Fifty years of progress can be difficult to sum up succinctly. The athletes of Special Olympics Southern California instead showed what that progress looks like over the weekend at Cal State Long Beach.
The organization, which is celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2019, wrapped up the annual two-day Summer Games competition on Sunday. More than 1,100 athletes showcased their abilities in athletics (track and field), basketball, bocce, flag football and swimming.
The event attracted more than 12,000 fans over the two days, including 2,000 volunteers.
Other athletes had reasons to celebrate beyond the playing, too. For Max Grasso of Orange County, the venue served as host to his team’s flag football games and his recent college graduation. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art as part of the Class of 2019.
“Every time I come back and compete at this venue, I think of all the great memories I had here at The Beach,” Max said. “Thanks to everyone out there who supported and continues to support us always!”
Special Olympics Southern California only continues to grow, as evidenced by the first year of flag football competitions. Also spotted over the weekend were a number of traditional and Unified cheerleading teams, and the sport will officially be part of the rotation for athletes to compete and medal in 2020.
Naturally, some were ready to start looking forward and get a start on the next 50 years.
“The sky is the limit,” said Lynette Ingram, cheer director of the Long Beach Beauties cheer team made up solely of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“We started in August of 2018 to get ready for when cheer becomes a sport with Special Olympics (Southern California).”