Nonprofit Crescenta Valley Committed to Athletic Needs (CV CAN) welcomed participants from far and wide, from cities such as Santa Barbara, Long Beach, and Bakersfield, to the CV CAN Games.
More 300 athletes competed in the games Saturday at , which helped determine athlete qualifications for the Special Olympics Summer Games.
Athletes of all ages trained and prepared over the past year to compete in a number of walks, runs, relays and field events. Rafer Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist and founding father of the California Special Olympics, attended the games as the Master of Ceremonies. Awards for races were given throughout the day with periodic performances by CV High School’s band and cheerleaders.
“The important thing we wanted to highlight was the athletes and their achievements. The important thing of the day was that they had a good experience, and that we highlighted how hard they worked to participate in the event,” said Grace Chase, event organizer.
“[Members of the Glendale Kiwanis] came to the first games and asked what they could do to help,” noted Chase. “They wanted Glendale students to have an opportunity to participate–you have to be coached to participate–this Kiwanis group said that they could work with the students on the weekends.”
Along with the large number of athletes, more than 500 volunteers assisted at the event. Volunteers ran all the track and field events, served food to athletes, paired up with buddies to spend the day with them, chaperone activities, among other things.
Kim Villa, volunteer coordinator, first became involved with the organization through family friend Patrick McClenahan, CEO of the Special Olympic World Games that will be held in Los Angeles in 2015.
“I am excited that we had a whole bunch of new volunteers that experienced the Special Olympics. It’s an event that’s hard to describe–to be a part of these athletes accomplishing their dreams is just amazing, getting to share that with people who had never experienced that before was exciting,” said Villa.
The CV CAN Games first came together to fundraise and provide a synthetic, upgraded track and turf for Crescenta Valley High School in 2006. The years following, CV CAN focused on addressing athletic needs in the community. This year’s games proved successful, with many members of the community attending the event to cheer the athletes on.
“We were delighted with the support that was received from the community for this special event,” Villa said.
“From the moment that Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson declared the start of the games to the time that last athlete left the venue there were nothing but smiles and hugs and high-fives," Villa said.
"It was truly a special day for 300 very special athletes and a very memorable day for all of the volunteers and spectators who got to witness these special individuals achieving their goals. Thank you to everyone whose efforts made this day possible.”