Caley Versfelt and Marco Martinez, Special Olympics World Games Messengers, stood before a dozen cameras July 14 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The two served as masters of ceremony for the press conference announcing a $1.4 million Knights of Columbus donation to the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. They smiled and laughed like they receive this kind of attention all the time.
“I enjoy being able to share my life through Special Olympics,” Versfelt beamed. “It helps me grow and it gives me confidence. My personal philosophy is never give up and dream big.”
Versfelt and Martinez will compete with 7,000 athletes next July in what promises to be the biggest sporting event the city has seen since the 1984 Olympics.
“That’s 7,000 unique windows into the best of the human spirit,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, on hand for the announcement. The Knights of Columbus have supported the Special Olympics since its inception in 1968.
The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the games to offer children with special needs, as she said, “the chance to play, the chance to compete and the chance to grow.” The Knights’ gift will help cover costs for athletes visiting Los Angeles next summer.
“We’re doing this because we agree with Caley [Versfelt],” Anderson said. “Special Olympics makes me a better me and you a better you.”
Organizers are expecting more than 500,000 spectators during the nine-day competition, during which athletes from more than 170 countries will compete in 25 events. The Special Olympics oath, which Anderson quoted in his address, is, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in my attempt.”
The Special Olympics recognizes the God-given dignity of every human person, Archbishop José Gomez said.
“We see in these faces that we are each children of the same God,” he said, noting that Los Angeles, a city of immigrants, is the perfect place to welcome athletes from around the world. “The Special Olympics, like the World Cup, show that our world is truly one family drawn from peoples of every race and language.”
Parishes and schools will support the World Games, he said. The archbishop will celebrate a Mass to start the Special Olympics at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.