On a perfect Santa Monica sunny Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier for the Pier del Sol’s annual fundraiser for Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC,) the world’s largest sports organization offering year-round training programs, and competitions for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
This year’s theme was “Viva La Fiesta” and the festivities kicked off with delicious food provided from more than 35 of LA’s top restaurants, including Daily Grill, El Cholo Café, Providence, Palate, Sprinkles, Savory, Angelini Osteria, Pink’s, Melisse, and Spago.
Besides the delectable savories, guests were offered the opportunity to enjoy arts and crafts, face painting, and splendid performances from the Global Motion, World Dance Company, and El Mariachi Alas de Angel.
Youngsters enjoyed the day with access to all the rides and games while and a silent auction offered, among other goodies, “Twilight” memorabilia and a ride in a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s helicopter.
Honorary Chair, California’s former First Lady, Maria Shriver, along with board member Anita Green, started the first Pier del Sol event in 1997. Sharing the stage with her brother Bobby Shriver, Councilman on the Santa Monica City Council, she talked about how much this event means to the athletes. Her late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the guiding light behind the formation of the special Olympics and when Bobby spoke, he laughed and said his mother always said: “Go ahead and speak Bobby; don’t let your sister hog the spotlight.”
Also present was Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist, Rafer Johnson who founded Special Olympics Southern California after visiting an institution in Connecticut in which Mrs. Shiver was instrumental in having an athletic program created. Johnson realized how important sports can be to young people with special needs.
Since 1997, Pier del Sol has raised over $6 million, changing the lives of more than 10,000 SOSC athletes who receive training and compete in 12 Olympic-type Summer and Fall sports including aquatics, athletics, basketball, bowling, floor hockey, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball.
The honoree for this year was Rob Friedman, Co-Chair/CEO of Summit Entertainment who has been a SOSC board member for 16 years as well as on the Board of Directors for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Through Friedman’s fundraising efforts, this year’s Pier del Sol raised in excess of one million dollars, making it the most successful in its history.
SOSC gives children and adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop physical fitness, motor skills, greater self-confidence, and a competitive spirit as reflected in their motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
For more information:
Special Olympics Southern California
Photo Credit: Beverly Cohn