Thousands of Special Olympic athletes will arrive from all corners of the world this July to participate in the 2015 World Games, the largest event hosted in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games. Santa Monica will play a vital role in the occasion as Host Town for the Brazilian and Romanian delegations. For three days (July 21-24), Santa Monica will serve as the base camp for these Special Olympics athletes by providing an opportunity to visit iconic Santa Monica locations including Muscle Beach and Third Street Promenade as they prepare for the competition of a lifetime.
As a host town, Santa Monica is responsible for 100 percent of the costs of hosting the Romanian and Brazilian athletes, coaches and chaperones. The success of Santa Monica’s Host Town experience truly depends on the commitment and support from our local community, leaders and organizations. The Host Town Santa Monica Committee would like to thank its generous sponsors for their support in providing these incredible athletes with a memorable experience in Santa Monica:
Platinum Sponsor: Santa Monica Place
Silver Sponsor: HBO
Bronze Sponsors: Irell & Manella LLP, Downtown Santa Monica, City of Santa Monica
Supporting Sponsors: Perry’s on the Beach Caf√©, Le Meridien Delfina, Pacific Park
If you are interested in supporting the Santa Monica Host Town Program, visit http://www.la2015.org/host-town/santa-monica.
Los Angeles estimates that the 2015 World Games will provide over $400 million worth of economic impact to Los Angeles with 500,000 spectators and athletes, coaches and families traveling from 170 nations. As Los Angeles’ beach city, Santa Monica is excited to welcome both the Brazilian and Romanian delegations along with all of the inspiring athletes who will come to Los Angeles this Summer for the World Games.
Culver City gymnast will represent Westside at World Games
Many Southern Californians are looking forward to the start of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, but perhaps none more so than 20-year-old Culver City resident Caelyn Griffith. Griffith is one of only 37 California athletes competing in the Games, and the only one representing the Westside chapter, which encompasses the area from Westchester to Malibu and as far east as West Hollywood.
Griffith, who won five gold medals at last year’s Southern California Special Olympics Summer Games, will participate in four events-artistic gymnastics, floor routine, balance beam and vault. “My favorite event is the floor,” she says. “It’s like a performance and you’re right there with the audience.”
To prepare for her World Games debut at UCLA’s John Wooden Center, Griffith, who has Down syndrome, has been working on her routines several hours a week with her longtime coach Natasha Burgos. The relationship between Burgos and Griffith goes back a decade to when Caelyn was enrolled in an after-school program at Broadway Gymnastics School, where Burgos worked at the time in addition to volunteering with Southern California Special Olympics – Westside.
“I told her mom about the Special Olympics program and said I thought she would be a great candidate,” recalls Burgos. “So many people with intellectual disabilities don’t have physical activity in their daily life or the opportunity to be challenged. Gymnastics challenges them individually and incorporates so many elements, including balance, strength and coordination.”
Griffith’s mother, Clausine Honda, was already familiar with the program and happily signed her daughter up. “I had a friend growing up whose brother was involved in Special Olympics,” she says. “It was such a wonderful organization, I figured it would be perfect for her.”
Over the years, Burgos and Caelyn’s bond has evolved beyond that of coach and athlete. “I always tell her mom that Caelyn is like the second child I never had,” says Burgos. “We go to each other’s family events. Now, 10 years later I’m still coaching her and she’s graduated high school and getting ready to go beyond that.”
Burgos, who works full time as a special education teacher for LAUSD, also volunteers leading a social program for adults with intellectual disabilities through the city of Santa Monica. In addition to weekly dinners, activities include talent shows, game nights, movie nights and excursions to museums, sporting events, amusement parks and concerts.
“She’s an amazing human being,” says Honda.
But Burgos insists she gets as much as she gives as a Special Olympics coach. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” she says. “They’ve always got a smile on their faces. We always have fun. It brings you back to that feeling of joy and what life is all about.”
To learn more about coaching and other volunteer opportunities for Special Olympics Southern California – Westside call (310) 458-8237. Because Special Olympics receives no federal aid and its programs are free to all eligible athletes, it is dependent on the generosity of local residents and businesses. If you’re interested in making a cash or in-kind donation, call (866) 244-8464.