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By Sam Marinelli

Staff Reporter

Special Olympics Week 2012 featured events such as a disabilities panel, a 5K run/walk and a volunteer information night.

The start of fall marks the start of all things “SpO.”  This week, Student Development sponsored Special Olympics Week 2012, a tradition that is held in order to recruit volunteers for the Annual Fall Festival Weekend.

“We host SpO Week in order to raise awareness about disabilities as well as to generate interest and recruit volunteers for our upcoming Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival at Villanova University,” Dan Connell, Fall Festival director, said.

“It’s a great way to get the Villanova community ready for the Fall Festival weekend—it’s a preview of what’s to come,” said Lori Blake, Special Olympics adviser.

This week featured many events to help spark interest for this year’s Festival,  Nov.  2 to 4, which included volunteer information nights, a disabilities panel and a 5K run/walk.

The volunteer information night was held Monday in the East Lounge and will follow with another held tonight in Connelly Cinema at 7:30 p.m.

“The volunteer information nights are held to recruit volunteers for Fall Festival,” Connell said. “They give potential volunteers a chance to hear about the opportunities that volunteering over the Fall Festival weekend can provide.”

All are welcome to these events, including those from the larger community.

“If someone is unable to attend [tonight’s information session], we ask that they please go to our website, specialolympics.villanova.edu, to register to be a volunteer,” Connell said.

Tuesday night, the Special Olympics Committee,  along with LeVel,  presented a Disabilities Panel in the Villanova Room.

“LeVel aims to integrate the able-bodied community and the differently-abled community here at Villanova,” Connell said.

The panel featured members of the Villanova community, including students, professors and staff members as well as Special Olympics athletes and parents.

“The goal of the panel is to raise awareness and a better understanding of the types of disabilities that are present on and off campus,” Blake said. “It’s great to hear the stories of the panelists.”

Wednesday featured Strides,  a 5K run/walk taking place in the Quad. Participants were urged to “Take a walk on the wild side”, the theme of the festival.

In addition to the events of SpO week, the Special Olympics committee will also hold AcappellaSpOlooza, which is a yearly fundraiser for Fall Festival via a concert featuring Villanova a capella groups.

The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, in Connelly Cinema and tickets for the concert will be sold in the week leading up to AcappellaSpOlooza.

“Special Olympics is a movement that has served a population that society has often overlooked,” Blake said. “The athletes are wonderful competitors and leaders in the community.”

The Fall Festival offers these athletes the opportunity to fulfill the Special Olympics Mission as well as highlight their strengths.

The Festival and, by extension, SpO week  affords Villanova students unique opportunities to gain a better understanding of disabilities, with the objective of shedding any incorrect preconceived notions along the way.  So far, planning for the Fall Festival has gone smoothly.

“With Fall Festival right around the corner, things can get hectic,” said Connell. “But with so many great people involved and the amazing support of Villanova and Special Olympics Pennsylvania, we’ve been able to keep a handle on the many things that need to be prepared before the 1,000 athletes, 5,000 coaches, and 3,000 plus volunteers descend on campus.”

Despite SpO being a three-day event, the Special Olympics committee works year round in order to remind the community that the University is devoted to the values  and mission of the program. In fact, Tom Mogan, director of Student Development, even serves on the Special Olympics Pennsylvania board of directors.

Blake believes that this years committee in particular is especially motivated to further ing SpO’s cause, promising to make this the “best Fall Festival ever.”

“Special Olympics is an incredible global organization that has allowed disabled individuals to gain a sense of normalcy via sports in many different ways,” Connell said. “The Fall Festival is the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world. The student committee retains 90 members who dedicate their time planning each Fall Festival weekend for over nine months.”

Everyone interested in participating should be sure to attend tonight’s volunteer information night and AcapellaSpOlooza on Oct. 4.

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