TEMECULA, CA — What matters more than seeing your loved ones shine? This weekend, the Temecula Special Games returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. For Temecula’s special needs families, gathering together to celebrate their loved ones with developmental disabilities being out at the fields means everything.
Jacob Miller, with his mother Rachel Miller and their volunteer buddy at the Temecula Special Games. (Photo: Ashley Ludwig)
On Saturday, from 9 to 11 a.m., over 150 special needs families got their time to shine at the Temecula Valley Special Games held at Great Oak High School.
The free event was sponsored by the City of Temecula and the Temecula Valley Unified School District and the Comprehensive Autism Center, Dis Ability Sports Foundation, Clinica Medica Familiar, JDB Training, SLDC Speech and Language Development Center and Temecula Valley Therapy Services.
Since the inaugural event in 2008, the Temecula Special Games are something our special needs families look forward to every year.
On Saturday morning, the spirit of friendly non-competitive fun returned in full force.
Shandel and Eric Willis bring their son Myles, now 11-years-old, out for his special day. According to the Willis family, this is Myles’s time to shine every year.
Eric Willis with son Myles at the Temecula Special Games in 2013. (Courtesy: Shandel Willis).
His first trip to the games was in 2013, at just 2-years-old.
Myles Willis, age 3 at the Temecula Special Games. (Courtesy Shandel Willis)
Each year, they return for his chance to play for his medal.
Myles Willis connects with the ball at the 2022 Temecula Special Games. (Photo: Ashley Ludwig)
“Now, he’s reached the point he only wants to play the games with his buddy, not with us!” Shandel Willis said. She says that Myles starts his baseball season next week, but she knows where to find him during the special games.
After so many years of attending, the best part is seeing old and new faces, she said. “I actually get to stop and talk for a bit!”
“The fact he has someone to play constant baseball and basketball with him makes for a fun filled morning,” says Shandell Willis. (Photo: Ashley Ludwig).
The city was planning the 2020 games when coronavirus came to town. Since then, special needs families in the valley have waited to return.
“It’s super exciting to have such a great turnout a couple of years after hiatus,” says Willa Augustine, City of Temecula’s special events coordinator said. “We were a little unsure how turnout was going to be during the rain, but we have seen about 300 people attend between athletes, parents and volunteers.”
City workers and volunteers gathered to set up the games and prepare the athletic field for a series of games and activities.