February 5, 2020

First Ever Festival of Inclusion Announced is March 1st – Will Kick off This Year’s Regional Spread the Word Inclusion Campaign

1st Ever Festival of Inclusion - 2020

The Golisano Foundation, Special Olympics, and Best Buddies are joining together to host the first ever Festival of Inclusion on Sunday, March 1. The inspirational day of fun and games is free and will be held at the new Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College, 4245 East Ave in Rochester from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The new event will kick-off the annual Spread the Word Inclusion campaign.

Ann Costello, Golisano Foundation Executive Director said, “We are proud to build on our annual Spread the Word Inclusion campaign making an even bigger impact to stop all types of discrimination against people including those with intellectual disabilities. This new Festival of Inclusion will celebrate the impressive shifts we have made over the last decade and promote what still needs to be done. We’re asking for organizations to get involved and for people to take the pledge and show us how they will more inclusive in their schools, workplaces, and community. Working together we can inspire acceptance and advocate for respectful words and actions in all aspects of our lives.”

Festival of Inclusion Event Highlights

  • Sports activities including “East vs. West” unified basketball tournament, pickleball, cheerleading, and tennis
  • Music & dance fun with dance troops, singing groups, DJ and dance party
  • Photo booth
  • Community inclusion stations featuring interactive and creative activities and demonstrations from 40+ regional organizations.
  • A pep rally
  • Food trucks located outside the Golisano Training Center entrance
  • Tours of local department fire trucks, police cruisers, and other emergency vehicles

This year’s Spread the Word Day of activation is Wednesday, March 4. The campaign was created and reimagined by youth, and is intended to engage schools, organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support of inclusion and to promote respect and acceptance of people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

David Quilleon, Best Buddies Senior Vice President and Festival of Inclusion official emcee said, “I live my life each day to make an impact in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by promoting the power of friendship. Inclusion is important in this idea as it cultivates friendship and diversity while creating a more empathetic and welcoming culture. Inclusion unites the authenticity of all of us. With a commitment to an open heart, we celebrate the abilities and contributions of everyone in our world.”

Stacey Hengsterman, Special Olympics New York President and CEO said, “Special Olympics New York athletes and Unified partners have emerged as the leaders of a global movement to inclusion, one that is supported by community events such as the Festival of Inclusion and the annual Spread the Word campaign. We are proud to partner with the Golisano Foundation and Best Buddies once again to share the Special Olympics message of inclusion and continue our work to make New York the most inclusive state in the country.”

More Information on the Festival of Inclusion and Spread the Word Inclusion Campaign

For complete details of the event visit

About the Golisano Foundation

The Golisano Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. dedicated to making the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Foundation is devoted to opening doors to opportunity, changing negative perceptions and stereotypes, and forging unprecedented partnerships to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have pathways to personal dignity, independence and the best possible expression of their abilities and talents throughout their lifetimes. Founded in 1985 by Tom Golisano—entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader, and founder and chairman of Paychex, Inc. —the Foundation “imagines the possibilities,” advocating for families, fighting for their dignity and giving people with IDD the opportunity to thrive in their communities. With more than $55 million in gross assets and awards about $3 million annually to non-profit organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida.

About Special Olympics New York

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 170 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

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