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Special Needs Athletes Ready for “Big Day”

Special Needs Athletes Ready for “Big Day” at LMU

For more than three decades Special Games, a non-profit organization comprised of LMU students, has brought a very “Big Day” to the Los Angeles community.

“Big Day,” is an exciting celebration for hundreds of local athletes with special needs. It is the culminating event of a three day series that features non-competitive fun sports for mentally and physically challenged. This year’s “Big Day” is set to take place Saturday, April 26, at Loyola Marymount University in Sunken Garden from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. With nearly 300 volunteers and 250 athletes, it is one of the largest volunteer opportunities on campus.

“Yes, these kids have special needs, but at the same time they are just like us. They want to play games, be themselves and have fun without being judged,” explained Senior Vera Kwan, “We are here for the athletes and to bring awareness to the community about people with special needs.”

Kwan has volunteered for Special Games since her first-year at LMU and is the director of Special Games 2008. She and 10 other student members oversee all of the logistics for Special Games, so that all participants take a great experience from the program. Prior to “Big Day,” two practice sessions and various fundraising opportunities take place. “It really is a year-long planning process and the athletes look forward to it all year,” she said.

Kwan believes the program is an extension of LMU’s mission that reflects the education of the whole person. LMU is the first university in the nation in 1977 to create, sponsor and produce a community project of this magnitude. Since then, other universities such as Cal State Fullerton and Northridge have adopted this program.

The City of Carson Regional Center, TLC for the Blind and Ability First are some of the agency groups that bring in athletes every year. Under the guidance of volunteer coaches, athletes engage in dance, bowling, arts and crafts, skee ball, basketball and other sports. All the athletes receive a Special Games t-shirt, lunch, prizes and medals.

“It is fulfilling to know our efforts helped put a smile on an athlete’s face,” said Kwan, “We would love to have more people come out and show their support.”

This year, the Special Games committee has invited Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, some Galaxy and USA Chivas players to participate in the Big Day celebration.

To learn more about Special Games or to make a donation to the group, visit http://www.lmu.edu/specialgames. Volunteers are still needed to coach and help out on “Big Day.” If you are available to volunteer, please meet Saturday, April 26 at 9 a.m. in Seaver Parking Lot. The games will begin at 10 a.m. and the public is invited to cheer for the athletes.

Questions? E-mail vera.kwan@yahoo.com or call 310.338.2728.