There was no shortage of praise and deserved honors to go around Sunday as more than 1,100 athletes were celebrated for their athletic achievements at the 2018 Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games at Cal State Long Beach.
Medals were awarded in basketball, bocce, swimming, track and field.
Swimmers put together exciting individual and relay races. Standouts included 2018 USA Games selections Christina Principe and Lisa Koskovich.
In addition, Shannon Callahan and Joseph Hottendorf were named co-Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year. They were joined on stage by UCLA legend and Special Olympics Southern California founder Rafer Johnson.
“I’m so happy,” said Shannon, who was moved to tears. She also earned a pair of gold and silver medals over the weekend.
Volunteers from all over made the event a joy for all who attended – including four-man, acapella Doo-Wop group The Alley Cats. They sang hits from the 1950s and ‘60s and had the crowd dancing before and during Closing Ceremony.
“When they say Special Olympics, these are special people,” said Armando Fonseca who performed for the athletes and their families. “There’s just love and joy and fun. They’re so non-judgmental and appreciative. It’s just a great experience and creates great memories for us.”
The two-day event included awards for not only the athletes, but the coaches who volunteer their time.
The John West Award, given to the outstanding volunteer of the year, was presented to Jeanette Skinner. After more than 50 years with Special Olympics Southern California, Skinner is retiring to spend more time with her family – which includes two sons who are athletes.
“She has a great heart, always putting our athletes first,” said Bill Shumard, president and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California. “She is dependable and a wealth of knowledge and experience.”