Every year, Fall Games attracts more than 900 athletes throughout Special Olympics Southern California’s footprint. The common bond is most of, if not all, the athletes have overcome some sort of adversity via intellectual disability to compete and showcase their capabilities.
The volunteers and fans in attendance certainly took notice Saturday for the first day of competition at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center and Sports Park.
“All Special Olympics athletes are determined and enjoying the games,” said Sophia Dent, 16, a volunteer from San Diego assisting at the Fan Experience. “I would highly recommend getting involved. I would like a group of my high school friends to come volunteer the next time.”
Inspirational athletes could be found at each venue – whether it was soccer, softball, tennis or volleyball. Among them was Shayan Rahimimanesh, a Tri-Valley tennis player from Burbank.
His mother, Gilla Ghorbani, who doubles as a Special Olympics coach, said Shayan had open-heart surgery when he was 2 years old and “the doctors didn’t know if he would survive.”
“But now he’s social and very active, much more active than my sons (without an intellectual disability). He even takes classes at community college,” Ghorbani added.
The athletes also appreciate the support the volunteers and Fans in the Stands show at each competition outside of the two-day event.
Cody Stelling, a softball player who plays first base for the Simi Valley Stars, has been an athlete for two years. The 22-year-old said in that short time he’s witnessed an atmosphere filled with “awesome” people.
“Special Olympics has changed my life,” he said. “I am more committed now than I was before. I learned about teamwork and working with others.”
For more thoughts from athletes, coaches and volunteers, catch up on what they were saying on Day 1 at Fall Games.
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. Fall Games media volunteers contributed to this report.