Skip Navigation

Athletes Team Up with Special Olympics NH


Keene State College doesn’t have a bowling team, but that didn’t stop several Owl student athletes from hitting the lanes on Saturday. However, instead of bowling, Owl athletes were volunteering at the New Hampshire Special Olympics Bowling Tournament at Yankee Lanes in Keene.

Helping to spearhead an initiative by the Keene State Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), four KSC varsity teams – men’s soccer, baseball, women’s lacrosse, and softball – took part in the event, assisting with scoring, keeping balls in the alleys and out of the gutters, and providing overall support to the local Special Olympians who were taking part in the state tournament.

Keene State’s Student Athlete Advisor and Head Softball Coach Carrah Fisk Hennessey ’99 says the bowling tournament was a good way to get the ball rolling, building a connection between Keene State and Special Olympics New Hampshire. “We are excited to embrace the national partnership NCAA DIII has with Special Olympics, and this is the ideal opportunity to increase our local, regional, and statewide involvement,” said Fisk Hennessey.

The Keene State athletes, who volunteered in two shifts and were dispersed among the 22 lanes, had a chance to interact with the Special Olympians and make new friends. “We had an absolute blast,” said junior Conor Leahy, a member of the KSC men’s soccer team from Beverly, MA. “The Special Olympics athletes were so happy to be there. Even if they weren’t hitting many pins, they were celebrating every time.”

Leahy said watching the Special Olympics athletes gave him a different perspective on sports. “We get excited when we score a goal and they get just as excited when they knock down a pin,” he said. “The spirit they have is just unbelievable. They get very excited over their athletic accomplishments too. It was a good learning experience.”

“Our athletes are so appreciative. They look up to anyone who volunteers and treat them like celebrities,” said Jeanna Brening, who has worked for 25 years as a coach and administrator with Special Olympics New Hampshire. “The interaction and the friendship between the Keene State athletes and the Special Olympians are awesome. I think it gives the college athletes a little more understanding of what sports is all about at this level and what goes into working with kids with different disabilities.”

“Volunteers are the heart of Special Olympics and getting the young people at the high school and college level involved will help the organization continue to grow,” said Mike Salce, who has been associated with Special Olympics for 36 years. “The Keene State athletes provide our kids with a different insight surrounding sports, so I think it’s going to be a great partnership.”

According to Fisk Hennessey, the bowling tournament is the first of many events that will bring Keene State and Special Olympics New Hampshire together. In addition to providing volunteers for other competitions, the College will also host a Special Olympics athlete leadership program Jan. 26 in the Student Center’s Mabel Brown Room. The event, which begins at 6 p.m., will showcase five Special Olympics athletes who will share their stories and speak about how they’ve become leaders of their programs.

“Keene State has a strong athletic tradition and a rich history of success, but I think sometimes the joy in that success can be lost with the amount of work that we are expected to do every single day,” said Fisk Hennessey. “Working with Special Olympics is going to be a very humbling experience for us and will also be an experience that I think people will remember for a very long time.”

Related Stories

Contact Keene State College

229 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03435