Beyond Campus: Todd Pelazza Helps Bring Special Olympics to Caribbean
Todd Pelazza, director of Public Safety, has his hand in many causes. (In fact, he and Jim Fitzpatrick ’70, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, just got back from leading the annual “Amazing Breaks” spring service trip to Kentucky!) But Special Olympics is one cause close to Pelazza’s heart. He got involved with the program in the early 1980s, when Fairfield University hosted its first summer games.
“Meeting the athletes was my ‘hook’,” said Pelazza. “I wanted to get more involved.”
After serving for nine years on its council, Pelazza is now a co-director of the state’s Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics. In 2011, Special Olympics International developed a program for existing programs to “adopt” others in countries where the organization was just getting started. Connecticut took on St. Kitts and Nevis—a poor but beautiful set of two small Caribbean islands southeast of St. Martin.
For the past two years, LETR has sponsored officials from St. Kitts to come to Connecticut and shadow the summer Special Olympics games. This February, for the first time, Pelazza and 14 others from Connecticut went to the island on a five-day trip to help them run their National Games and first Law Enforcement Torch Run. Volunteers worked closely with members of the St. Kitts police, military, and customs departments to help run the track and field competition. Almost 200 athletes participated, and the whole event was rated as very successful.
“Getting to meet and work alongside the officers at the games in St. Kitts was so energizing. Seeing how each person can make a difference and change someone’s life is very humbling,” said Pelazza.
Obviously, besides the talent and courage of the athletes themselves, one thing that’s “special” about Special Olympics is the volunteers like Pelazza who make these games possible.
The program became an official student Club in 2009, founded by Bianca De Angelo ’12, with about 15 students involved in organizing and fundraising and creating awareness. Pelazza is the advisor to the club. Fairfield University has been a top University fundraiser in Connecticut the past seven years.
“Years ago there weren’t any programs like Special Olympics,” said Pelazza. “The benefits for athletes are not just in competition. It’s seeing their overall development that is the most rewarding. Fundraisng is great, but creating better awareness is what it’s all about.”
(Pictured above: Angela D’Amico, CT Special Olympics athlete and final leg torch runner; Lt. Donald Crabtree of Wethersfield, Conn., Police Department and LETR Council Co-Director; Todd Pelazza; Max Zionts, CT Special Olympics athlete and final leg torch runner; and Ivor Davis, St. Kitts government official and Special Olympics Board member.)