Hundreds of Special Olympics Southern California athletes took in back-to-back days of competition and fun this past weekend.
Six separate competitions were hosted throughout Southern California last Saturday, including soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball games at the Orange County Regional Fall Games at the Santa Ana Public Schools Sports Complex.
The following day, many made the trip to Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park to unwind for a day of food, rides and games at the 23rd annual Pier del Sol fundraiser.
OC Regional Fall Games
Every team has that vocal leader, someone who naturally assumes a greater role than just the position their sport demands. Deandre Patton is presence for Central Riverside.
Throughout the day, the 34-year-old softball player constantly reminded his teammates to focus less on the score and more on the effort. Made a mistake in the field? Be ready to make the next play. Grounded out? Adjust in the next at-bat.
That’s just his positive, upbeat personality taking over, and Special Olympics has helped teach there’s more to a game than just the results.
“I’ve been like that most of my life and I’m still getting better at it,” said Deandre, an athlete for the past decade who also plays basketball in the spring season.
“I love to come out and compete, but the biggest thing is just going out there and having a good time. It’s fun, and I just love competing at the highest level.”
Deandre and his teammates rode that attitude to a silver medal in the afternoon.
On the soccer field, Kristopher Calix was among the athletes showcasing his skills as a goalkeeper for San Fernando. The 33-year-old has been involved for five years, crediting his uncle for his interest in soccer. He enjoys the challenge of having to “block every kick.”
The only thing Kristopher enjoys more than competing with Special Olympics is the environment created by its supporters and his peers.
“I like Special Olympics because everybody gets along here. We laugh, we play. We have energy for everybody,” he said.
“(I’ve learned to be) kindful and have respect for everybody.”
Pier del Sol
The highly anticipated 2019 Pier del Sol proved to be a success yet again. Held at the historic Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park, the annual event to benefit Special Olympics Southern California athletes, while shining a light on LA’s top chefs, volunteers and more, made a fun-filled day in the sun one to remember.
This year’s Honorary Chef, Andreas Nieto of LA Prime, was one of the many highlights of the event.
“It is an honor to participate in Pier del Sol every year,” he said.” I enjoy coming here every year, talking to the athletes, staff and everyone who puts on the event. I can’t wait to be back again next year.”
To go with the VIP brunch and the assortment of cuisines, attendees also enjoyed rides, games and other activities.
The event also brings together several volunteers and SOSC staff members, some of which attended for the first time.
“It’s just incredible. The atmosphere, the colors, the food, really everything – it’s a great combination of what Special Olympics is all about,” said SOSC staff member Jose Medina, who enjoyed volunteering for his first Pier del Sol.” It’s about having these experiences with our families and the athletes. Two thumbs way up.”
Among the other honors handed out, Jeff and Wendy Krieger received the Humanitarian Award. Lastly, Kaiser Permanente received the Inspiration Award and are the Official Health Partner of Pier del Sol.
Inside the SOSC is a blog managed by staff member Tracy McDannald. SOSC staff member Chris Jones 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.