In just a few weeks, Special Olympics Santa Barbara will host the 2013 Coast Village Classic Car Show, which will showcase an array of over 100 automobiles and contribute thousands of dollars to the organization’s ongoing efforts to train and serve over 400 special needs athletes throughout the county. Thursday evening, the organization held a VIP reception at DCH Lexus of Santa Barbara, where sponsors and members of the organization met to discuss the upcoming show and a special gala being hosted that same weekend.

Featuring auctions and a live performance by musical group Area 51, the Coast Village Classic Car Show Weekend Gala will take place at the Montecito Country Club on September 20, as a preclude to the car show on September 22. The organization’s largest fundraising event of the year, the car show plays a huge role in contributing funds to local Special Olympics efforts, according to Dana Newquist, a committee member involved in planning the event. The car show will feature various luxury vehicles, including a special collection of Corvettes and one-of-a-kind vehicles from the personal collection of Michael Armand Hammer, chairman of the Armand Hammer foundation, the event’s presenting sponsor.

With adequate funding, Newquist said Special Olympics Santa Barbara is able to continue offering training in a variety of sports, serving special needs athletes from a wide range of ages, abilities, and interests, “You can fit every kid into some type of category. … It offers something to everyone.” Special Olympics Santa Barbara offers year-round training for six sports during the spring and five during the fall, according to Sara Spataro, Special Olympics region director. Athletes train and compete in two to three annual competitions for the Southern California region, in sports from floor hockey and bowling to basketball and tennis, and although most athletes are young, Newquist said the program also serves many adult participants.

For one such Special Olympics participant, Steve Glick — who was the Santa Barbara region’s Athlete of the Year in 2007 — the program provides an outlet for “meeting new people” and developing and practicing “good sportsmanship.” Glick first joined the program in 1992, and said he has been training and more recently, coaching other participants, ever since. By developing participants’ skills and abilities beyond athletics, committee member Jayme Lee Misfeldt said Special Olympics is actually most successful in improving the self-confidence of many participants.

“Confidence is everything. … You take someone with the right skill set, and develop their confidence,” Misfeldt said. “That is what we work for here.” Misfeldt, who is chairing the gala’s live auction, said she first became involved with Special Olympics after working with special needs athletes as a gymnastics instructor. “That’s where my heart was touched by it,” she said.

After her instructing experience and judging at multiple Special Olympics competitions, Misfeldt said she has seen many Special Olympics athletes reach new heights in their daily lives — a testament to the program’s ongoing success. “By giving them a chance through sports, we’ve watched individuals excel to the point that they were getting 4.0 GPAs, getting offers from colleges, or were able to live independently and on their own.”


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