Weekend leaves profound effect

Kelly Skahan

While most students settled down last weekend after Halloween, getting ready for a home football game and the short stretch until Thanksgiving break, others were gearing up for one of the biggest weekend events of the year: the Special Olympics.

From Mendel Field to the Pavilion, the Cinema to Jake Nevin, SPO took over Villanova’s campus and dominated activities throughout the weekend. While athletes competed in events like soccer and volleyball in various areas around the University, the Quad became ‘Nova’s own Olympic Village, dubbed “O-Town,” with karaoke, hot chocolate and games for competitors and their families. Teams practice throughout the year and compete in various events in every season, but the Fall Festival at Villanova is the largest student-run competition in the country.

An event of this magnitute, however, is not without its restrictions. Access to Pike Lot was hard to come by for students and visitors to the football game on Saturday, as it served as a parking area for buses chartered by Special Olympics teams. The bookstore was placed on limited hours and was closed all day on Sunday. Shuttle routes were also cancelled for the majority of the weekend in an effort to help competitors and their families get around campus.

The most significant effect the Special Olympics had on campus, however, was the remarkable influx of students eager to help out. From those who served as guides and officials to the student-athletes who helped hand out awards on Sunday, the Villanova community showed its true colors and supported the participants and teams that had come to play.

“Being a nursing major, I get the most enjoyment when I help others,” says junior Lindsey DeFilippo, citing her SPO premier as a Local Program Host, a position exclusive to freshmen.  “Part of Villanova’s appeal was its involvement with SPO.  Once I got involved as an LPH freshman year, I was hooked.”

“We were all assigned a county team from Pennsylvania, and basically we just spent the entire weekend with them,” says freshman Laura Collins, who served as an LPH this year. “We spent the weekend going to all of their events, cheering for them, helping them get around campus, hanging out with them, eating with them and basically becoming their Villanova friends for the weekend.”

DeFilippo also gave advice to those wanting to help out next fall.

“We have two volunteer recruitment nights at the end of September and the beginning of October,” she says. “Each [Olympics] committee has a booth set up so people can sign up and find out what it is all about. If you want to be part of the committee, the applications go out in the beginning of second semester.”

While the cold weather outside has kept the timid indoors, the athletes and volunteers of this year’s Special Olympics withstood the weather and put their hearts into the entire weekend, creating a rewarding experience for everyone.

“On the last day of competition while we were giving out the awards, one of the athletes randomly said, ‘Thank you’ as I was walking by,” DeFilippo adds. “I had no idea what he was thanking me for, but I said ‘You’re welcome.’  He said, ‘No you don’t understand … Thank you! We participate in so many festivals, but Fall Festival is always our favorite.  We have so much fun, and your committee goes so far and beyond what is necessary because you want us to enjoy it.’ We hear that all the time from our SPO liaisons, but to actually hear it from the athletes was amazing.”