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PLNU has long history with Special Olympics

The track was filled with excitement as volunteers and athletes showed up to the 21st annual Special Olympics on April 12, hosted by the department of Family & Consumer Sciences and the School of Education.

For the past 20 years, PLNU has hosted the Special Olympics, an event where people with special needs from schools around San Diego were able to compete in events such as 50 meter run, standing long jump, wheelchair events, softball throw and the running long jump.

Jim Johnson, a professor in the School of Education and Department of Psychology and creator of a disability awareness program on campus says about these events “there are Jesus moments and Jesus connections in such clear ways that can be seen before, during and after these events – that is why we do these events.”

There were an estimated 200 athletes and about 800 people on the field according to Alec Rogers, one of the two students leaders for the event. He has been volunteering for these events for 14 years.

Many students from PLNU got involved in the event anywhere from being a “buddy” where you were paired with an athlete and took them to their events to being a cheerleader to walking around and answering questions.

“Last year I was nervous going in because I had never done anything like this,” said sophomore Sam Okhotin who was a buddy for the second year in a row. “This year I noticed that my perspective changed. First and foremost I was focused on making sure my buddy was having a good time, enjoying himself and was comfortable. I was also fortunate enough to have the same kid I had last year. It was nice to see how he grew up and improved over the course of the year.”

Johnson was involved with Special Olympics in Northern California before coming to PLNU in 1991. Not wanting to part with his passion for special needs students, Johnson contacted the Special Olympics in San Diego and become immediately immersed in the program.

“I have spent my life working and supporting persons and families who must deal with disabilities,” Johnson said.

After the athletes were done with each event, they were awarded medals based on their rank. Three members of the San Diego police met the athletes after the 50-meter race to take pictures.

“One of the best parts of the day is at the end when there is a massive dance party and the athletes can truly out dance any one,” said Rogers.



Amy Williams contributed to this story