On October 19, about 200 supporters of Special Olympics Santa Barbara Region (SOSBR) came out for the 5th Annual Fired Up Dinner hosted by the S.B. County Firefighters and S.B. City Firefighters at the Carriage and Western Art Museum. The event raised funds for the SOSBR’s amazing year-round sports program for those with intellectual disabilities.
During the reception, guests mingled inside the museum and on the scenic grounds. Firefighters served drinks and food, Knights of Columbus members grilled tri-tip and chicken, and a host of local dignitaries visited with the crowd, including U.S. Congressmember Salud Carbajal, State Assemblymember Monique Limón, Police Chief Lori Luhnow, Sheriff Bill Brown, City Fire Chief Eric Nickel, CA Highway Patrol Captain Cindy Pontes, Councilmembers Meagan Harmon, Eric Friedman, Oscar Gutierrez, Jason Dominguez, and Randy Rowse, and County Supervisors Gregg Hart and Das Williams. About 20 dedicated firefighters whose fire watch duties prevented their attendance came straight from duty to clean up afterward.
Development Director Gina Carbajal welcomed guests and thanked the multitude of supporters in the City and County Fire Departments and law enforcement agencies along with all the other guests who enable Special Olympics to operate. Special Olympics Southern CA (SOSC) President and CEO Bill Shumard had special praise for the volunteer coaches who are “the people who make it happen.” He related that the athletes learn how to win, lose, communicate, and make friends and noted further that Special Olympics athletes are twice as likely to have a job as others with intellectual disabilities. Shumard reminded guests that Special Olympics is not just about sports, but is also about changing the culture, and that the organization is leading the way regarding inclusion, acceptance, and diversity.
Savannah Barclay, who has been a Special Olympics athlete for 12 years and a Global Messenger for eight years, shared how Special Olympics changed her life. With great enthusiasm, she talked about all the friends she has made — friends she thinks of as family — and the multitude of opportunities Special Olympics has given her. With a broad smile on her face, she reflected on how much fun she has had attending the Summer Games at the CSU Long Beach, where she has met celebrities and other athletes. She closed with the sweetest thank you to guests, which must have touched every heart in the room.
County Sheriff Lt. Ugo “Butch” Arnoldi was honored as the Volunteer of the Year for his 37 years of tremendous service. In the early 1980s, he organized the region’s first Law Enforcement Torch Run and Tip-a-Cop fundraisers and has coordinated law enforcement’s participation in both events since 1986. Arnoldi also recruits his colleagues for the Polar Plunge and to hand out medals at competitions and games, and of course he is an integral participant at all these events.
Samuel Jauregui was crowned the Athlete of the Year. He excels on the Swim and Floor Hockey Teams and participates on the Bocce, Tennis, and Bowling Teams too. Tennis Coach Liz Frech related that Sam “is our comforter, who does his best to make us all laugh. . . .He is always grateful for each day, and says thank you after each practice.” Others related how Jauregui also excels at volunteering, both at events and in the office.
The Community Partners Award went to County Fire Captains Bryan Fernandez and Tyler Gilliam and City Fire Captain Tony Pighetti, who were instrumental in starting the Polar Plunge and Fired Up Dinner and participate each year. They, along with their departments, also volunteer at School Games, providing first aid assistance and handing out medals.
The Santa Barbara Region, which includes Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, and Santa Ynez, serves 600+ youth and adult athletes. With a lean staff of four and about 300 volunteers, SOSBR offers year-round training and competition in 12 sports, all free of charge. Athletes participate in competitions both within the Santa Barbara/Ventura Region and throughout the Southern California Region. Those who qualify can go on to the Southern California Region’s Fall Games and Summer Games, the USA Games, and the World Games. Special Olympics operates in 193 countries and serves five million plus athletes through its network of volunteers and supporters.
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