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Santa Clarita, California to welcome Filipino Special Olympic athletes

Filipino Special Olympic athletes will be billeted at the Master’s College while being hosted by Santa Clarita. (Photo courtesy of AKP)
Filipino Special Olympic athletes will be billeted at the Master’s College while being hosted by Santa Clarita.

Text and photos by ARTHA KIRA PAREDES

LOS ANGELES, California—Before participating in the nine-day 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the 52-member Filipino delegation will be welcomed and celebrated in Santa Clarita City.

Santa Clarita is among the 100 host towns where Special Olympic athletes will be staying from July 21 to 24. It will sponsor delegations from the Philippines, Malaysia, El Salvador and Faroe Islands. Other Southern Californian cities will also host delegations from other countries.

The Host Town Program is a three-day event where cities, towns or civic groups and clubs bear all costs of accommodations, training facilities, food, transportation, activities and security of the participating athletes from around the world.

About 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 countries are expected to take part in the games to be staged in Los Angeles from July 25 to Aug. 2.

Santa Clarita Host Town chairperson Jackie Hartmann said the city asked for the Philippine delegation and was “thrilled” when it found out the Filipino athletes would be staying in the city.

She said someone from the World Games Home Town Committee told her that other host towns also wanted to have the Philippines.

Santa Clarita, located 53 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles, is known for Pico Number 4, the world’s longest running oil well, and the thrill rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park.

The city has a population of 204,000. Asians comprise 11,845 of the population, of which 36 percent are Filipinos followed by Koreans, 16 percent, and Asian Indians, 13 percent.

Santa Clarita also has two sister cities through its Santa Clarita Valley International Program. Sariaya town in Quezon province became its sister city in 2003.

Hartmann said the city hopes “someone from the delegation is from there (Sariaya).”

In a March 10 press release, LA2015 President and CEO Patrick McClenahan said the Host Town Program “gives each community an opportunity to showcase to the world what makes them special.”

But more than this, he said it is important “to provide citizens with a better understanding of intellectual disabilities that will lead to acceptance and inclusion for all.”

The host town fact sheet states that with the program, the “Special Olympic athletes will feel truly celebrated and Host Town members will make friends for life.”

 The Host Town committee headed by Hartmann (middle) meets every other month. (Photo courtesy of AKP)
The Host Town committee headed by Hartmann (middle) meets every other month.

Santa Clarita is expecting 142 athletes from the four countries. “It’s such a diverse group of athletes, and it will be so exciting to learn about the different cultures and to meet all the athletes,” Hartmann said.

So far, the host town committee of the city has planned a dance party with the Santa Clarita Special Olympic athletes, a picnic at the Six Flags Magic Mountain and a parade inside the Westfield Valencia Town Center. The athletes and their coaches will be staying at the Master’s College.

It will cost Santa Clarita about $300 to host each athlete. It is raising the funds through grants, individuals’ donations, corporate sponsorship and in-kind donations, Hartmann said.

For the past eight months she said the city has been collecting bath towels, bed sheets, blankets, hangers and pillows, and has put together hygiene kits for the athletes.
There are boxes and boxes of these supplies in my house,”Hartmann said.

In the press release, Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean said the city “can’t wait to welcome our visiting Special Olympics World Games delegations to showcase all that Santa Clarita has to offer.”

The city is about an hour away from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where the Special Olympic Games will be held. The coliseum was the same venue for the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games.

The Special Olympics “will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games,” according to the official site

Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability states that PWDs have the right to participate in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport. Under this provision appropriate measures are to be taken to “encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all level” and to ensure that they “have the opportunity to organize, develop and participate in disability-specific sporting and recreational activities.”