Once again, 1,000 athletes -- in all shapes and sizes -- will come together for one of the most touching and amazing athletic events in Northern California -- Special Olympics!
I love it!
This year the event will be held on the UC Berkeley campus, near San Francisco. Opening ceremonies are Friday, June 9th. And I am lucky enough, not only to attend, but to be covering the event for The Fresno Bee. (I will be focusing on Central Valley athletes.)
If anyone from Northern California is anywhere near the area, especially if you have never attended such an event -- I highly recommend it. (Or maybe there is a similar event in your state.)
These children and adults will touch your heart as they enter the stadium. Some come in wheelchairs, others with walkers, others are blind or missing limbs -- but most of them will wear the biggest smile you have ever seen.
Last year the Northern California Special Olympics were held in Stockton at the beautiful, newly built Stockton Ports Baseball Stadium. I was very lucky. The seat I sat in, next to an aisle, was the one where the Olympic Flame came down on - I could not believe my eyes.
The flame had come from Southern California (San Diego, I think) and carried by an officer of the law. The Police, Highway Patrols, Sheriff officers, etc -- passed the torch to each other and ran this torch up and down the state, hitting every county represented in the Special Olympics.
My daughter is quite excited. This will be her first time participating as an athlete. She did win three gold medals at County last year, but she still didn't make it to State (they are so limited as to how many people can attend so not everyone who qualifies can go.) The young man that lives with us did go last year. (He was the one carrying the torch into the County olympics this year)
This year, Michael is sad that he wasn't chosen to participate. But I told him, he had his glory there last year, this year Marisa will go.
Saturday's events are a must-see. The determination of some is amazing. Yes, some of them are great athletes. But, then there are others -- and it so sweet! You might see an athlete fall and all of the other athletes will run to that person's rescue. You might see an athlete stop his/her race to encourage another athlete who has given up along the way. They don't care about the gold, they care about each other. These are the real winners.
Last year, one athlete won two golds and a bronze medal. He traded one of his gold for another athlete's silver because he wanted "one of each."
One thing is certain at Special Olympics -- everyone wins -- athletes and spectators!