Special Olympics Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Marymount

Nearly 100 special needs athletes from Arlington and Fairfax counties will participate in the 20th Annual Northern Virginia Special Olympics Basketball Invitational Tournament on Saturday at Marymount University’s Rose Benté Lee Center, 2807 North Glebe Road.

Sponsored by Marymount’s Office of Community Engagement, close to 300 Marymount students are expected to help make the tournament memorable for the 10 participating teams. Unique events will be held at halftime of each game, including a slam dunk competition featuring Marymount’s varsity men’s basketball team, routines by MU’s cheer team and a dance-off.

“The dance-off is always the most popular event,” said Meg Dalmut, associate director of community engagement. “Anyone in the crowd is invited down onto the floor to participate.”

Opening ceremonies are at 9 a.m. Junior and senior championship games will be held at 2 p.m., followed by the awards and closing ceremonies at 2:45 p.m.

Bernie Woolfley, who coordinates Arlington sports programs for the Special Olympics, said the university creates the same type of charged atmosphere for the tournament that it does for its home basketball games.

“That’s important because our athletes aspire to the exact same things as the rest of us, to live a life of independence and to be engaged in a variety of things that interest them,” Woolfley said. “This event gives them the opportunity to feel like college students for a day and to show them things that they can do to advance themselves in the community.”

He noted that several past participants were inspired to start taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College.

Woolfley said the basketball tournament has been so successful over the years because of Marymount’s dedication to community service.

“It’s something that’s embedded in the DNA of their students,” he added.