Favorite Fall Activities
Special Olympics Fall Fest
Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019
"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt"
-Special Olympics oath
(10/2016) I am convinced that Emmitsburg was designed for the autumn season. The Mount in particular comes alive in the fall: football game watching fuels student comradery, pumpkin spice and cinnamon find their way in almost every cafeteria meal, and the campus seems increasingly picturesque with each coming day. Although it would be hard wrought to
rattle off all of the spectacular fall pastimes available in Emmitsburg, there is one fall tradition hosted at Mount St. Mary’s that is a cut above the rest – the Special Olympics’ Fall Sports Festival.
The annual Fall Sports Festival is an anticipated event for nearly 300 Special Olympics athletes. Athletes compete in sports including tennis, power lifting, flag football, long distance running, and cycling and will have opportunities to qualify for the national team. This fall, Mount St. Mary’s will host the annual event for the 29th year. The
festival will take place on October 22 at Mount St. Mary’s University athletic complex and Ft. Ritchie Community Center.
A strong showing of over 200 Mount community volunteers are anticipated for this year’s event. The Mount’s Office of Social Justice plays an integral role in orchestrating the event.
Ian Van Anden, the Director of the Mount’s Office of Social Justice, described the positive experience that the Fall Fest provides for both the Special Olympics athletes and the Emmitsburg community.
"This has been a program that the Mount has hosted for 29 years now, and the Office of Social Justice has been a proud and committed part of that relationship," he stated. "With over 250 students serving each of the last two years, this is the largest single day of service at Mount St. Mary’s University. This day is a tremendous opportunity for the
Mount to host over 300 athletes along with their families, friends, and fans."
The Fall Sports Festival has played a formative role in Mount students’ experiences as well. John O’Connor, a junior at Mount St. Mary’s, is an avid athlete and proponent of the Special Olympics organization. Since volunteering at the Fall Sports Festival as a freshman, O’Connor has become a CORE leader within the Office of Social Justice and the
co-president of Best Buds, an organization that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Like many other Mount St. Mary’s students, the Fall Sports Fest has become a capstone event for O’Connor.
"I think this definitely is my favorite fall activity because everyone is together at this event. We’re serving together, we’re volunteering together, we’re celebrating together. And [we] get to celebrate the joys of the athletes competing. You also get to celebrate being with them and being with each other," O’Connor says.
Opening Ceremonies will kick off the day 9 a.m. As in years past, the atmosphere will be electric. Athletes traditionally process in, waving their county flags, and the entire audience rises to their feet. The stadium erupts in music, cheering, and announcements. Participating athletes recite the Special Olympics oath and the games begin shortly after.
As an athlete myself, I am continually inspired by the talent, dedication, authentic sportsmanship, and infectious joy displayed by the Special Olympics athletes. The Fall Sports Festival is one of the best events of the entire year.
Clear your calendars for the Fall Sports Fest this month! This annual opportunity is not one to pass up. Pumpkin carvings, apple orchards, and leaf raking can wait another day-- but the Fall Sports Fest at the Mount is sure to become your favorite autumn tradition. For more information regarding the event and potential volunteer opportunities, visit
the Special Olympics website for the Maryland Chapter at www.somd.org or contact the Office of Social Justice at Mount St. Mary’s University.
Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.