderhoof said. “With the figure skating event in West Orange, it is easier to accommodate the athletes and it is a beautiful facility. The Essex Skating Club is hosting a skating competition the same day so it will be easier to combine resources with judging and other things in place because there is a lot that goes into account in competition.”
The 2014 winter games are a three-day overnight event where hundreds of athletes from around the state will compete in six sports. Figure skating will take place on Sunday in West Orange; speed skating will take place at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm; and snow boarding, skiing and snowshoeing will take place at Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ. All winter events, apart from figure skating, will be held Jan. 27 to 29.
Vanderhoof stated the figure skating winter game is an exciting opportunity for the community to support the special skaters of New Jersey and their volunteer coaches.
“It is really exciting to see these kids get better and a lot of the volunteers who coach them are kids are from West Orange and members of the community,” Vanderhoof said. “It’s really exciting how most of them are coached by teenager volunteers and its great to see how well they get these kids to perform.”
For more information on the 2014 Winter Games, visit the Special Olympics of New Jersey website here.