One of the best attended and enthusiastic sporting events comes to CV on Saturday
By Mary O’KEEFE
On Saturday, athletes, coaches, volunteers and fans-in-the-stands will be at the Crescenta Valley High School track for the Tri-Valley Special Olympics. It continues a long tradition of athletic excellence and volunteer spirit.
It was in the spring of 2009 that CV CAN (Crescenta Valley is Committed to Athletic Needs) brought Special Olympics to CVHS. CV CAN was a grass roots organization formed to support athletes. Its first large goal was to raise over $1 million to replace the track and field at CVHS. In an informational video, CV CAN co-founder Grace Chase explained that the organization began with the track and field goal and, once it was accomplished, the members looked for another goal to work toward.
Chase’s sister is intellectually disabled and she knew of Special Olympics. CV CAN reached out to Special Olympics and offered to host games.
“We had hundreds of people from three high schools and local athletes from our community [participating],” she said.
By the end of the event, Chase said they were all hooked and wanted to continue hosting the games. The Tri-Valley Regional Spring Games have been at CVHS track and field ever since, only missing one year when Chase’s sister suffered a stroke. In 2014, CV CAN partnered with Montrose Church, whose members have taken the event to new heights, adding basketball and bocce ball.
“They took Special Olympics under their wing and into their hearts,” Chase added.
In the same video, president and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California Bill Shumard praised members of Montrose Church for stepping up and taking responsibility for the event.
Kim Villa was a member of Montrose Church that first year of involvement and is now program specialist with Special Olympics Santa Clarita and Tri-Valley Region.
Saturday’s event will host athletes from local areas as well as those from Kern and Ventura counties, Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita, the Tri-Valley and Orange County.
“The most special thing about this event is the way our community embraces our athletes and the way our athletes impact the people,” Villa said.
She added the competition touches people in ways they could never imagine. Often the fans-in-the-stands may see an athlete complete the race but what they don’t know is the story of how that athlete got to the finish line.
There was a girl, Villa said, who was competing in a race. She crossed the finish line and her mom was there to hug her because it was the first time she was able to complete a race.
“Our volunteers get to take part in the big life stories that impact our athletes,” Villa said.
But beyond the reasons and obstacles are the athletes who train and push themselves to compete. At the end of the day their muscles hurt as much as any other athlete’s.
Michael Leon is a 19-year-old athlete. He is a CVHS graduate who knows competition well.
“I have been competing since fifth grade,” Leon said of his athletic history.
In the past he competed in track and field, but for the past two years has turned his skills to basketball. On Saturday he will compete in basketball. Although he works at the Pacoima Early Education Center, he finds time for practice.
“I have been [in training] since February,” Leon said. He usually plays center and is looking forward to competing.
“Our team looks better this year,” he said. “We have more height.”
Coaches volunteer their time as well to work with the athletes.
“The rewards come in small packages, sometimes it’s just an athlete running down the court … [Goals] are different for each athlete but they all deserve respect,” Villa said.
Like in all sports, athletes love being cheered on.
“We push for fans-in-the-stands,” Villa said. “It means a lot to the athletes and to the parents to have their kids celebrated by other people.”
Everyone is invited to come to the Special Olympic events on Saturday at CVHS track; rain or shine, opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. with competition beginning at 10 a.m. Games will conclude at 3 p.m.