Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 13 & 14

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Friday, July 24
US Bank BuildingJuly 24
Los Angeles City Hall
The Hall of Justice
Griffith Observatory
A couple of nice short runs this morning in downtown LA. We had impressive crowds and the energy in the city surrounding the Games continues to grow. We had several team members selected to go on the roof of the US Bank Building this morning with the torch. This is the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

We got a great view of the valley and the Hollywood sign. Bob Cormier did a great job at the Hall of Justice, speaking on behalf of his fellow superheroes!

Santa Monica Pier
(setting of Three’s Company)
We had our loudest run in and everyone gave it their all for this final run in Santa Monica. Nigel Davis did a great job sharing a personal story of violence in his life and how Special Olympics helped him build the courage be to stand up for and defend himself from bullies in Jamaica. A good final run.

We had one of our last meals together after our final run today. LAPD had a nice dinner set up at City Hall for us. Team 5 was blessed to have Allen Ronaldo Jones back and free from the hospital. Due to the wonderful world of technology we used FaceTime to call and get Claire Hawthorn on the phone for a good team picture.

All of the athletes had an amazing time dancing and proving how far each of them can come in a short time with support.

Saturday, July 25
July 25 - 84 TorchLA84
Breakfast this morning hosted by the LA84 commemorative Olympics library and historical venue. The grounds were very nice and the display of past Olympic torches was very cool. An eternal flame and 84 Olympic Torch was available for photographs.

ESPN – turn it on
We are headed to the Opening Ceremonies at the Coliseum right now. For my local support, I will be the 10th officer from the stage along the corridor, right side facing the stage.

I am a Guardian of the Flame!

Dressed and headed to the Coliseum for Opening Ceremony to kick the Games off and bring in our coveted torch and athletes.

The 124-member of the 2015 Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg will be finishing our journey and our mission shortly by delivering the Flame of Hope for the 7,000 athletes filling this stadium.

(And Rocco even showed up with Mom and Dad)

July 25 - Team 5Any journey has its trials, however, we did our job tonight and delivered the Flame of Hope with dignity, respect and honor for the athletes of these Special Olympics Games.

This has been revered at the largest sports and humanitarian event in Los Angeles since 1984. I represented my family, my department, Special Olympics Missouri and myself with great pride this evening.

LETR Final Leg – Thank you

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 11 & 12

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
July 22 at ABCUp at 4:30 this morning and headed to ABC 7 – LA Studio.
We did several live shots and a few interviews were filmed for later.

Host City – Burbank
Team Zimbabwe
Team Botswana
FANtastic celebration to run into. The speeches were great by Josh and Azeem. The energy from the athletes was really needed this morning. It was an early day and this was the spark we needed.

El Cañada Flintridge
The weather has stayed a little cloudy today and there have been no complaints. We got our fill of sun running the beaches yesterday. This was a very nice community who proudly accepted the Flame of Hope.

July 22 - BurbankNigel and Bruce Felton shared their stories for the crowd. Nigel did a great job again, he rolled up his speech and spoke from the heart again. It was moving.

Beautiful town with a great downtown area. The city hosted a great event and is actually a host city for Team Singapore, Team Tanzania and Team Namibia.

Thursday, July 23
We wrapped up the day with our last two cities and my second speech, accompanied by Dale Smit. It was a humid run in to a great local crowd at both locations. Dale and I spread the word of awareness at Arcadia and Joshua and Russell carried the Torch in Glendale. It is exciting to see so many athletes at these events as we draw closer to the games.

The ride on horse training and therapy program hosted us this morning with a great welcome and light breakfast.

The long days, weather and schedule are slowing a few folks down. We are keeping our spirits and energy up when it’s time to run though. We have to treat each one like it was the first one to motivate the communities and do the job we are here for!

(You know it from Karate Kid)
This stop brought us to one of the coolest entertainment sessions yet. A gentleman has a band that he leads with four special needs guys as his vocal back ups. Great ceremony and turnout. The LETR Final Leg Team keeps knocking down those miles, getting city to city along the way. We’re in the home stretch and the Games are getting so close!

Van Nuys
They did us a solid by making this a shorter run in before serving us lunch. First ceremony where we were provided and instructed to take seats. It was in the shade and under a tent.

Many political officials had aides present and helped celebrate the Torch Run.

July 23Lakeview Terrace
This community had set up quite a vehicle and vendor display in a local park for us. The music was bumping and the cheers were loud from the athletes of Team Hellas (Greece.) Julie Tilbury and Nigel Davis did a great job.

I have become so amazingly proud of Nigel Davis the past two weeks. Nigel has gone from reading right off the script to taking the microphone with a stage presence of an entertainer. He speaks each time now from the heart and tells his story of struggle and success in his life. Nigel could have very easily been just another special needs person left inside at his families home and generally isolated from his community like many had been prior to Special Olympics and the funding that LETR helps provide.

Nigel is not just an athlete, he is also a father. He loves his daughter and her mother, who is also a special needs athlete in Kingston Jamaica. Nigel works at a soap factory that produces the soap for hotel resort guests. He runs or rollerblades/skates to work every day. He is an Olympic speed skater and figure skater. He runs and skates to work to train and he never stops training.

Nigel embodies one of the greatest, all-inclusive, examples of what Special Olympics can do in our world. He is a valuable and productive member of society and lives independently. Nigel, Dale, Joshua and Grazianno have reminded me of the importance of being a Guardian of the Flame.

Studio City
A good run in to a warm reception. Our hosts had great a great Mexican dance performance set up for us and the crowd. They topped it with ice cream and the Minions!

Route 1 / Root 1 had a pretty good day so far. We’ve had a couple setbacks, however, it’s amazing how just a few minutes of camaraderie in a park can really bring the Team spirit up.

Today at lunch, we were given a Frisbee from Panda Express. We had a little time to kill and someone brought up playing a little Frisbee. My stomach finally felt a little better so I figured why not. As soon as I got up, Grazianno hopped up and started heading off the bus too. He was eager to to get it in the grass and horse around and have some fun.
Grazianno has come out of his shell so much since the first day. We have been more protective of him and more aware on when he interacts. He does not speak English, however he understands a little. Claire Hawthorn took the first couple steps to work with him and I made sure that I followed that lead. We worked to to include, acknowledge, encourage and communicate with him when Stefano was and was not around.
It kept paying off each day. Grazianno started to initiate hugs, smile with great pride and actually danced out in the open in the middle of ceremonies. Today’s he actively played Frisbee with us all and was so happy. I was a witness to a great day of inclusion. A great day for Route 1.

July 23 - LAXLAX
We literally shut down the traffic coming through/past the iconic LAX airport sign. Five lanes of traffic for 20 minutes so we could line up everyone for a great shot. These adore the times when police officers like to block traffic, when its for their brothers and sisters and the athletes!

It was followed by a very nice outdoor dinner and DJ at the base of the flag pole and famous lighting structures. The colors have been changed to mimic the colors for these World Games.

2015 World Games: Day 3 — A tale of two halves

This is the third blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

Monday was a tale of two halves for our Missouri boys — there was the first half of the day where the softball team zombie-walked their way to a 9-15 loss vs. Canada and Bobby Williams lost two nail-biters 8-10 and 10-12 vs. Venezuela and Chile respectively. Then there was the second half of the day were the boys clobbered Mexico 13-5 and Bobby won both of his doubles match with his partner Jeff Scott from California 10-7 vs. Italy and 10-8 vs. another SO USA team.

Let’s just chalk these morning games up to them still being on Missouri time. Yeah, that sounds good.

Allen Cameron pitching vs. Canada

Allen Cameron pitching vs. Canada

It was an early start for the softball team vs. Canada at 9 a.m. at UCLA and it certainly showed. The bats were rather silent to begin the game and the defense was suspect throughout. It was close after one inning, but Canada was able to string together multiple hits, while our guys couldn’t answer. Personally, I think they can beat Canada if given another chance, but it just wasn’t their time this morning.

Arthur Murphy celebrates a double and asks for some applause from the crowd vs. Mexico

Arthur Murphy celebrates a double and asks for some applause from the crowd vs. Mexico

The second game vs. Mexico went a lot better as pitching, hitting and defense all showed up in front of a pretty big crowd. They won 13-5 and really, it wasn’t even that close. Every player had a hit (except for four players who had walks in their only at-bat) and while there weren’t many extra base hits, the team did exactly what coach Dana Griesinger has been preaching for months now — hit line drives! Another thing that I noticed was that our guys aren’t scared to get thrown out on the basepaths. They are always looking as to how they could take an extra base here or there and forced Mexico into several throwing errors. One final aspect that was good to see is how patient they were at the plate. They had multiple walks in the game (SEVEN total), a few of which forced in runs with the bases loaded. The coaches have done a great job of preaching patience and telling them not to let the moment get the best of them. It’s looking like that mindset is really paying off. We hope the momentum continues tomorrow as they’ll play against Bharat (India) at 1 p.m.

Players who went 3-3 on the day between both games:
– Nick Short
– Tyler Scott

DSC_0612Bobby’s singles matches early in the morning weren’t necessarily “shakey,” but something was just a little off about Bobby’s game. I love watching Bobby play tennis because he moves so gracefully around on the court and makes every shot look effortless. He was moving really well in both of his losses (to Venezuela and Chile), but his serves didn’t have his usual spark to them — he admitted as much in his postgame interview. He played pretty well in both matches, but it just wasn’t enough today.

Bobby guards the next during his doubles match with Jeff Scott from California

Bobby guards the next during his doubles match with Jeff Scott from California

The doubles matches with Jeff Scott from California, while they were close from beginning to end, were never in too much doubt because Bobby and Jeff never trailed in either match. Despite not knowing each other just a few months ago before meeting in Indianapolis for training camp, Bobby and Jeff do a great job of moving together as one on the court. They work really well together and I’m looking forward to see them progress throughout the week. Bobby and Jeff have more doubles divisioning at 10 a.m., but right now it’s not looking like he’ll have any singles matches Tuesday.

Some other fun things that happened today:

We're kind of a big deal!

We’re kind of a big deal!

– We went to the big festival area where we collected pins, visited sponsored tents, tried an Oculus virtual reality thing, looked at merch and MADE THE COVER OF ESPN THE MAGAZINE! ;-)

– Michelle Kwan was spotted in the stands watching Bobby and other athletes compete on Court 3 at the UCLA Tennis Center

– Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was at the afternoon softball game vs. Mexico and met with the team prior to the game for a pep talk. He stayed the whole game to cheer on the guys and then took a group photo at the end before letting them know the big surprise that they are going to attend the Dodgers/Athletics game Tuesday as special guests of Turner. They will be able to go down on the field for batting practice and everything. Despite being a team full of Royals and Cardinals fans, the guys are SO excited for this opportunity.

Coach Dana Griesinger, Justin Turner and Coach Susan Shaffer

Coach Dana Griesinger, Justin Turner and Coach Susan Shaffer

– Following the game vs. Mexico, the guys were greeted by adoring fans both young and old who wanted their autographs. It made for a really cute moment between fans and athletes.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 2 — Missouri 3-0 on the day

This is the second blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

It’s pretty hard to find a place that has perfect weather, but Los Angeles has to come pretty close. Although it was pretty warm today, there was an almost constant breeze that helped keep things mostly cool.

Enough about the weather and onto the more important things… how’d our Missouri boys do on Sunday in competition? Well, they went a combined 3-0!

Bobby Williams played two divisioning matches today and beat an athlete from Paraguay 10-8 and later beat an athlete from Israel. Sadly, we weren’t able to get over to watch Bobby play today, but we’ll make sure to get there on Tuesday. The two matches were pretty even and if Bobby were even slightly nervous, he didn’t really show it as he was never behind in either of his matches. His game times for Monday, July 27 are still up in the air and we will update the webpage with the times and post to social media (Facebook & Twitter) as soon as we get the word.

Jason Parrish high-fives his teammates after he scored a run vs. Australia

Jason Parrish high-fives his teammates after he scored a run vs. Australia

Coach Shaffer does her best to keep the guys loose during the game

Coach Shaffer does her best to keep the guys loose during the game

While we were unable to get to Bobby’s matches this morning, the late start for the softball team gave us plenty of time to catch their game vs. Australia. The first inning was a little shaky for the guys (chalk it up to nerves in front of a decent-sized crowd and the first game of the tournament), but they came out of that rough first inning (both at the plate and in the field) with a 4-3 lead. Then that’s when they really came out of their shells. They started to be a lot more patient at the plate and it paid off with two walks and a MAMMOTH LASER homerun from Jason Parrish in the second plating four more runs and two walks and six runs in the third inning before the game was called for the one-hour time limit.

Three of the guys were lucky enough to be selected to participate in the Unified Sports exhibition with other world-class athletes and celebrities following their game. Allen Tobin, Arthur Murphy and Tyler Scott all took part in the exhibition while their teammates and fans filled the bleachers behind them cheering them on.

Arthur Murphy receives congratulations from actor Ed Harris after reaching first base during the Unified Sports exhibition

Arthur Murphy receives congratulations from actor Ed Harris after reaching first base during the Unified Sports exhibition

Overall, it was a great day for the Show-Me State and we’re looking forward to see what they can do tomorrow!

Sports Schedule for July 27 —
Softball: 9 a.m. vs. Canada & 3:30 p.m. vs. Mexico
Tennis (Bobby Williams): TBD

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 1 — Opening Ceremony

This is the first blog post in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

More than a year in the making since teams were announced, the 2015 World Games kicked off yesterday in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles. It’s been a long time coming for the athletes, coaches, families and staff who have worked so hard to put the best possible teams together to represent the USA.

DSC_0009 (Copy)The softball team and Bobby Williams, our tennis delegate from Kansas City, have been practicing in LA for a few days now and are more than ready to actually start competing. But first things first, we needed to kick off the games with the Opening Ceremony!

As a “media member” this week, I was lucky enough to be allowed down onto the field to take photos of the parade of athletes. We got there early enough that we could pick out the exact spot we wanted and made sure to tell our delegates via text which side I was located on so I could get the best photos possible.DSC_0088 (Copy)

Being a huge sports nerd, just being in the LA Memorial Coliseum was a real treat for me. Knowing that it has hosted the Olympics (1932 and 1984), several international soccer matches, unforgettable University of Southern California football games and much more, it was really cool to finally see it in person.

It was hotter than blue blazes in general yesterday, but standing around on the field waiting for the festivities to begin made it even worse. Once the parade did start and the first country (Greece) kicked it off, all that other stuff faded away.

Knowing I was really only there to take photos of Special Olympics USA, and even more specifically our guys from Missouri, I still couldn’t stop myself from taking shots of as many countries as possible as they walked down the red carpet (would you expect anything less glitzy in LA?). Everyone was having such an amazing time and it felt like every other delegation had someone famous marching in with them (Justin Bieber, Colin Farrell, Dikembe Mutombo, Michelle Kwan, Apolo Anton Ohno, Oscar De La Hoya, Paula Abdul, Jamaal Charles and more).

DSC_0250 (Copy)

Michelle Kwan

DSC_0337 (Copy)

Colin Farrell

I’ll admit it was a little slow and boring and quite crowded at times down on the floor as photographers jockeyed for position on the red carpet, but I had the chance to talk to two professional photographers from Getty Images, which passed the time a bit. I’d nudge them as celebrities started walking down the red carpet and they’d take their shots and then they’d ask “Uh, who was that again?”

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Apolo Anton Ohno

DSC_0396 (Copy)

Oscar De La Hoya

After an hour and a half of standing, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, sitting, stan… (you get the idea), the moment had arrived for the home delegation to enter the stadium. It was rather impossible to not get chills as the crowd noise grew from a low murmur to a thunderous applause as our US delegates came through the tunnel. I was barely able to scream loud enough at Bobby so I could take his photo. A few seconds later I saw Susan Shaffer (softball coach and SOMO staff member) locked arm in arm with one of our softball guys Ronald Tetreault. I yelled at them loud enough so I could grab as many photos of the whole team as possible. It looked like every one of them was having such an amazing time. I am just so glad that I could be a part of this experience for them and help document their trip.

Everyone then took their seat on the field and I went to sit with some other Missouri folks in the nosebleeds. The show itself was pretty good (with performances and appearances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne, First Lady Michelle Obama and more), but the lighting of the torch was by far my favorite moment of the night. The torch came in the stadium and was passed to and from athletes and coaches from other countries on the walkway until it was eventually touched to the cauldron and declared the games open. Fireworks went off around the stadium and the cauldron that was set ablaze to open the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, was now lighting up the southern California sky not just for the 6,500 athletes competing this week, but the millions of people around the world with intellectual disabilities.

Bobby Williams

Bobby Williams

Softball team from Missouri

Softball team from Missouri

Being on staff only a little over 2 1/2 years, I’ve been able to experience a lot with Special Olympics, but nothing compares to this moment. Standing there and watching as country after country (165 total) and delegate after delegate (6,500+) walked through that tunnel, it showed me what was so hard to comprehend before — that this is truly a worldwide phenomenon. It’s so easy to think you know what Special Olympics is all about — just sports, right? — but until you see all of the participating countries’ athletes marching in with their native and flamboyant apparel chanting and screaming with smiles on their face and sometimes tears running down their cheeks, the real meaning of it all isn’t seen until that very moment — inclusion.

So many of the speakers (President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama, SOI Board Chairman Tim Shriver, Maria Shriver, athlete Global Messengers and more) talked about exactly that — this week is about proving to other people what you’ve known as an athlete, as a coach or as a family member have known about people with intellectual disabilities — that they belong. Whether it’s on the field of competition or in the classroom or in the community or in the workforce, no matter where it is, you belong.

DSC_0682 (Copy) DSC_0713 (Copy)

Brandon’s awards for the evening:
Best Dance Routine: Samoa
Best Outfit: Korea
Loudest Applause/Cheer for non-USA team: Cuba

Korea's outfits were A+

Korea’s outfits were A+

Sports Schedule for July 26 —
Softball: 3:30 p.m. vs. Australia
Tennis (Bobby Williams): 10 a.m.

Sports Schedule for July 27 —
Softball: 9 a.m. vs. Canada & 3:30 p.m. vs. Mexico
Tennis (Bobby Williams): TBD

For more photos from the Opening Ceremony, visit our Flickr album or our Facebook page.

Also stay tuned on our Twitter account and website as we’ll post live results as they come in.

I promise the following posts won’t be so long :-)

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 9 & 10

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Disneyland —
Mother nature struck again and though it rained in southern California, the show must go on. We got about 90 minutes of free time to wander around downtown Disney. We spent time spreading the word to a group of 8th grade girls from Oregon who were here for a soccer tournament. We talked about Special Olympics and the Torch Run.
The torch was run, during a slight drizzle, and welcomed by a cheerleading team and several hundred guests of Disney. A little time for goofing around helped the aches and pains of the day.
Disneyland 1

IrvineLagunaNewport Beach

Irvine, Laguna, Newport Beach 
Up early and rolling again this morning. This will be the lamest post yet. We have been hitting stops back to back and they have been awesome. Good receptions at each with some amazing little guys that stole the show.

Huntington Beach —
The new Huntington Beach Bad Boys and Girls just took the beach. An amazing reception in Huntington Beach that will be repeated. They are a host city for the athletes coming to the U.S. from Australia and the Netherlands. The excitement is building in the communities around L.A.Torance

Huntington Beach

Torrance —
Toyota welcomed the LETR Final Leg team with an amazing setup, concert, ceremony and lunch.

Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach —
Here we ran along the beach. We had a gorgeous weather day and the event pulled in several people along the way to a large outdoor ceremony at the pier.

El Segundo (Mattel HQ) —
The employees of Mattel had a quality set and we’re ready to receive the Flame of Hope. They had great area set up and the LA Lakers Girls standing by. Another dance party broke out, you can’t give this crew a DJ and ice cold Gatorade because a party is bound to break out. Even Graziano danced tonight.

LongBeachEl Segundo

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 7 & 8

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Day 7 – Several Posts

Day 7 Jeff and Oxnard athletesThe days have been exciting and tiring at the same time. The excitement and energy of the community recharges our batteries and motivates us for the next run. The members of Route 1 (Root 1!) continue to impress.

Our first stop today was Oxnard. I was going to try and recap yesterday, however the last hour in Oxnard can not wait to be mentioned. Groups or athletes were waiting at each corner we turned at to help us reach the ceremony. We arrived to a Police Commander who emceed the event and did a great job. This was the most inspiring stop to date.

Our Team 5 athlete, Dale Smit, made me so proud today. His nervousness was apparent and when he got up, he struggled in a few spots. As I stood and watched Dale this morning I witnessed what real courage looks like. He conquered each word that slowed him down and did not let it get the best of him. I was as proud of Dale Smit this morning as I have been of my own son at times in his life. My pride began to create a bit of a glare in my vision and an ache in my chest. I hesitate to share this knowing many of my teammates may see this. Emotion got the best of me this morning and I wasn’t sure why at first? (One person spotted me but I know she wont tell.). G. lol As I looked around, the realization of where I was and the opportunity that was given to me just sunk in. The excitement and joy in that community, for our arrival, was amazing. Eric Smith and Dale Smit killed it on a news interview today as well. It was so good a dance party literally broke out at nine in the morning. Thank you Oxnard, you have set the bar!

Today continues to be a good day in Cali! The weather was almost as beautiful as the town. They are hosting the athletes of Team Britain and the town was decorated nicely. We ran into a well attended ceremony where Jen Riley and our athlete Joshua spoke to the crowd. They both did a fantastic job representing our family.

On a side note, if you’re ever in California, this is the car you want to escort you around (CHP Dodge Viper.)

Day 7 WG cheerleaderTHOUSAND OAKS
We shut down Thousand Oaks Blvd for almost 2.5 miles and ran into a spectacular crowd. Patrons and shop owners were coming out of the stores and cheering us along. Those in vehicles honked, in support not in frustration, waving and video taping as well.
My teammate and roomie, Otis Stevens, gave his speech today alongside Nigel Davis. Nigel continues to shine with each speech. Thousand Oaks brought out the “Sparkles” unified Cheer Team. Amazing young ladies…

SIMI VALLEY 99 degree
First off, nice views and great hills, too look at! A nice mile-long climb up to a shopping center that rounded out the day with a huge crowd. I have been most impressed with the quality of the ceremonies and community turnout today. The Simi Valley PD organized some great entertainment after effectively spreading the message and the mission of the Final Leg.

Day 7 Jeff and athleteWe headed out after meeting a few locals and stopped by the local Toyota dealership after another hilly Simi Valley run.

There’s barely time to post between stops, fortunately they arranged for wifi on the bus. Posting in the evening is a challenge because it cuts into what we have realized is most valuable sleep time.

We are having dinner at the Ronald Reagan library this evening!

Day 8
Day 8 With  cheerleaderWe were quite a wake up call for the city of San Yisidro / San Diego County. We shouted cadence for about two miles through the street to spread awareness and make our presence known. The local supporters did not hesitate to put on a fantastic show of support. The Xolo Girls and the mascot for the Caliente futbol team from Tijuana were there along with a great mariachi band. As with most stops these days when music kicks off, the dancing follows

As the military chant starts … Didn’t come to Coronado for the sun, we’re running for the athletes in the Torch Run!

What a beautiful city, looks just like the movies. We ran along the bay front and then through town to a community orchestra waiting for us. US Olympic Champion Layne Beaubien emceed the event. Today has started out as good as yesterday, just a little cooler with rain sprinkles. We finished with a quick trip to Hotel Del Coronado and finally coffee! The community and local law enforcement did another job showing great respect for the Flame of Hope.

Mother Nature decided to poke fun of the other Routes. There were in places in the desert and we were at Seal Beach in LaJolla with the ocean. Change of plans, lighting, thunderstorms and water by the buckets. The storms shut down both cities nearly with flood warnings and storm drains filling at capacity.

Our trip was cut short, however, San Diego PD adapted like true Torch Run Guardians and we brought the ceremony on the bus. Their message was shared in an abbreviated fashion, however, we appreciated all their efforts. I’m sorry to San Diego their efforts and preparation was minimized to being on the bus, I know they had great stuff in store for us. We’ve been granted some rehab time which will be appreciated.

What an awesome morning running along the ocean in San Clemente. There was a weekend festival that still had a lot of people out already. The view was Fantastic and the ceremony was impressive.

A couple of days ago in Visalia we witnessed our athlete Graccianno Corozza from Italia smile and give Tammy and kiss on the cheek at the end of her speech. This was the most emotion we had seen from Gracciano the entire trip.

Day 8 Jeff and NigelToday was Nigel’s turn to pierce my heart. He came up today and for the first time he did not read his speech, he went off the cuff and did it from memory. Actually he did it from his heart, his great big smiling heart. Nigel spoke of how he was a little concerned about being on the bus with all of the officers and new people however now he loves his new family.
The pride in my chest for Nigel swelled and I had to tell him. I went to Nigel afterwards and gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him and he squeezed me back tightly. Nigel then became emotional and started crying in my arms out of joy, acceptance and pride in himself. Life does not provide many moments like this however Special Olympics and Torch Run family is like no other.

The beauty of this beach was only shadowed by the inspiring Torch Runners that took it over. Jacqui Robertson and Graziano gave outstanding speeches, relaying the mission and personal experiences with LETR. We had a great lunch at the beach and even go to kick our shoes off and play in the sand a little.

As for Graziano “Buon lavoro il mio amico”. Good job my friend.

Day 8 Jeff  running with the torchAnother California city set the stage for a wonderful welcome. We started our run at the Finish Line of the 1984 Olympic Games Cycling event that finished in Mission Viejo. It was a very nice setting in a beautiful community. Olympic Champion Bob Goodell, a gold medalist swimmer in 1984, was also on hand.

We ran in to a Pipe and Drum band playing with a large community turnout. Bob Cormier gave his speech, followed and outdone, by Team 5’s Dale Smit. Dale followed suit with his teammates stepped up in his public speaking. Dale did an amazing job with his eye contact and voice strength today. He used his script, however, he looked up and spoke in his normal speaking voice more than his slightly nervous reading voice.

I wish that his mom and dad could have been here to see him and his progress the past 8 days. Today showed the power of support, confidence and courage for Dale. FANtastic!