Villanova University hosts the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world every November, called the Fall Festival. Over a thousand athletes come to campus from across the state to compete in six different sports.
Villanova's campus brings together thousands of people (athletes, volunteers, coaches, and families) who all have the same goal: to spread the mission of inclusion and to make this world a more safe and accessible space for all people, no matter their ability level.
I was lucky enough to be a Local Program Host (LPH) during the fall semester of my freshman year, getting to play a fairly large role in my first Fall Fest on Villanova's campus.
I had never had experience working with Special Olympics before coming to Villanova, and I had no idea what was in store for me. It's safe to say that my experience as an LPH completely changed my life.
I met so many incredible people, both athletes, and fellow students, and I was welcomed into an entirely new community, giving me something I never knew I needed.
It is truly humbling to meet and get to work with people for a common cause, but it is life-changing to witness the love and appreciation from those who the cause is benefiting.
Getting to watch Tanya and Kristin, my two athletes from Centre County, compete in their individual volleyball skills competitions, receive their awards, and just have a blast throughout everything the weekend had to offer was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
They are both so amazing, and it means so much to me to be able to call them friends now.
The rest of the LPHs, who I had the pleasure of working with and meeting throughout the whole experience gave me some of my best friends, and I couldn't be more grateful.
You are all incredible people, and I am so honored that I had the privilege of working with you, getting to know you, and forming meaningful friendships with you. You are all my role models, and I strive to be more like each one of you every day.
After Fall Fest 2018, I finally felt as though I truly belonged at Villanova and had found my place. There's always uncertainty when moving to a new place and being surrounded by strangers, but, after that weekend, a had 102 new friendly faces that I knew would be there to lift me up.
I was lucky enough to be called on to Special Olympics Committee on my first day of classes this semester after spending last semester as an alternate. I have never been more thrilled about a phone call. I am so thrilled to have been working on the Long Distance Running and Walking competition venue for this year's Fall Fest for the past three months.
I am so proud of the work we have accomplished so far, and I can't wait to see it all come together during the weekend of the competition.
As I write this, there is less than one week until Fall Fest 2019 begins, I am reflecting on everything Special Olympics has given me over the past year. I am so incredibly thankful for the memories and love that last year's Fall Fest gave me, and I cannot wait for everything that next weekend will bring.
Thank you, Villanova Special Olympics, for giving me new friends, helping me get closer with old ones, and for giving me a cause I am truly passionate about. And thank you to all the students who have made this campus truly feel like home. No words will ever be enough to express my gratitude. ♡