30th Annual Special Olympics Family Festival is Saturday

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Published on September 17 2013 1:57 pm
Last Updated on September 17 2013 1:57 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Consolidated Communications is celebrating its 30th annual Special Olympics Family Festival (SOFF) this Saturday, Sept. 21, and is looking for volunteers who want to spend a day they’ll never forget helping out on the grounds of Lake Land College.

This year’s celebration is a milestone, marking the 30th annual event. The first SOFF in 1984 brought a few hundred Special Olympian athletes together with volunteers for a day of fun and games. This year’s event is expected to draw more than 800 athletes and more than 1,600 volunteers are needed to help make the day a success for everyone.

SOFF is sponsored by Consolidated Communications and organized by its employees along with representatives from Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust.  Dawn Frost, a Consolidated Communications employee and chairperson of the 2013 SOFF Committee, said both companies have supported SOFF in the past with donations and volunteers and she appreciates the increased participation with representatives of the companies working hand-in-hand with Consolidated Communications employees on the committee.

“To continue to grow this festival it is essential we look outside our own resources and partner with others who have the same passion for this festival,” she said.

Unlike traditional Special Olympic games, SOFF is not a competitive event. SOFF is centered on games and activities in a carnival-type atmosphere for Special Olympian athletes, beginning with opening ceremonies and a parade. There are many games the athletes enjoy throughout the day, including softball throw, basketball shoot, dunk tank, ring toss and bowling, just to name a few.

When the day begins, each athlete is paired with a volunteer Friend-For-A-Day who serves as their host and accompanies them to games, activities, lunch and other events on the grounds. Each athlete can participate in any of the games or activities and will always be a winner and receive a ribbon or prize.

Area residents have the opportunity to make friends and volunteer for a worthwhile event at the same time at SOFF.

“We’re looking for volunteers to help run games, work in registration, serve food or work in many other capacities at SOFF. Our largest need is for volunteers to serve as Friends-For-A-Day. We are expecting almost 900 Special Olympic athletes to attend SOFF, and we need at least one volunteer to serve as a friend for each athlete,” Frost said.

To commemorate the 30th annual event, the SOFF Committee has chosen a birthday party theme.

“I encourage our community members to consider spending a day with us at this year’s event as a volunteer.  We often hear that SOFF is just like Christmas for many of our athletes. SOFF is a super event that our athletes look forward to each year and remember for years to come,” Frost said.  “Serving as a SOFF volunteer gives you the opportunity to make memories of your own that will truly last a lifetime.”

The festival is not open to the public. Only those who register as an event volunteer can participate, and all volunteers must be 16 or older. SOFF is also a non-smoking event.

If you’re interested in signing up as a volunteer, please go to the Consolidated Communications Web site and download a registration form by clicking on About Us, Community Involvement and then Special Olympics. Forms are also available at the Consolidated Communication Center in Mattoon at 1321 Charleston Avenue. Learn more about SOFF and watch a video on Facebook at Special Olympics Family Festival.