The look of accomplishment when a medal goes around a Special Olympics Southern California athlete’s neck is as pure of an emotion as there is at Summer Games, and there were plenty of proud faces to be found Sunday at Cal State Long Beach and nearby Recreation 9 golf course.
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Sisters Catherine and Keisha Lugito of Pomona Valley were extra thrilled for one another – they’re Unified golf partners and earned gold in their division.
“It’s been a really great journey just to see her grow, as not only a golfer but also an individual,” Keisha, 18, said. “Special Olympics has done so much to help her in the process to be just like anyone else. It’s been a blessing to be here.”
Catherine, 26, just started playing golf in February and has relied on her younger sister to improve on the links.
“My sister is good at playing and helped me for the golf team,” Catherine said.
Kathy Gelsey watched her son, Raymond, also medal as an individual golfer for the South Bay. Prior to joining Special Olympics, he had never picked up a golf club.
Away from the course, Kathy said the growth has been just as significant and has benefitted the whole family.
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“Raymond has got into a lot of friendships through Special Olympics,” she said. “As far as the parents go, we all hang out together. So it’s been great for all of us.”
For Sintya Escobar, watching her 15-year-old brother Andy come away with a medal as a first-year competitor was an emotional moment. He competed in three events – the 25- and 50-meter races as well as the softball throw – and earned gold in the latter.
Sintya said a closer bond has strengthened the family since Andy got involved with Special Olympics.
“Every time he wins, we get so excited,” said Sintya, who attended along with their mother. “Makes me want to cry every time.
“This whole event is a special moment.”