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Special Olympics Abbey Russano
• May 29, 2019

Torch Run & Pep Rally set for June 7 in Mount Laurel

It was crunch time for Abbey Russano last June, with her high school finals fast approaching and the start of intensive training for the upcoming fall tennis season.

However, her passion for volunteering took precedence, so she spent nearly 30 hours over three days at the Special Olympics Summer Games in Trenton, NJ. The 17-year-old Bridgewater Raritan High School junior wanted to repay the rewards she gets coaching Special Olympic players from the Bridgewater/Warren area.

"I am inspired by all the players every time I go to practice," Abbey said. "They put in so much effort and care so much. They have fun and make me laugh every practice."

The Special Olympics are a year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual diverse disabilities. TD is among the supporters of this important program, with a goal for 2019 to raise over $1 million for Special Olympics in the states located within the Bank's footprint. This campaign reflects the drivers of The Ready Commitment to build a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow for all.

Teen will be among speakers at TD Torch Run & Special Olympics Pep Rally

Abbey is proud to be a TD Customer because of the Bank's support of the Special Olympics and other charitable causes.

"I love to support businesses that prioritize the needs of our community," she said.

Abbey is also excited to be among the speakers at the TD Torch Run & Special Olympics Pep Rally ceremony taking place at TD University in Mount Laurel, NJ on June 7, starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at noon. The event will kick-off the New Jersey Special Olympics Summer Games.

Volunteering helps put busy life in perspective

On the tennis court, Abbey is the top player for her high school team which finished in third in the state, and she was ranked #45 among the top 100 recruits in the U.S. by Tennis Recruiting. She's also an outstanding student, accomplished French horn player and track runner.

But for Abbey, the most important time of the week is her volunteer work with the Special Olympics athletes.

"The practices each weekend are a time to totally unplug and focus on someone other than myself," she said. "Watching the players’ faces light up after hitting a great shot and watching them express who they are through tennis really helps put my life into proper perspective. "

Special Olympics athletes are second family

Abbey started volunteering with a track and field Special Olympics team when she was in middle school. She decided to combine her love of tennis with the Special Olympics in high school. Her enthusiasm for the program has spread to other local area high school tennis players who cite her passion as the reason they got involved.

"It was so noble of Abbey to give back to the community in that way, and I wanted to lift people up as she does," said Maylin Zhu, a sophomore tennis player for Watchung Hills Regional High School.

This upcoming fall will be Abbey's last with the Bridgewater/Warren area Special Olympics program as she will be starting her senior year. She does plan to volunteer with the program wherever she goes to college.

"The Special Olympics community is like a second family that I have become so close to over the past few years," Abbey said. "When I return home to New Jersey over the summer, I will attend the practices whenever I can."

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