In 1984 the International Games for the Disabled (now known as the Paralympics) were held on Long Island. So impressive was the spirit and determination of the world-class athletes, at that event, that New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation initiated a program to give physically challenged youth here in New York the opportunity for an athletic competition that would enrich their lives.
In the summer of 1985, New York State became the first state in the country to offer a free adapted sports program for youngsters. The Games drew 240 participants from all over the state that first summer. That number has grown to nearly 1600 athletes statewide between two regional competitions that are now held each year. Unfortunately, in December of 2010, due to the financial difficulties within the state, all funding was eliminated for the Empire State Games programs.
However, through the efforts of some very dedicated and caring individuals along with support from Camp Smile, The College at Brockport, and the community, we are proud to say that The Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged continued without interruption and will be celebrating our 35th consecutive year of competition in 2022.
Mission and Operation
- To offer physically challenged youth the exciting opportunity to participate in competitive sports and recreational activities adapted to best suit their unique abilities.
- To encourage promotion of sports for physically challenged individuals of all ages.
- To enable youth to learn and develop skills required for a successful experience in sports competition and fitness.
- To familiarize the general public with the abilities of physically challenged individuals.
- Sports achievements emphasize the abilities of the athletes, and help them develop confidence and self-esteem. Success encourages an interest in sports activity and lays the foundation for the athlete to continue on to adult competition, if they so choose.
- Open to athlete’s ages 5 – 21 years of age with a Physical Challenge.
- Physical Challenges include: Amputee, Blind and Visually Impaired, Cerebral Palsy, Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Spinal Cord
- Injured and Les Autres, a French term meaning “the other”, (Muscular Dystrophy, Dwarfism, Arthrogryposis, Cardiac or Pulmonary Disorders as well as Traumatic Brain Injuries).
- Competitive Events include: Track Events (Ambulatory, Wheelchair and Power Wheelchair), Field Events adapted for all Physical Challenges, Swimming, Archery, Slalom Courses are set up to accommodate Ambulatory, Wheelchair and Blind/Visually Impaired athletes, and Bowling.
- Each Athlete competes against other athletes of the same age group, same sex and same classification. Classifications are broken down according to Physical Challenges listed above and then again by the severity within the specific Physical Challenge (e.g. Cerebral Palsy has eleven separate classifications). Please refer to the Application Booklet for further explanation of classification breakdowns.
- Athletes compete for Gold-Silver-Bronze medals, and ribbons for 4th-6th places. All others receive a “Personal Best” ribbon for their accomplishments.
Camp Smile Inc. was established with the support of the Webster Lions Club as a 501(3)(c) not for profit entity in 1972 and the organization has operated Camp Smile since its inception. Camp Smile is a certified summer day camp for blind and visually impaired children ages 5-21. The camp is run in Webster NY and annually delivers a safe space where children can explore, experiment, grow and become confident in their own abilities through everyday challenges. Visit us on the web at www.campsmile.org and on Facebook.
In 2010 Camp Smile Inc. expanded their community reach to include operation of the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged. This decision was made in response to NY State budget cuts which put The Games at risk moving forward. We are proud to say that the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged now remains an important and sustainable tradition for the community that looks forward to them each Fall!
Dedicated members of the Webster Lions Club oversee the business and administrative activities for all Camp Smile Inc. operations, including The Games. Of course we rely on our incredible Directors, professional staff, and caring volunteers to ultimately deliver Camp Smile Inc. programming. Tremendous support is also received from the at-large community, our corporate neighbors, and a host of regional like-minded service organizations, most notably Lions and Kiwanis clubs.