Volunteers, spectators and lots of cheerleaders are expected to support the Special Olympics regional competition on Saturday.
By Mary O’KEEFE
In 2008, CV CAN (Crescenta Valley Committed to Athletic Needs) began a tradition that has become one of the more popular events in Crescenta Valley. It is an event where participants, spectators and volunteers all leave with a sense of accomplishment and respect for each other.
The Special Olympics will again hold its Tri-Valley Regional competition at the Susan Osborne Field at CV High School.
This year, CV CAN has turned over the organizational reins to Montrose Church, which has been a strong volunteer force for the event the past three years.
“We have partnered with CV CAN every year [of the event], but this is the third year we have played a big role in providing the volunteers,” said Kim Villa, volunteer coordinator for Montrose Church.
She added the transition from having a supportive role to organizing the volunteers seemed like a natural process. CVHS and community members volunteer in force for the event. In fact, Villa said she had to cap the adult volunteers at 175 and the student volunteers at 225, even though many more wanted to volunteer.
“Each volunteer had to go through a training session, “ Villa said.
Those sessions are important and mandatory for those who signed up to help. CV is the only regional event that partners each athlete with at least one “buddy,” Villa said.
The trained volunteers are there to support the athlete in everything from being at their side when they begin their race or team event to cheering them on and answering any questions concerning scheduling or location.
“We would love it if every single person who wanted to volunteer could,” Villa said. “The Tri-Valley staff has said this is one of their top events. They said they love coming here because they feel so embraced by the community.”
Villa added those who were not at the training sessions could still participate.
“There is plenty of room for people to be in the stands,” she said. “We have a director of fan experience and ASB (CVHS Associated Student Body) is making signs to cheer [athletes on].”
In years past, team events had been held in several locations around and on the field. This year all games will be in front of the stands.
There are 11 chapters of Special Olympics in Southern California. Each provides training for summer and fall games. The athletes who qualify at the regionals then compete in a main competition, usually held in Long Beach. This year the program is changing; the delegations will not be competing in Long Beach but in areas throughout Los Angeles in preparation for the World Games set for 2015.
The Special Olympics World Games occurs every two years. On July 25 to Aug. 2, 2015 the Summer World Games returns to the United States and will be hosted by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. For nine days, 7,000 athletes will compete in 25 sports which will be supported by 3,000 coaches and 30,000 volunteers. Athlete Villages will be located at University of Southern California (USC) and University of California L.A. (UCLA), according to Special Olympics World Games.
The athletes compete at CVHS to qualify for events leading to the World Games.
“And for the first time, Glendale has an official chapter,” Villa said. “In the past, Glendale has competed but only because we host. This is the first year they have their own chapter.”
Having a chapter means the coaches and track and field coordinators are instructed to follow specific rules and regulations.
The Special Olympics reaches beyond the chance to compete, however; it also provides an overall sense of accomplishment that really makes this event unique.
The faces of the athletes as they cross the finish line and hear the crowd cheering for them is immeasurable.
“This is their one shining moment,” Villa said. “It is a huge stage for them. It gives them something that they own.”
Villa shared a story of a volunteer’s reaction to the competition during one of the Long Beach competitions.
“His daughter has special needs and he was working the Long Beach Summer Games. The gun went off for the first race and he began to [cry],” she said. The man had tears in his eyes throughout the games.
“When the volunteers sign up to help, they [really] don’t know what they are in for. [For them and] the people in the stands, you are just captured by these [athletes’] accomplishments,” she said.
The 2014 Tri-Valley Special Olympics opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. and games continue to 3 p.m. on Saturday at CVHS Susan Osborne Field with the entrance in the 4300 block of Ramsdell Avenue. Admission is free.