GLENS FALLS — For Derek Call, a Hudson Falls native and Special Olympian, it was natural that he became coach of the Diamond Dawgs softball team in South Glens Falls at the age of 16.
Call said he grew up playing baseball with his family and continued to play in school.
“Becoming a coach requires a certain number of hours of participation in the Special Olympics, and you must be 16 years old,” he said.
Call, alongside his cousin Bryce Reynolds, who plays on the same team, addressed a group of 50 spectators at Wednesday’s press conference outside City Hall.
There were other athletes and coaches in the crowd who will be competing at this year’s Fall State Games on October 21-22.
Special Olympics New York CEO and President Stacey Hengsterman said she was confident this year would triple the number of participants.
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“We’ve been all over the state, but I think Glens Falls is my favorite place, really. It’s just made for our competitions, and the community is pretty welcoming,” she said.
Funding for the Fall Games was cut from the budget about six years ago, but in anticipation of the 50th anniversary in 2020, funding has returned, only for the games to be further delayed due to the pandemic.
Then, in 2021, the games made a disappointing comeback in 2021 due to the continuation of regulations, which limited the number of participants to between 300 and 500.
With the expected increase in attendance, Hengsterman said they need 350 volunteers this year.
“We already have 50 registered,” she said.
Mayor Bill Collins, who is also a former employee of Special Olympics New York, had been instrumental in trying to increase attendance for the event in the past.
“I don’t know if that sounds that big to you, but 1,300 people is more than ever at the Fall Games, at least in the last 18 years,” Collins said at the press conference.
“Four years ago Stacey joined the organization and made a new face and continues to grow Special Olympics New York. It is the largest such organization in the country. It was the sixth largest in the world since I last saw the stats. These athletes are going to amaze us,” Collins said.
Albany Special Olympian Ernie Dillon has been at the events for about 22 years. His favorite events to attend are softball and equestrian sports, he said Wednesday.
Various fall games include bocce, cycling, golf, equestrian sports, soccer, softball and cross-country running.
Drew Wardle is a journalist for The Post Star. You can contact him at 518-681-7343 or email him at [email protected]