This past weekend, the University hosted the 33rd annual Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival. Sporting events took place all weekend starting Friday afternoon, which comprised the largest student-run Special Olympics in the world. This year’s events included roller skating, volleyball, soccer, bocce, long-distance running and walking and power-lifting. The theme for the Olympics was “Let Your Colors Shine Through, Be Vibrantly You.” 

One of the program groups, Local Program Hosts, is a position only available to freshmen and allows them to get involved in leadership positions for Special Olympics as early as September. Each individual Local Program Host has to apply and be interviewed to earn a spot. Their responsibility is to be assigned to a county in Pennsylvania and serve as a cheerleader to athletes. They also facilitate the set-up, clean-up and actual competition of the event. 

Some freshmen Local Program Hosts, more commonly known as LPHs, shared their thoughts about the events and gave some insight into the preparation and time that went into the weekend. 

“We have had weekly meetings for a few months, a retreat and daily meetings the week leading up to Fall Fest,” Emily Amirata said. “My favorite part was definitely the flash mob dancing because of how amazing it was to see everyone come together and cheer us on.” 

“I spent a lot of time hyping up my athletes while they competed,” Sadie Callahan said. “I got to meet some of the greatest people this weekend, it was amazing.” 

Keegan Bradley shared her thoughts on this weekend as well. 

“This weekend, I got to bond with so many athletes and build lifelong connections,” Bradley said. “It was fun to be surrounded by so many excited and positive people.” 

The atmosphere on campus during Fall Fest is unlike any other. If one took a walk from the Oreo to the Quad, that were bound to run into games, service dogs, music and so much more. 

“Everyone was dancing and exploding with energy,” Julia Barclay explained. “It was colorful with bubbles and smiles everywhere. The atmosphere was overall amazing and filled with joy.” 

While the long hours of preparation, cold weather and early morning wake-ups were not easy tasks, all of the LPHs interviewed agreed that the hard work was definitely worth it. 

“The most rewarding part of the weekend was seeing the smiles on the athletes’ faces even if they did not win,” Maddie Koenig said. “It was so clear that they were just happy to be there, no matter the outcome of the competition.”

The hours of preparation and long weekend concluded Sunday afternoon with smiles all around campus. Everyone involved can agree that the weekend was yet another success. 

Anna Wright spoke for most volunteers when she said that “the time flew by and I was so lucky to be a part of this amazing event. I cannot wait until next year.”