Five of Delaware’s very best were given a royal sendoff on Friday as they set off for the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Their numbers comprised three athletes, one coach, and one law enforcement representative who will represent their country as part of the US team March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Tennis player Andrew Crout of Newark, bowler Eddie Joyner of Middletown and Dover’s Patricia Pecora, a swimmer, will be joined by Team USA’s tennis coach Mary Moore of Wilmington. Master Corporal Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police is Delaware’s representative in the Law Enforcement Torch Run final leg.
At a Newark ceremony hosted by Bank of America, Ann Grunert, executive director of Special Olympics Delaware, said the pride and work ethic the five representatives have brought to the state is inspiring. “An event of this magnitude is a life-changing experience for anyone who attends in any role, and we are very excited to follow their efforts and hear about their experiences.”
Bank of America is a longtime supporter of Special Olympics in Delaware and nationally, and Andrew Crout is a bank employee.
The games in Abu Dhabi will be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world in 2019. More than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing more than 192 nations will participate in 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in venues throughout Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The US will be represented by 215 athletes, 65 coaches and dozens of delegation members who support team operations. Team members will compete in 18 of the 24 sports offered: athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football (soccer), golf, gymnastics – artistic, gymnastics – rhythmic, open water swimming, powerlifting, sailing, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, and volleyball.
Every two years Special Olympics athletes come together to compete at the World Games, alternating summer and winter sports.
This will be the first Special Olympics World Games held in the Middle East/North Africa region. The 2019 edition is expected to be the largest Special Olympics World Games in history. An estimated 7,500 athletes from 192 nations will compete in 24 Olympic-type sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics – artistic, gymnastics – rhythmic, handball, judo, kayaking, open water swimming, powerlifting, roller skating, sailing, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, and volleyball.
Special Olympics Delaware provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for 4,200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Bios of Delaware’s delegation:
Athlete • Bowling • Middletown, Delaware
Eddie Joyner says that Special Olympics has enabled him to meet more people and develop a love for playing sports. Those sports include bocce, basketball and bowling. Eddie also works at the Delaware Department of Transportation, where he has been employed for 28 years.
He enjoys volunteering at church activities and watching professional sports, both live and on television. “I love playing with my team and am looking forward to participating with other athletes and making new friends at World Games,” says Eddie.
Athlete • Tennis • Newark, Delaware
Andrew Crout’s life journey brought him from Texas to Delaware with stops in Michigan and Maryland in between. He has been competing in Special Olympics since the mid-1980s in the sports of softball, bocce, bowling, basketball and tennis.
He says that Special Olympics has enabled him to become more active and more social. He has been employed with MBNA/Bank of America for 25 years and received a “Top Performance” award in 2013.
He enjoys traveling, going to sports and social events, fishing and jet-skiing. This will be Andrew’s first competition outside of Delaware. “Competing at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is my biggest award. I’m looking forward to playing against people from other countries.”
Athlete • Swimming • Dover, Delaware
Patricia Pecora has been competing in Special Olympics for 13 years in the sports of swimming, basketball, and soccer. When she is not practicing or competing she is working out on the treadmill for up to an hour each day.
Patricia is the chairperson of her area’s athlete leadership team and has a full-time job at a local nursing home. “Attending Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and representing the United States will be the most exciting thing I have ever done,” she says.
Head Coach • Tennis • Wilmington, Delaware
Mary Moore has attended more than 10 Special Olympics World and USA Games in a variety of roles. She is one of the main people responsible for the beginning of Special Olympics Unified Sports more than 30 years ago in Delaware before most states were offering it.
She is an adapted physical education teacher and the varsity tennis head coach at Ursuline Academy. She has also coached volleyball at Aquinas Academy and has coached nearly every Special Olympics sport. Mary is a member of the Special Olympics Delaware Hall of Fame. “Special Olympics has made me a better person,” she says.
MCpl Gary Fournier, DSP
Torch Run Final Leg • Felton, Delaware
Gary Fournier has been involved with Delaware’s Torch Run for the past 22 years. In 2012, Gary became a member of the Delaware Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Executive Committee and in 2015, was given the privilege of being selected as a support staff for the Special Olympics Unified Relay in Delaware.
Gary has been the State Police Motorcycle Supervisor for the last 15 years and has coordinated escorts for Special Olympics Delaware (SODE) such as the Flame of Hope, Ride to the Tide, and The Truck Convoy. Gary also volunteers his time and participates in Dodge-Ball Madness, Run to the Plunge 5k, and the annual Polar Bear Plunge. “I am proud to carry the flame of hope so that all people with physical and intellectual disabilities will be treated equally and given every opportunity available to achieve success.”
Photos courtesy Jennifer Paige