INSIDE SOSC: ‘Exhilarated’ Athletes, and Rafer Johnson’s Life on Display

Five competitions were on the schedule this past weekend and was in Chino Hills and Bakersfield for a pair events.

Plus, an exhibit showcasing the life of Special Olympics Southern California founder Rafer Johnson is the newest addition to the LA84 Foundation Library.

Inspiring Athletes Find Own Inspiration

The cold clouds couldn’t deter more than 250 Special Olympics athletes from competing in the Pomona Valley Area Games on Saturday. The parking lots were full by 8:30 a.m., and they stayed that way until the final races and medal ceremonies were completed in the afternoon.

Bocce, as well as track and field were the stages that the athletes took to for the day. Athlete Michael Cobb competes in bocce and bowling, but says that bocce is better for him. He says that the reason he loves Special Olympics and competing is because it has brought him great friends and teammates.

While he loves the game, that’s not the only reason he still competes.

“My dad passed away,” Michael said. “I miss him so much.”

For Michael, competing in bocce is a way to continue to make his father proud. “He’s up there,” he said as he pointed up to the sky. “He is an awesome dad, he’s always been there for me, and I’m so blessed to have him in my life.”

Bocce wrapped up before track and field competitions did, as there were multiple events such as the long jump, shot put, softball throw, and track races. Medals were distributed by law enforcement and several volunteers, and the smiles on the podium were never ending throughout the day.

The Healthy Athletes booth was also full of athletes all day, as they received care and tips for a well-balanced lifestyle. All in all, it was another great weekend of regional competitions in the books for Special Olympics Southern California.

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A Day at the Pool

Meanwhile, 150 miles away, a 90-degree day didn’t stop 70 athletes representing Kern County, Mojave River, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria at the Kern County regional swimming competition.

The event, hosted at the North of the River community pool, featured 17 individual events of various levels – including assisted swim races – and a pair of relays. A rotation of 50 volunteers, including Bakersfield College nursing students, helped out in areas ranging from setup to awards to timekeeping.

Joseph Johnson STORY

Kern County swimmer Joseph Johnson

Kern County athlete Joseph Johnson was among the busier competitors on the afternoon. The 30-year-old won gold medals in the 25-meter backstroke and 50-meter freestyle, as well as a bronze in the 25-meter freestyle.

When he’s in the water racing, Joseph said he feels “exhilarated.”

“It feels good,” Joseph said after receiving his medal for the backstroke.

“Special Olympics is a great place for people like me, and others who are developmentally disabled. I think it’s a good way to keep our energy up.”

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LA84 Foundation Opens Rafer Johnson Exhibit

Special Olympics Southern California founder Rafer Johnson is the subject of a new exhibit that opened Monday at the LA84 Foundation Library in Los Angeles.

The exhibit, entitled Rafer Johnson. His Life. His Impact., explores a life of humility, service and achievement, and the items were curated by Rafer and his family. Such items include his 1955 Pan American Games jersey, the 1958 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year trophy, letters written to Rafer including from such notable figures as Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and much more.

“It is an honor for the LA84 Foundation to present this look at the life and impact of Rafer Johnson, as we thank him for his 34 years of service to the communities we support,” said Renata Simril, President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation, in a statement. “Rafer has lived his life in the service of others, and his humanitarian, civil rights and civic achievements are even more powerful than the status he held as the ‘world’s greatest athlete.”

Public viewing of the exhibit will be available by appointment and during open house, and will be on display through December. A digital version of the exhibit is available here.

Inside the SOSC is a blog managed by staff member Tracy McDannald. SOSC staff member Chris Jones and volunteers Tessa Sechler and Julie Devine contributed to this report. 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.

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