The Knights of Columbus keep Special Olympics Southern California’s athletes, volunteers and staff fueled during Fall Games, preparing and serving thousands of meals over the two-day event.
But the work starts even earlier than that.
Steve Bolton, a member of Knights of Columbus for 18 years, was the lead who helped the service organization get involved with Fall Games.
“My biggest reason to join the Knights was so I could get access to more volunteers to help out with meal services,” said Bolton, whose regular involvement with SOSC started in Orange County in the mid-1990s.
But Bolton remembers attending his first Special Olympics event in 1984, volunteering as a hugger at the end of the track.
“It just changed me,” he said, “and I’ve been coming back ever since.”
As an organization, the Knights of Columbus have been involved with Special Olympics since 1968, when the Order helped Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her husband, Sargent, a longtime Knight, host the first international Special Olympics Summer Games in Chicago. In Southern California, there are more than 340 local Knights of Columbus Councils.
Earlier this March, the Knights of Columbus received the Special Olympics Southern California Champion Award at the A World of Difference fundraiser. The honor recognizes outstanding commitment to those in need and enriching the lives of the athletes and communities. Bolton and countless others assist year-round at regional competitions, and the help is only growing.
Bolton said groups in San Diego, Inland Empire and Ventura are starting to form and coordinate with SOSC.
But Fall Games remains the biggest event for the group. Bolton said the preparation starts on the Thursday prior to Fall Games, and he credits the affectionately named “dog pound” workers for coordinating the logistics and unloading the equipment.
“I’ll pull up and have a large truck full of stuff, and they’ll do whatever they have to support me and make sure everything is organized,” Bolton said. “It’s a really good team effort.”
On the first day of competition, Bolton said the group’s day starts around 6:30 a.m. at Fountain Valley Recreation Center & Sports Park and isn’t over until the next day’s meals are prepped.
However, planning out the two days can present its challenges, he said.
“We always have a target attendance for Saturday, but a lot of times Saturday gets a little out of control,” Bolton said. “We’ve had years where we’ve had to use some of the supplies that we planned to use for Sunday and use them on Saturday, and then replenish Saturday afternoon.”
This year, the estimate is 1,800 meals on Saturday and 2,300 meals on Sunday. The spike on Day 2 is contributed to the one-day bowling competition off-site at nearby Fountain Bowl.
Bolton encourages anyone who has not experienced a Special Olympics event firsthand to attend.
“I think sometimes people don’t realize how lucky they are in life,” he said. “It’s a humbling experience, it’s a togetherness kind of experience.”
Join us at Fall Games on November 11 and 12 in Fountain Valley as more than 900 athletes from across Southern California reach for the gold in bowling, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit our website at SOSC.org/fallgames.