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Special Olympics PA and Villanova University Celebrate 33rd Annual Fall Festival

fall festival

Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Fall Festival returns to Villanova University for the 33rd consecutive year from Nov. 5-7, 2021. Fall Festival is regarded as the largest university student-run Special Olympics event in the world led by Villanova University's Special Olympics Committee that assists Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) in the event organization.

The event, whose theme is “Let Your Colors Shine Through, Be Vibrantly You,” will welcome nearly 800 coaches, athletes and Unified Partners representing 29 Pennsylvania county programs. Participants will compete in bocce, long distance running/walking, powerlifting, soccer, and volleyball. This year, athletes participating in these sports are competing for the chance to represent Team Pennsylvania at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando. Athletes that win a gold medal will be entered into a drawing that will take place during Closing Ceremonies on Nov. 7.

The full weekend begins with the excitement of the Unified Fall Festival Torch Run, a 26 mile non-competitive run consisting of 19 segments from XFINITY Live! Philadelphia to Villanova University on November 5th.  Hundreds of runners representing law enforcement officers, athletes, elected officials, schools and businesses will participate. The Run begins at 9:30 a.m. and concludes its journey to campus at approximately 3 p.m.  

Opening Ceremonies will be held in the William B. Finneran Pavilion located at 1530 County Line Rd in Bryn Mawr, PA. The ceremony will include a Unified Basketball game and shooting competition between SOPA athletes, Villanova students and corporate partners. Additional live entertainment and special guests include the Villanova Cheer Spirit Line, Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s CEO, Matt Aaron, and Eagles Linebacker Alex Singleton. Opening Ceremonies will conclude with the lighting of the Olympic Torch to signify the official start of the Games.

Athletes will begin preliminary competitions on November 5th in Long Distance Running/Walking, Bocce, Soccer and Volleyball. Powerlifting and Roller Skating will begin on Saturday, November 6th and all competitions and activities will take place at Villanova University.

The weekend will also offer Healthy Habits interactive education stations; an “Olympic Town” providing athlete activities in-between sporting events; a Victory Dance; and Closing Ceremonies. Closing Ceremonies will be held in the Jake Nevin Field House on Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. and feature the selection of athletes who will represent Team Pennsylvania at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando.

The University  donates all of its facilities and serves as the event’s principle volunteer base under the leadership of this year’s director Jared Brewer, a student who served as Director of Support Services in the past. Brewer heads the 98-person student committee.

“Special Olympics Pennsylvania is grateful, now more than ever, for the long standing partnership we have with Villanova University in planning, organizing and hosting our Fall Festival,” said Bruce Bach, Senior Competition Director for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. “Our athletes have been competing at home and virtually for nearly two years and are looking forward competing in their first in-person statewide competition. The energy and excitement generated by the students and staff at Villanova is unmatched and is something that has been missed by our athletes. From the moment our athletes step foot on campus they are welcomed, embraced and celebrated as champions – this year’s return to campus is sure to be a magical experience for our athletes.”

More than 900 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 the athletes. For more information about volunteering, visit

The 2021 Fall Festival major event sponsors include Aerotek, Amazon PwD, Aerotek, Cigna, Energy Transfer, Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), NJM Insurance Group, Philadelphia Insurance, and Sheetz

About Special Olympics Pennsylvania: Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) provides year-round training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports to nearly 16,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy. For more information, 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 six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit