Thoughts on Fall Fest as a Local Program Host

The+Special+Olympics+Fall+Fest+was+held+on+campus+from+Nov.+4+to+Nov.+6.

Olivia Pasquale

The Special Olympics Fall Fest was held on campus from Nov. 4 to Nov. 6.

Grace Janofsky, Staff Writer

Arguably, many college students would not voluntarily wake up at 5:30 a.m. for an entire weekend. The exception to this belief is the amazing group of 112 people who I had the opportunity to be a Local Program Host (LPH) with. 

When considering what kinds of clubs and organizations I wanted to join coming into my freshman year here at Villanova, I knew right away that I wanted to get involved with Special Olympics in any way possible. Everyone who I had talked to told me to apply to be an LPH. Even people who had not been one were telling me they wished they had. I admittedly did not know much about the program prior to applying. However, I did anyway. 

An LPH, also known as the giant groups of freshmen in pink shirts on Fall Fest weekend, are the hype people of Fall Fest. They are assigned to a county in Pennsylvania and get to know their athletes, cheer them on and support them. Despite not knowing much about what I was actually supposed to do at first, our meetings did not disappoint. The excitement walking out of Cova after the very first meeting guaranteed that Fall Fest would be a weekend to remember. 

The week leading up to Fall Fest weekend was packed. We had meetings every night to prepare for more than 1,000 athletes who were coming to campus. Excitement was through the roof even though we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. 

At one of our last meetings, our LPH leaders mentioned something called, “Fall Fest magic.” They said they could not even explain it and we would just need to wait and experience it for ourselves. I thought I had a sense of the “magic” and what the weekend would be like, but boy was I wrong.

 Nothing could have prepared me for the electric energy everyone carried with them from 5:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. Whether it be from chanting in the quad and waking up every sophomore or blasting music while carrying tables to set up O-town at sunrise, every single person had a smile on their face. 

LPHs were not only there to dance and hype people up, although we loved it, but we were also there for our athletes. Having the ability to eat meals with them and form long lasting friendships was the truly transformative part of the weekend. Being able to support athletes and know their stories is what made Fall Fest so amazing. The athletes truly felt supported by not only their teams but also all of the volunteers. 

On the last day of Fall Fest, there are typically gold medal games, which are similar to championships, and a lot of awards ceremonies. My fellow LPHs in my county (go Delco) bounced around from game to game to make sure we could support every one of our athletes who were playing that day. By the time it was around 10:30, we had all ended up at the gold medal soccer game for the Delaware Wildcats. 

The game was so equally matched that it ended in a tie. Once in double overtime, there was a handball in the box resulting in a penalty kick. Although at this point in the weekend my voice was completely gone, I was still trying to scream as loud as I could. One of the athletes we had formed a really close relationship with that weekend, Tamba, was the one shooting the penalty kick. He got ready to shoot, ran up to the ball, aimed for the top corner and scored the goal. 

Like a scene out of a movie, he was ecstatic and screaming. However, before running over and celebrating with his teammates, he ran straight to me and my other LPHs on the sidelines, giving all of us hugs. It warmed our hearts to know that he felt it was right to celebrate with us at that moment. 

There is no doubt in my mind that there is an unexplainable magic to Fall Fest, and we are all addicted.