By Brandon HENSLEY
Los Angeles is currently having a memorable week hosting the Special Olympics World Games, and the city of Glendale is proud to play a large role. Athletes from the Dominican Republic, Bonaire and Armenia ran the last leg of the Special Olympics torch run that ended on July 22 at the Americana at Brand.
Law enforcement and volunteers, including those from Montrose Church, were on hand to either run with the athletes or cheer them on. Over 6,500 athletes from 165 countries have descended upon L.A. for the Games.
“This is awesome! I am so honored to run alongside officers from around the world committed to raising awareness for Special Olympics,” said John Norris, a Special Olympics athlete who jogged with the flame to the front of the stage. “Joining them as a guardian of the flame is a dream come true.”
Glendale was chosen as a host town, which means it is one of 85 local communities to house the athletes and coaches from July 25 to Aug. 2. Events such as basketball, power lifting, running and bocce ball are being held at facilities at USC, UCLA and Long Beach.
Norris, a Virginia native, ran track and cross-country in high school. Since then, he has competed in three marathons. He said being a part of Special Olympics has helped his confidence.
“Special Olympics Games show the community around us that people with intellectual disabilities are talented and gifted enough to be celebrated. Special Olympics is a way of life for me.”
That’s the purpose of the organization, said Special Olympics CEO Jane Froetscher. She emphasized the need for people with intellectual disabilities to be included more in society.
“Unfortunately, they’re left out of our health systems, our education systems, our communities, our families, in every way shape and form,” she said, noting that there are almost 200 million people in the world with intellectual disabilities. “The reason they’re being left out is because they’re perceived as being worthless.”
Special Olympics World Games CEO Patrick McClenahan agreed with Froetscher’s sentiments.
“What we can do for people with intellectual disabilities is change the hearts and minds of people without intellectual disabilities,” said McClenahan, who graduated from Hoover High School and has a special needs daughter. “So kids can befriend them in schools. So employers can hire them for jobs. That’s what this is all about – awareness that leads to acceptance and inclusion.”
The closing ceremonies will take place at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Sunday night.