by Tom Luicci
EWING TOWNSHIP, N.J. (May 30, 2014) – David Milewski’s tireless involvement in charity work is something he almost always does for the simple joy of giving. But his appearance along with 18 Rutgers football teammates and head coach Kyle Flood at Friday night’s opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics at The College of New Jersey took on a personal meaning.
Milewski, a redshirt senior defensive lineman, has a special needs cousin.
“This one really hits close to home for me,” said Milewski. “It’s close to my heart.”
Flood can certainly relate to that feeling. Now in his third year as the honorary coach of the Special Olympics, he has a special needs sister, Kimberly, who often took part as an athlete in the Special Olympic Games. She is 40 now.
“I think this is a special event in a lot of ways,” Flood said. “When you have an opportunity to give back in a venue like this you always want to. For me, having grown up with the Special Olympics and a sister who competed, it only makes it much more special.
“It gives me a chance to not only be a part of it but to give my players a chance to be exposed to, to be inspired by it, and it was a chance for me to bring my son today and allow him to experience it as well.”
But Flood knows the uniqueness of this particular event – more than 3,000 special needs athletes marched into and around The College of New Jersey football stadium – is more than enough for any volunteer.
“Anyone who has ever been a part of the Special Olympics knows you ultimately get so much more out of it than you ever put into it,” he said. “It is a little unique when you have someone in your family (who is special needs) because it sparks a lot of memories from your childhood.
“But it’s certainly not a pre-requisite. I think that everyone who is here tonight is going to be inspired.”
The Rutgers players who participated did so in more than just a ceremonial role, getting involved in interacting with the athletes before and during their march into the football stadium. Last night’s ceremony was the prelude for the Special Olympics USA Games June 14-21 throughout the greater Mercer County area.
“It’s special to be here,” said running back Paul James. “When I come to something like this I always get more out of it than I seem to give. It means a lot being able to bring happiness to people just by spending time with them.”
The Rutgers football player representation ran the gamut from true freshmen (Eric Wiafe and Marcus Applefield) to fifth-year seniors (Milewski and Michael Burton) to stars (Gary Nova, Darius Hamilton, Tyler Kroft, Steve Longa and James).
“We have a lot of guys here, young and old. A great turnout,” said Hamilton, the Scarlet Knights’ standout defensive tackle. “It shows how everyone in the program is willing to get involved and spend time doing things like this. It shows the young guys understand the importance of doing this as much as the older players do.”