APU Serves as Host Town for South African Special Olympics Athletes

by APU Life

After two weeks of competition, the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 culminated on August 2, 2015, with a closing ceremony at the L.A. Coliseum celebrating the accomplishments of 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches representing 165 countries. The largest sports and humanitarian event this year, the World Games inspired the more than 30,000 volunteers and 500,000 spectators who witnessed the determination, ability, goodwill, and joy of these remarkable Olympians. As a Host Town participant, Azusa Pacific University shared in this global celebration, welcoming the Special Olympics South Africa delegation to campus and sending volunteers to assist at the games.

On July 21, 88 South African delegates received their first introduction to American hospitality with a warm welcome from APU, which served as the athletes’ home away from home for three days. In advance of their arrival, APU and St. Lucy’s Priory High School volunteers decorated Trinity Hall rooms with brightly painted welcome signs created by APU students who took part in the South Africa Semester. Volunteers greeted the athletes, carried their luggage, and showed them to their rooms, where gift bags, snacks, and drinks awaited.

The welcome festivities continued the next morning when APU and the Host Town cities of Azusa, Duarte, and Glendora gathered at Dillon Recreation Complex for a ceremony celebrating the athletes, coaches, and volunteers. APU Acting President David Bixby, Ed.D.; Mayors Joseph Rocha (Azusa), Tzeitel Paras-Caracci (Duarte), and Karen Davis (Glendora); and California State Assembly Member Roger Hernandez addressed the delegates. The three-day schedule also included two community parades, a dance party, and a concert in the park. Highlighting the event, Christian Okoye ’88, former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro running back, visited the athletes, followed by an afternoon of football led by 15 APU football players, past and present.

In addition to the many on-campus volunteers, several APU faculty, staff, and students worked on site at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. Serving at USC’s Galen Center as media manager for 66 basketball teams representing more than 50 countries, Joe Reinsch, APU’s sports information director, coordinated international media interviews with the teams and witnessed firsthand the players’ inspirational stories. “People need to hear from these athletes who radiate perseverance and hope,” he said. “It reminds us that good things happen in sports and that their stories speak to our humanity in profound ways.”