With a perfect sunny Santa Monica Sunday as a backdrop against the beautiful Pacific Ocean, hundreds of people piled onto the Pier to support this annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Southern California, the world’s largest sports organization, extending from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.
Supported by co-sponsors The Walt Disney Company, Wells Fargo Bank, and Westfield, as well as major restaurants from all over Los Angeles and Santa Monica, including JiRaffe, Melisse, El Cholo Cafe, Moonshadows, Inn of the Seventh Ray, The Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Water Grill, Marisol, Angelini Ostereia, Mimosa, Daily Grill, Spago, Valentino, Pink’s Hot Dogs, and Coca-Cola, moms, dads, and kids of all ages feasted on an endless array of delicious food prepared by the executive chefs. Adding to the festivities was a band of roving pirates and Kapt. Kula’s Pyrat Band, who played lively music and hosted the contest for best pirate costume.
This year’s honoree was former L.A. Mayor Richard J. Riordan who heads his own foundation, “With the goal of enabling people to acquire the skills necessary to compete successfully in society by teaching children how to read and write at an early age and to nurture leadership skills in young adults.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the organization in 1968 and California First Lady and Honorary Chair Maria Shriver kicked off the first Pier del Sol event in 1996. According to statistics released by Special Olympics Southern California, more than $4 million has been raised since then, with 80 cents of every dollar going directly to the various programs. Thirteen thousand local athletes are supported by volunteers and 15,000 coaches who offer training and competition according to the athletes’ gender, age, and ability. Instruction is given in 12 sports, including aquatics, athletics, basketball, bowling bocce, floor hockey, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball.
Programs are free to the athletes and their families and are designed to provide people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop physical fitness, motor skills, greater self-confidence, and a competitive spirit as reflected in their motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
For more information on Special Olympics Southern California, call 562.354.2600 or visit sosc.org.