INSIDE SOSC: Fun, Inspiration Beyond the Games

Breakfast With Champions

Steve Alford, the UCLA men’s basketball coach and keynote speaker of the event, recounted a story about how he didn’t have the 1984 Summer Olympic Games on his radar when he was a 19-year-old growing up in Indiana. Little did he know that it would be the start of something much greater, and it had nothing to do with basketball.

In his mailbox one day was an invitation to participate in the U.S. Olympic Trials, which were held in Bloomington, and his college coach Bobby Knight was leading the U.S. team. Still, he was just one of 77 invitees. Soon enough, 77 was cut down to 32, and then 12 with a pair of alternates – and he was still standing.

Lo and behold, Alford found himself not only making the team, but starting the gold medal game and celebrating alongside the likes of Michael Jordan.

Among the highlights, for him, however, was the Opening Ceremonies of the those Games. The man picked to light the torch was Rafer Johnson, the founder of Special Olympics Southern California and the namesake of the Breakfast with Champions event.

“There weren’t a lot of guys [on the team], at that time, who knew Rafer,” Alford told the crowd. “One of the things I’ll never forget is we went through a lot of different things Coach Knight would share. He shared with us who Rafer was and why Rafer was the guy who was selected to light the torch.

“One of the things that really struck me was Coach Knight talking about Special Olympics. Really, it was the first time I had heard anybody talk to me in great detail about Special Olympics.”

Shortly after the Olympics, back home in Indiana, he got his first taste of a Special Olympics event – and he hasn’t looked back.

“You see their courage, you see their passion,” Alford recalled. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what competition is all about.”

Festival

Elsewhere, the Festival area complemented the two days of competitions for the athletes and families. Sponsors from 18 different companies, such as Coca-Cola and Power Crunch, kept the attendees entertained with games, giveaways, and more.

The Festival Stage featured performances from 12 different acts. Athletes, such as Alexander Turla of the Lakewood Aliens basketball team, also proved to be big music and dance fans.

His personality showed it, too, as he wasn’t shy to bust out a few dances moves of his own in-between being interviewed.

“I’m a pro hip-hop dancer. I learned it from the Jabbawockeez,” he said, before giving a sample of his own pop-locking skills.

Dance battles were a popular occurrence at Summer Games:

Dream House Raffle

Over at the Student Union Courtyard, the eighth annual Dream House Raffle culminated with the top 30 prizes announced on-site on Sunday.

The grand prize winner was Michael Nichols of Santa Monica. Other winners included Robert Murphy of Brea (multi-ticket drawing) and Nina Ghadimi of Newport Coast (50/50 add-on drawing).

For a full list of winners and all 2,000 prizes, CLICK HERE.

Inside the SOSC is a blog written by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time. 

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