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Spotlight: SpO’s Moira Horan

Olivia Pasquale
Moira Horan worked hard to ensure a lovely Fall Fest weekend.

This weekend, Villanova hosted around 1,100 athletes at the 35th annual Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival. 


The Quad (branded “O-Town” for the weekend) was filled with students from all different on-campus organizations who showed up to support the festivities. 


“All of this, every aspect of the event, has been student-led and student-run,” Moira Horan, 2023 Fall Fest Director, said.


While this day might seem like fun and games to many members of the Villanova community, Horan explained that months of planning and preparation go into this event to ensure its professional, as well as magical.


“It is still a Special Olympics Pennsylvania event because the athletes are SOPA (Special Olympics PA),” Horan said. “This is a state-level competition so, for example, they can qualify for the USA games at Fall Festival with the results of their competition. That’s why it is really important to us that the event is fun and engaging, but also professional and held to the standards of a state-level competition for all of the athletes.”


In fact, athletes must qualify during their state-level sectional competitions to even attend Fall Fest. Horan said that this day, filled with magic and sweet treats on the Quad, is something that the athletes begin to work towards in early October as they qualify for Fall Fest through their local program teams. 


“The athletes travel from all around Pennsylvania to come here,” Horan said. “Delaware County is the local program host team, but then athletes come from all the way from Erie County, out west.” 


For Horan, Special Olympics has been a part of her Villanova experience since her freshman year, when COVID-19 required the Fall Fest activities to be hosted virtually through Zoom. 


“My first Fall Fest was [a] virtual Fall Fest, so it really was my following year when I learned all about the extent of this and how it operates and the excitement around it,” Horan said. “I would say my first year, I learned so much about Special Olympics and inclusion, but hadn’t visually seen Fall Festival in action.” 


However, once Horan saw Fall Festival in action during her sophomore year, she became even more committed to the mission of Special Olympics. Her years of undergraduate involvement with the program have allowed her to have the unique perspective of the ways in which Villanova’s Special Olympics has changed over the years, especially when it comes to the structure of the Inclusion Crew. 


“I would say the biggest change in Villanova’s Special Olympics, since when I first started to now, has been the transformation of the inclusion crew,” Horan said. “[My first year,] the inclusion crew was a group of around 800 students, and it was one big group. You would join a meeting, join a Zoom to learn more about inclusion, Special Olympics and disability advocacy. That was really meaningful, but recently the inclusion crew was restructured.”


This year, inclusion crew members have been split into what they call “IC cubes,” with the “IC” standing for “inclusion crew.” Horan said that each IC cube is led by volunteer coordinators and is made up of a group of students at Villanova that train to be involved at Fall Festival. 


“The inclusion crew [in total] is about 800 people, so that has been one of the biggest ways we have been able to spread the mission and the culture of inclusion at Villanova, through that level of involvement,” Horan said. 


Hundreds of Villanova students get involved in fall fest each year, and Horan has been working on planning this weekend since early December of 2022. Horan has dedicated almost a year to this weekend long celebration, so some might wonder what inspired her to become Fall Fest Director. 


“I can’t say that it was a specific moment [that I wanted to become Fall Fest Director], rather than a culmination of moments and experiences,” Horan said “This journey of growth and support and learning about the impact of Special Olympics has motivated me to do more, be more involved, meet more athletes and reflect more on how I can have a meaningful impact on the athletes. Villanova has given me a great opportunity to have that impact, so that is why I decided to become so involved in Special Olympics.”


Horan also noted that this weekend is very emotional for her, as Special Olympics has been an integral part of her Villanova experience. She sees herself being involved with Special Olympics post-graduation because of the meaning that this organization now holds for her, as well as the friends and people she has met while being involved. 


If one is interested in getting involved with SPO, they can visit


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Olivia Pasquale, Photography Editor
Olivia Pasquale is The Villanovan's Photography Editor in 2022, a position she held in 2021 as well. A senior majoring in Biology and minoring in Spanish, Olivia leads the Photography section, ensuring that every major event at Villanova is photographed. Olivia has taken photos courtside in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Orleans, at events such as graduations, and of several important Villanova figures. Although she never struggles with the direction or detail for each individual photo, Olivia often struggles with the direction to travel to reach her destination on the highway.
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