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Villanova to Host Special Olympics Pennsylvania's 2011 Fall Festival, Nov. 4-6

Returning to Villanova for the 23rd consecutive year, the event is the largest student-run Special Olympics competition in the world

Villanova, Pa. - Beginning Nov. 4, thousands of Special Olympics athletes, coaches, volunteers, and supporters from across the state once again descend upon Villanova University, located at 800 E. Lancaster Avenue in Villanova, PA, for Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s (SOPA) Annual Fall Festival, Nov. 4-6, 2011.

Returning to Villanova for the 23rd consecutive year, the event is SOPA’s second largest annual competition and the largest student-run Special Olympics competition in the world. Approximately 1,325 coaches and athletes representing more than 30 Pennsylvania counties will participate in bocce, long distance running/walking, powerlifting, roller skating, soccer and volleyball.

The official kick-off of Fall Festival will occur on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. with Opening Ceremonies held in The Pavilion at Villanova. The anticipated Opening will feature an array of speakers including Eddie Barbanell, an American actor with Down syndrome who is best known for his starring role opposite Johnny Knoxville in the 2005 Farrelly Brothers film "The Ringer." Barbanell has been acting for the past six years and has gone on to further his acting career in theater and in television. In 2006, Barbanell was named to the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. 

Opening Ceremonies will also feature the exciting lighting of the Olympic Torch to signify the official start of the games. The Olympic Torch will be carried by participants of the annual Fall Festival Torch Run.  For the first time ever, The Torch Run will be a 13 mile non-competitive run consisting of 5 legs from the legendary Philadelphia Art Museum to Villanova University on Nov. 4 beginning at 3:45 p.m.  Hundreds of runners representing law enforcement officers/teams from across the Philadelphia region will participate to kickoff Fall Festival’s 23rd Anniversary. 

Athletes will begin preliminary competitions on Friday, November 4 in bocce, long distance running, soccer, roller skating and volleyball. Powerlifting competitions begin on Saturday, November 5. Roller skating competitions will take place at the Marple Sports Arena, 611 South Park Way in Broomall, PA. Bocce and some soccer games will be held at The Shipley School, 814 Yarrow Street in Bryn Mawr, PA.  All other activities will take place at Villanova University. Closing Ceremonies will be held in The Pavilion on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The 2011 Fall Festival event sponsors include Presenting Sponsor - TD Bank, Premier State-wide partner - Sheetz, Acme Corrugated Box Company, W.W. Grainger, The ReDCo Group, Student Transportation of America, GEICO, Sovereign Bank, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check 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 Samantha Brennan, a Villanova University senior, who heads the 83-person student committee.

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

About Special Olympics Pennsylvania: Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) provides year-round training and competition in 22 Olympic-type sports to more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities or closely related developmental disabilities. For more information about how SOPA, visit our Web site at

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others.  There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.