The athletes are always the central focus of any Special Olympics Southern California competition. But the execution only gets accomplished with the help of ready-and-willing volunteers.
More than 1,000 volunteers in various roles – from sports officials to law enforcement to medical teams, and everything in-between – donated their time at the 2017 Fall Games at Fountain Valley Recreation Center and Sports Park and Fountain Bowl. Some have offered decades of assistance, others were coming for just their first or second experience.
The goal was universal: Help provide a wonderful environment and atmosphere for more than 900 athletes and the families in attendance. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed by the athletes, either.
“I just love the hugs, I love being here,” said Valerie Quintana, a photographer who has volunteered for 17 years.
“When (an athlete) comes up and throws themselves at me and gives me a great, big hug that is just the best feeling in the world.”
The athletes wouldn’t be able to compete at their highest level without monitoring their health. Available to all athletes was free health screenings courtesy of volunteer clinicians.
Five Healthy Athletes stations were setup both days, examining the athletes in the form of Fit Feet, FUNFitness, Health Promotion, Healthy Hearing and Special Smiles.
Jose Rodriguez, 26, from Los Angeles was among the clinicians assisting at the Healthy Hearing station. He is a Chapman University student involved with the department of communications sciences and disorders.
Rodriguez said the interaction with the athletes “is absolutely amazing.”
“Everyone is just so kind and open to the experience,” he said. “I’m loving it.”
Throughout the weekend, several volunteers were inspired by the performances out at the bowling, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball venues.
For Bobby Santos, a second-time volunteer handing out medals at bowling, the experience “changes my perspective.”
“It feels good to help them and make them feel good,” he said.
For more thoughts from athletes, coaches and volunteers, catch up on what they were saying on Day 2 at Fall Games.
Special Olympics Southern California offers year-round sports programs, which also means year-round volunteer opportunities. For more information on how to become a volunteer, visit our website at SOSC.org/volunteer.
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.