TMC to host Special Olympics athletes — By Jonathan Wais

special20olympicsThis summer, The Master’s College will be hosting athlete delegations from The Faroe Islands, Malaysia, the Philippines and El Salvador, that will be competing in the 2015 Summer Special Olympics World Games held in Los Angeles.

The Special Olympics are an international program designed for people with mental or physical disabilities to compete in athletics. The World Games are returning to L.A. for the first time since 1972 and will be the largest humanitarian sports event in the world this year.

Over 100 host towns surrounding L.A., including Santa Clarita, have been selected by the Special Olympics to host over 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 countries to help acclimate them to life in the United States.

The Master’s College was originally contacted by the Special Olympics host town program to see if it was available to house athletes. After processing the information and working out their schedule, the college committed to opening campus housing to athletes from the four countries.

TMC Director of Global Outreach, Dr. Lisa LaGeorge, is handling most of the logistics involved in hosting the athletes. She formed a Global Outreach (GO) team composed of students to serve before and during the World Games.

“Because we’ve sent a disability team the last several years it seemed like a good year for us to work with Special Olympics here,” LaGeorge says. “This was one way we could not only reach into a disability community but we could also reach into our community.”

GO leaders Chris Sue and Annie Ownbey, as well as the rest of the team, are raising funds to help cover the cost of housing the athletes. Before they arrive, the team will prepare housing for the athletes, who will stay in Hotchkiss Hall. The GO team will also do everything from packing gift bags to interacting with the athletes.

Ownbey is among those looking forward to volunteering.

“People don’t really want to volunteer because they’re afraid of working with them or how they are going to interact with them,” Ownbey says. “That’s why I love it, because it’s a way for me to love on and show them that people actually care for them and ultimately God cares for them.”

Along with other activities prepared by the City of Santa Clarita, The Master’s College will organize and host a two-hour, carnival-type event for the athletes consisting of a series of stations with a game at each one. Volunteers from the college and community will help with the stations, which will feature various activities, from a shuttle run to agility games.

The 14th edition of the Summer World Games begins on July 25 and continues through Aug. 2. During this time, the GO team will do whatever the Special Olympics staff needs help with and witness some of the competitions first hand.

“There’s no doubt there’s some good athletes and pretty competitive individuals and it really is a joy to watch them enjoy what they’re doing.” says The Master’s College Athletic Director Steve Waldeck.

Waldeck, whose youngest son plays on a local Special Olympics team, was one of the earliest supporters of the college’s involvement with the World Games athletes. His belief regarding interacting with people who have disabilities is to treat them as uniquely designed individuals.

“If we look through it with the lens that God doesn’t make mistakes and He’s created each and every one of us, He’s formed us exactly how He wanted us to be.” Waldeck says. “To treat someone with that kind of focus, [that] this person was uniquely made by God and to treat them with that love and dignity and respect is paramount to go into that situation without fear of the unknown.”

By Jonathan Wais

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