By CBS3 Staff


CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) – Emily Hardy has been doing this for four years. Widener University has been doing it even longer.

Hardy, a senior basketball player at Widener, enjoys working on the higher-level courts during the Special Olympics Pennsylvania events.

“Watching how hard they go, the teams there are very competitive,” Hardy said. “It’s awesome to watch. You walk into the gym, where everyone’s at, it’s a great atmosphere. Everyone’s smiling. We’re all high-fiving each other. It’s just an awesome experience.”

Hardy was one of roughly 250 Widener student-athletes and more than 300 volunteers Saturday during the college’s 14th annual Special Olympics Invitational at its athletic facilities.

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Widener teamed up with the Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Delaware County chapter to host a score of activities from basketball games to swimming races. About 500 Special Olympians from nine counties participated in the activities.

“Giving back to the community, this is the best thing I can think of,” Hardy said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s just a different experience, you have to be here to experience it. It’s just awesome.”

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Denise Dellaratta, co-manager of the Delaware County Special Olympics, said events like Saturday’s “really make our athletes regular athletes” and praised the effort the volunteers and student-athletes put in to make it happen.

“They make our athletes feel like they’re regular athletes just like any other collegiate athlete,” Dellaratta said.

“That being said, we would not be here without the athletes who remain our true inspiration,” she added.