“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

That is the motto of the Special Olympics, and it was in full evidence this weekend for the annual Fall Festival held at Villanova University.

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 since 1989, 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.

The center of campus is transformed into Olympic Town, which provides entertainment and recreational fun for all athletes attending the Festival. The photo above is a shot of Olympic Town. Yes, there was even a hot air balloon this year.

The event also has a Healthy Athletes venue staffed by local health practitioners that provides a multitude of health screenings for the athletes. The screenings include hearing, vision, dental, podiatry, and general health. Perhaps one of the more amazing benefits provided to the athletes is that if it is determined that they need a new pair of prescription glasses, they are made for them right there and available to the athletes in an hour. For those who don’t need prescription glasses, the vendor provides sunglasses or sports goggles, and all of this at no cost to the athlete.

The highlight of the weekend for me is simply watching the interaction between the athletes and the Villanova students. Many of the athletes and students remember each other from prior years, and many Villanova alumni come back to campus just for this event each year to reconnect with the athletes.

One of the common themes I noticed throughout the weekend was dancing. The athletes and students love to dance. Here is a short video of students and athletes dancing in the aisles while waiting for the start of one of the award ceremonies.

I also caught sight of a dance break out in-between soccer games this morning, followed by having the athletes run through a gauntlet that the students created for them, sharing high-fives the whole way thought the line.

One other highlight today was the flash mob by the Local Program Hosts that broke out in Olympic Town.

Watching the students run through the crowd at the end and start dancing with the athletes captures what the weekend is all about. Everyone comes out a winner.

This is the fourth write-up of my experiences at the Fall Festival (I have no idea why I did not write up last year’s event…):

19 thoughts on ““Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

    1. it is a great motto. And I think even if you have no interest in sports, you would be impressed with these athletes. they are quite impressive, and it’s not just about winning for them.

  1. I cannot think of another organization that so effectively and actively changes the lives of the differently abled. This must be an amazingly empowering moment for all the athletes and volunteers. Kudos to them all!

  2. I like that motto – about being brave in the attempt and fighting –
    it reminds me of a song I heard this last month – by Tobymac and how if he goes down – it will be while swinging….

    I’ll fight the elements (Elements, elements, elements)
    I’ll fight the elements (Elements, elements, elements)
    I got spirit, I got faith
    I might bend but I won’t break
    I’ll fight the elements (Elements, elements, elements)

    And I’ma gonna go down swinging, if I go down
    I’ma gonna go down swinging, if I go down
    I’ma gonna go down swinging, if I go down

      1. Well when I taught art – some of middle schoolers jammed tobymac – he is a christian rapper and so his tunes remind me of details students – well this last year – tobymac’s latest albums were on some of my playlists and I enjoyed them – and then – sadly – last month his son died – cause of death not released yet – but my heart sank because his sons was close to my son’s age – and tobymac actually wrote a song for his son on the same album as the song I shared here – so sad…
        Whew – enough of that – wishing you a good day

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