This is my third annual post about Villanova’s Annual Fall Festival – the largest student run Special Olympics festival in the world.
It is my favorite weekend at Villanova, and each year I leave impressed both with the athletes as well as with the Villanova students.
Held during the first or second weekend in November, the campus hosts over 1,000 athletes, 400 coaches, 4,000 volunteers, and the many corporate sponsors and media outlets that will provide coverage for the event. A committee of 90 students meets year round to organize every aspect of the Festival, from staging ceremonies, to managing the budget, to coordinating the thousands of volunteers. The athletes who participate in the Fall Festival will compete in six Olympic-type sports: bocce, long distance running, power-lifting, roller skating, soccer, and volleyball. All housing and meals for the weekend are provided by Special Olympics Pennsylvania and Villanova University.
While it didn’t rain at all during the weekend, it was a bit colder than usual, and the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night were brutally cold, with wind chills in the teens. The cold weather didn’t seem to have too much effect on the athletes, they seemed quite excited to be there.
The opening ceremonies were highlighted by the lighting of the torch to signify the opening of the games, followed by the athletes running through a gauntlet of students past the torch and out of the stadium. It was worth waiting through the chilly temps to witness the spectacle.
Here’s a couple of short videos (apologies for the poor quality) showing the torch procession and the student gauntlet:
Saturday I spent the morning at the bocce competition, since the business school “adopted” this event. We had dozens of staff, faculty, and their families serving as volunteers in a variety of roles, from officials to evaluators to “fans in the stands”. A special shout-out to the Shipley School for their willingness to host the bocce competition because of construction at Villanova’s campus. It was a great facility and I heard that many Shipley students were able to get involved as volunteers. A win-win for everyone.
It was at the bocce competition that I had a chance to meet one of the more impressive athletes I’ve met in my three years of volunteering. This young woman told me that her best sport was bowling, and that she has been to Shanghai, China twice to compete in the World Special Olympics, and won a gold medal. She told me that her highest score is an impressive 211! She will also be competing in the U.S. National Special Olympics next year in Seattle. Not only was she quite the athlete, she just had a great sense of fun about her and seemed to enjoy everything about the event.
After the bocce competition, my wife, son, and I headed up to campus for two of my favorite parts of the Festival, the Olympic Town and the Healthy Athletes program.
Olympic Town provides entertainment and recreational fun for all athletes attending the Festival. There are many booths that are sponsored by Villanova clubs and outside organizations. This year’s Olympic Town has many great sponsors, so please come relax between the competitions and enjoy a variety of exciting performances.
Some of the highlights include a DJ with lots of dancing, performances by acapella groups, the Villanova Dance Team and Cheerleaders, lots of prizes and crafts, a photo booth, Hose hockey, Star Shooters, and the fan favorite Karaoke machine. It’s great to see the wide variety of student groups that have booths lined up and down the quad offering a variety of games and activities.
Hopefully this video will give you a little sense of the energy of O-Town:
Healthy Athletes offers health examinations in seven main areas: Fit Feet (podiatry), FUNfitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (better health and well-being), Healthy Hearing (audiology), Opening Eyes (vision) and Special Smiles (dentistry).In addition to the health examinations that will be conducted at Fall Fest at Villanova, Healthy Athletes sponsors a Healthy Habits fair which provides information on sun safety, hydration, nutrition, bone health, and physical activity. Exercise classes such as Zumba, Yoga, and general stretching will be held throughout the weekend thanks to our Active Athletes program.
It’s an amazing weekend, and I’m convinced that the Villanova students get as much out of it as the athletes.
So congrats to all the athletes for your hard work and your spirit; you lived the motto of the Special Olympics:
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
And thank you to all the Villanova students who played such a key role in making this year’s Festival another resounding success.
I can’t wait for next year’s Festival.
By the way, here are my posts from the past two years: