As Special Olympics celebrates 50 years, the organization is still creating new, exciting experiences for the athletes, families and fans.
New thrills were a theme Saturday during Day 1 of the 2018 Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games at Cal State Long Beach.
Alton Davis watched as his 5-year-old daughter Alexsandra showcased her infectious energy during the Young Athletes Rising Stars basketball experience in the Pyramid. After her first made basket, Alexsandra sprinted toward the Fans in the Stands in the baseline and high-fived the audience cheering her and her fellow Young Athletes on.
For Alton, who loves sports, it was touching to watch his daughter be applauded and supported for her efforts by a gym full of spectators in an inclusive environment.
“It means so much,” he said. “For her to get out here and interact with the other kids, it means a lot.”
There were plenty of events and festivities that have been a staple of the Summer Games experience each year – including basketball, bocce, swimming, and track and field competitions. Athletes also were treated to a flag football demonstration this year.
Stations, provided by the Los Angeles Rams, allowed any potential quarterbacks to test their arm and other skills. The demonstration continued the introduction of flag football to SOSC athletes before it becomes an official sport in 2019.
Athletes from Antelope Valley and Tri-Valley Studio City even took part in a scrimmage to show off their skills to the venue’s visitors.
“It’s a new sport, new people and new adventures,” said Cody Taylor, an athlete for Antelope Valley who also participates in basketball and softball.
Other highlights included several of the 66 athletes selected to represent Southern California at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in July.
Meanwhile, Rams football player Johnny Hekker and Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions senior vice president Andy Barker headlined the annual Rafer Johnson Breakfast with Champions. Hekker served as the keynote speaker while Barker, an SOSC board member, received the Rafer Johnson Humanitarian Award.
At Opening Ceremony, more than 400 law enforcement personnel attended – an all-time high for the event.
“There’s joy that you can’t explain,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain Kim Unland, who doubles as the Law Enforcement Torch Run director for SOSC. “[The athletes] overcome their challenges, have big hearts and give their love.”
That’s only a taste of all the excitement that kicked off the Games. Tomorrow’s competitions will begin with basketball at 8 a.m. and all other sports are scheduled to start an hour later, with medal ceremonies running throughout the day. Closing Ceremony will begin at 3 p.m.