This summer, Los Angeles hosted the Special Olympics World Games. It was hard to be an Angeleno and not be aware of the 7,000 inspirational athletes from around the world who honored our city by competing here and bringing our attention to the global movement to empower those with intellectual disabilities to feel accepted and valued in their communities. Many of us got involved as volunteers; some as one of the half a million “fans in the stands” that attended from around the world; but almost all of us got involved by taking note of the fact that each of us must strive for a better, more respectable, and inclusive society for everyone.
The World Games happens every four years, but every day the Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) exists daily to offer opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in year-round sports training and competition. More than 19,625 athletes and 15,000 coaches and volunteers take part in 12 Olympic-style sports.
On Nov. 14-15, the SOSC will host the 2015 Fall Games. The Fall Games will have more than 1,100 athletes competing for gold, silver, and bronze medals and ribbons, with competitors coming from as far north as San Luis Obispo County and as far south as San Diego County. Bill Shumard, President and CEO of SOSC shares that “the Fall Games are one of our two major championships each year (along with Summer Games). It’s a display of excellent athletic skills, along with the joy of competition.”
Athletes will compete throughout Orange County in six sports – bowling, floor hockey, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. The event is expected to host more than 4,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, and spectators over the course of the two-day event.
The public is invited to attend this free event and cheer on the athletes as they compete. Shumard invites the community to attend and shares that “As one of our largest competitions of the year, these Games are a great community event that provides a fun environment for families to enjoy sports competition, music, games, and more all while experiencing the true meaning of sportsmanship.” In addition to enjoying the games, athletes and spectators also can enjoy the “Festival” activities; the Festival is a place for the athletes and spectators alike to unwind after competitions. Some of the things you’ll see at the Festival include a “Prize Wheel” booth, arts and crafts, stage entertainment, the Family Pavilion, and last but not least, “hot off the press” Special Olympics souvenirs and clothing. Shumard believes that in attending the Fall Games “community members have the opportunity to witness firsthand the joy, courage, dignity and respect that our athletes display…simply put, we are everything that is good and right about sports in our society.”
Teens, we are encouraged to join the more than 15,000 volunteers, including many teenagers, to help put on Special Olympics programming. Whether it’s through sports competition, planning fundraisers, or being a fan in the stands, the involvement of us teens is very important to the success and growth of Special Olympics! I encourage you all to join me in, as Shumard describes, witnessing “the joy of success when the athletes compete. That doesn’t always translate into a gold medal, but the sheer courage an athlete puts forth to overcome their disability and fear is a sight to behold.”
SOSC more information: If you are an athlete interested in being a part of SOSC you can sign up by going to the website—www.sosc.org—and locating the SOSC office in your region. Athletes age 8 and up can participate.