As Thanksgiving Day approaches, the athletes and supporters of Special Olympics Southern California have demonstrated throughout the year that there is plenty to be thankful for when it comes to their personal experiences.
Whether it’s through learning the basics of a new sport or simple encouragement, SOSC athletes continue to see their coaches as so much more.
For Angela Zhu of Pomona Valley, her role model happens to be one of her coaches, Kim Ennis McCrory.
“She always is able to encourages us to practice to our very best. She makes Special Olympics a very memorable experience for us,” said Angela, prior to winning a bronze medal with her women’s basketball team at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle this summer.
Peer to peer, the athletes also continue to be thankful for one another. Ask just about any of the 37,100-plus athletes throughout Southern California what are among their favorite aspects and friendships will be a common theme.
SOSC continues to give so many not only a platform to compete, but an extended family of friends.
“I love being here at the games because I get to spend time with my ‘sports family.’ They are special to me,” softball athlete Titus Parsons said at this year’s Fall Games in Fountain Valley.
Competition, of course, is still high on the list of many athletes. After all, the playing field makes them equals. In addition, though, it’s the fans in the stands who give the athletes that extra adrenaline rush to compete.
That atmosphere is not lost on the athletes nor their families.
“Sometimes being inclusive in a mainstream world is kind of hard. [Special Olympics] builds their confidence,” said Sheila Anderson, mother of standout bowler Del Anderson II, at this year’s bowling championship.
SOSC athletes will continue to inspire the people in their communities who take the time to watch them flourish and hear their stories of perseverance.
Volunteers like Keo Ponce, a Cal State San Bernardino soccer player who first got involved in high school with Special Olympics Hawaii, find the time rewarding.
“To see [the athletes] out here competing, it’s a fun experience. Every single time I’ve done it, it’s really awesome,” he said at the Pomona Valley Spring Area Games in Chino Hills earlier this year.
Even those at the top of the organization will always bring it back to the athletes and what they unknowingly give in return: the example of respect and inclusion set in motion for the world to learn from and adopt.
“It’s so humbling,” said Bill Shumard, President and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California for the past 14 years.
“I don’t think they realize what they do for us. We get involved because we want to help the athlete, and at the end of the day they help us.”
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.