News Release

Latter-day Saint Volunteers Bask in 
Special Olympics Fever

10,000 Mormon Volunteers

Thousands of Mormons volunteered to help in the recently completed Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California, in July and August. Latter-day Saints from 57 stakes (a stake is similar to a diocese) worked hundreds of hours helping to accommodate the 7,000 athletes, coaches and trainers from 177 countries. The Church was the single largest contributor of volunteers in the Special Olympics.

The 10,000 volunteers from throughout Southern California worked behind the scenes to house, shuttle, feed and cheer on the athletes in a multitude of sports such as aquatics, basketball, volleyball, golf, powerlifting and gymnastics.

Mormons were many of the fans in the stands cheering and encouraging the competitors. They were volunteer cheering squads that numbered in the hundreds. “When we first read about the ‘Fans in the Stands,’ we felt that this was something we not only wanted our own youth to participate in, but we wanted our community to become involved also,” explained David Montgomery, Latter-day Saint chairperson of the Cerritos and Lakewood, California, host towns.

“Celebrating begins not when the athletes cross the finish line or score the winning goal but when the fans erupt with excitement,” according to the Special Olympics website.

“The athletes were excited to see familiar faces and responded with smiles and waves as they participated in the events.” Montgomery said the friendships that were made helped the volunteers have a purpose to their cheering because a personal bond of friendship had been established.

“This was a natural service opportunity,” said Larry Eastland, director of the Special Olympics project for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern California. “As soon as we saw this, we knew that this was a perfect vehicle for the Church to get involved right in their own communities.”

Eastland said, “The Church donated 500 sets of bedding for the arriving delegations of Special Olympians who stayed in dorms and other facilities where beds were provided but bedding was not. The bedding is now being collected, laundered and redistributed to shelters all over Los Angeles.

Mormon volunteers provided athletes with opportunities to experience various cuisines, rope a cow with the help of a cowboy, pan for gold, wear a lei as they dined at a real Hawaiian luau and get their picture taken as if their faces were the ones on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

In preparation for the summer games, Church volunteers reached out to the local interfaith councils, restaurants and many other businesses and recruited them to join the volunteer effort.

“I’m moved at how local community leaders, interfaith groups and organizations quickly came together to make this a success!” remarked Brittney Bulger, a host town Latter-day Saint coordinator. “It’s been an honor to see the relationships created and strengthened from working side-by-side for the overall success of the World Special Olympics.”

Asked if the Latter-day Saint volunteers would do it again, Montgomery said, “In a heartbeat!”

“It was a lot of work and my committee was exhausted, but everyone has reported to me that it was worth it because it was a wonderful, inspiring experience.”

Watch KSL TV’s story about the Special Olympics’ Mormon volunteers.

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