By Mary O’KEEFE
On Saturday morning at 8 a.m., athletes from around Southern California will gather for a friendly, and inspiring, competition at the Susan Osborne Field in the 4300 block of Ramsdell Avenue at Crescenta Valley High School.
This is the third year that CV CAN (Crescenta Valley Committed to Athletic Needs) will sponsor the Tri-Valley Special Olympics at the high school. The first time was in 2009, but due to scheduling issues the school could not host the competition in 2011. Saturday’s competition promises to be one of the best attended.
“This year we will have about 350 athletes compete,” said Mike Padula, president of CV CAN. “And Master of Ceremonies will be Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson.”
The event has steadily grown in popularity with the first year seeing only 100 athletes, and 2010 hosting 150 competitors.
“And we have the senior [athletes] that have a bocce tournament in the upper field,” Padula added.
As in years past, the event will depend not only on the financial support of the CV CAN organization, but hundreds of volunteers from throughout the Crescenta Valley.
“When we first started, we had three to four kid [volunteers] per athlete,” Padula said.
The ratio of volunteers to athlete might be a little less now that the participant numbers have increased, but Padula predicts that over 400 volunteers will be ready to help out come Saturday morning.
“This year we opened it up to volunteers from St. Francis and La Cañada high schools as well as Clark [Magnet] and Crescenta Valley high schools,” Padula said.
Montrose Church is also partnering with the Special Olympics for the first time. They will be supplying more volunteers.
“Volunteering was a lot of fun,” said Jacob Magana, a senior with CVHS who volunteered in 2010.
Volunteers are assigned an athlete that they shadow throughout the day. The events end around 2 p.m. Volunteers are responsible for taking the athletes get to their assigned events and guiding them to other areas on the campus like the Olympic Village. The village is an area above the field that is set aside just for athletes and their volunteers.
“I remember it was great to see my athlete, who was in elementary school, cross the finish line in his race. He was one of the last ones to cross but we all went out there and cheered him on,” Magana said. “It really gave him a boost.”
The day is special not only for the athletes but also for the volunteers and audience.
“Just coming out to see the athletes, to applaud them is huge,” Padula said. “It does impact the high school volunteers.”
He added the event is growing because it touches everyone. To see the athletes compete despite all odds is inspiring, Padula said.
“At first, the athlete didn’t want anything to do with me, but by the time the [event] was over he was open to us,” Magana said. “It was really a great experience.”
CV CAN is a community organization dedicated to supporting athletics throughout the Crescenta Valley. The Susan Osborne Field where the Special Olympics are held has been refurbished and improved thanks to the efforts of the organization. CV CAN continues to support athletes from all walks of life, including those at the high school, local sports organizations and at events like the Special Olympics.
CV CAN underwrites the CVHS Hall of Fame as well. The organization is a 501c3. Anyone who would like to donate to CV CAN or who would like more information is invited to stop by the Special Olympics this Saturday.