Villanova Hosts Special Olympics Pennsylvania's Annual Fall Festival, Nov. 5-7

Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil to speak during opening ceremonies

VILLANOVA, Pa., Oct. 29, 2010 – On Nov. 5, Villanova University will welcome Special Olympics athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters from across the state for Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s (SOPA) Annual Fall Festival, the largest student-run Special Olympics competition in the world.

The Nov. 5-7 event, SOPA’s second-largest annual competition, will host 1,325 coaches and athletes representing more than 30 Pennsylvania counties. Participants will compete in bocce, long-distance running and walking, powerlifting, roller skating, soccer and volleyball.

"We are very pleased to welcome the athletes of Special Olympics back to the Villanova campus,” said Thomas Mogan, Director of Student Development at Villanova University, and a member of the SOPA Board of Directors. “This is the highlight of the year in many ways for our students and the Villanova community as a whole. The athletes are the focus of the weekend, but I'm also extremely proud of our students.”

More than 2,500 volunteers from the Villanova student body and the surrounding community are expected to participate in the event this year, serving in numerous capacities including as officials, athlete escorts, award presenters and administrative support services. Volunteers from across the state are welcome and spectators are encouraged to visit any of the competition venues on or near campus to cheer on athletes.

“Thanks in part to the hard work of the 83-person Villanova Student Committee and community of student volunteers, Fall Festival allows our athletes to take center stage as they demonstrate the skills, confidence and pride they have developed through countless hours of training,” said Matthew Aaron, SOPA President and CEO.  “The University’s three decades of service to individuals with intellectual disabilities has helped people, especially young adults, to realize that Special Olympics is about more than just sports training and competition. It is a movement that transforms communities by inspiring people to open their minds, to accept and include people with intellectual disabilities, and to recognize and respect the similarities we all share.”

Athletes will begin preliminary competitions on Friday, Nov. 5, in bocce, long-distance running, soccer, skating and volleyball. Powerlifting competitions begin on Saturday. Roller skating competitions will take place at the Marple Sports Arena, 611 South Park Way, in Broomall, and some bocce and soccer games will be held at The Shipley School, 814 Yarrow Street, in Bryn Mawr. All other activities will take place at Villanova University.

The Fall Festival will officially kick off on Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m., with Opening Ceremonies held in The Pavilion at Villanova. The ceremonies will feature an array of speakers, including Dick Vermeil, former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.  Vermeil, a Super Bowl-winning, two-time NFL Coach of the Year, was inducted into Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Hall of Fame and received its Chairman’s Choice Award in 2007. 

Opening Ceremonies will also feature the exciting lighting of the Olympic Torch to signify the official start of the games until Closing Ceremonies are held in The Pavilion on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The 2010 Fall Festival event sponsors include Presenting Sponsor - TD Bank, Premier State-wide partner - Sheetz, Acme Corrugated Box Company, W.W. Grainger, Philadelphia Insurance, GEICO, Sovereign Bank and Genuardi’s. The Shipley School generously donates the use of their facilities for competitions and lunch for 400 venue participants.  In addition, Villanova University donates all of their facilities as well and serves as Fall Festival’s principle volunteer base under the leadership of Charles P. Hannon, a Villanova University Senior, who heads the 83 student committee.

For more information about volunteering, visit the official Villanova University Fall Festival Web site at www.specialolympics.villanova.edu.