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Special Olympics Ventura Region - COVID-19 Update

We are weeks into COVID-19, with many video conferences, many check-in with athletes, coaches, and volunteers.  This new normal of social distancing is deeply challenging for many of us.  With the current released information by the CDC and State of California, we are cancelling all sports trainings/practices, coach trainings, competitions, and co-hosted school activities through June 7 and all fundraising events through May 10. 

I want to give all of you a few updates regarding Special Olympics.  With the current released information by the CDC and State of California, we are cancelling all sports trainings/practices, coach trainings, competitions, and co-hosted school activities through June 7 and all fundraising events through May 10. 

Here are some of the events that have been rescheduled:


  • Santa Barbara/Ventura Region Polar Plunge – Rescheduled for Sunday, July 12th at Leadbetter Beach
  • Fired Up for Special Olympics Dinner – Scheduled for Saturday, October 24th
  • LETR Torch Run Santa Barbara Region – Rescheduled for Thursday, November 12th
  • LETR Torch Run Ventura Region – Rescheduled for Friday, November 13th
  • Tip A Cops – TBD after May 10th – Stay tuned


We will continue to monitor the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) daily as this is a quickly evolving situation, we will update you as new information arises.

Retirement Time. Thank You Special Olympics Athletes!

I am taking this opportunity to share my departing thoughts as I retire from Special Olympics tomorrow (Friday, August 17th).  It has been close to 15 years since I first walked in to our Special Olympics office in Ventura Harbor.   I had never had any experience with individuals with intellectual disabilities, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that comfortable.  But through the years, I have learned so much from our athletes….many things that have done so much to enrich my life and make me a better person.

The courage, determination, unbridled joy, and even the disappointments our athletes experience have shown me that we are all so much alike.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that we dance to the same music, we enjoy the same movies, and we have many likes and dislikes in common.  We aren’t so different, you and me, and it doesn’t take much to warm to the effervescent smiles and hugs from all of the athletes that come out to the practices and competitions, that help at the Tip-A-Cop events, that participate in and enjoy the special events that we conduct.

Over the years, I have had athletes from different Regions come up to me and welcome me by name at our competitions.  I don’t remember their names….but they remember mine and it is beyond heartwarming.  It will be all of these things that I will treasure the most and remember always.


Along with the athletes, I have made many friends among the Law Enforcement Community.  Deputy Mike Zabarsky has been a long-time supporter of our athletes.  I thank him for our continued friendship, and probably one of the coolest ‘parting gifts’ I’ve ever received (the Jr. Deputy Sheriff’s plaque which now hangs in my home office).  Also, among the Top 5 is a promotional gift I received from one of the companies with whom we reserved porta potties.  I’ll bet no one else has a Porta Potty Piggy Bank!

My days will now be shared with (among others) my four legged friends – my Korean Jindo dog Scrappy (who is also retiring from Special Olympics, as he had command performances at the office whenever our wonderful office volunteer, Rae, was in) and with the big boy you see in the photo – my Paint horse Baron.  I hope to buy a horse ranch....and more horses.  And I plan to win the Lotto.

But I will forever remember the staff and volunteers that I have worked with these past years, and those inspiring Special Olympics athletes.

Happy Trails!


Law Enforcement Torch Run

As the Law Enforcement Torch Run approaches (June 6 & 7th, here in Ventura County), we are taking the opportunity to highlight one of our officers who has been involved with Special Olympics Ventura County for over 20 years!

Officer Bernadette Compean began participating in the Torch Run in 1997 when she began her law enforcement.  She has been a liaison for the Ventura Police Department for the past 12 years.  

Officer Compean says, "When I was about 13 years old, I volunteered at the local YMCA to assist in teaching swimming in the adaptive program.  Although these folks had special needs, I saw how much they enjoyed swimming just as much as anyone.  To be able to help them achieve that same joy was uplifting.  Fifteen years later, I found myself part of an even bigger group, law enforcement, who made Special Olympics a priority.  I have been proud to be a part of that union."

Officer Compean goes on to say that meeting Chief Richard LaMunyon of Witchta, Kansas, who began the Law Enforcement Torch Run in 1981, was a great honor.  Because of his vision for the Torch Run and fundraisers, law enforcement has been able to touch the lives of thousands upon thousands of Special Olympics athletes.

"My involvement in the Special Olympics has humbled me, inspired me, and pushed me to be a better individual both on and off the job.  I personally live by the Special Olympics motto (Athlete Oath)." (Below)

"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

We thank Officer Bernadette Compean for her years of service to our Ventura County athletes!

First Unified High School Basketball Game at Camarillo High School.

"Hats off to Sr. Sports Manager Tim Ballaret, Rio Mesa High School, and Adolfo Camarillo High School for an impactful and meaningful experience,” states Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Zabarsky who attended the first Unified Basketball game between Adolfo Camarillo High School, Rio Mesa High School, and students with intellectual disabilities. 

More than 400 hundred students cheered, clapped, and yelled encouragement for both teams and it seemed that the students even stopped checking cell phones to watch the excitement.  This has been the first of what we hope to be many of this type event in the future.

The halftime show was an inspiring and emotional performance by a Unified dance group. 

Special Olympics Unified Sports is an inclusive program that combines individuals with intellectual disabilities (athletes) and individuals without intellectual disabilities (Unified Partners) on sportsteams for training and competition.



Special Olympics Strong!

Just about everyone knows Vincent Peterson.  He has participated in Special Olympics since he was 8 years old and is now 46. 

Vincent nearly didn’t make it to 47.

About a week ago, I received a call from Helen, Vincent’s mom, informing me that Vincent was in the hospital and things weren’t looking so good.  He had been suffering for nearly a year from an undiagnosed illness.  A tall, stout person, Vincent had dropped nearly 200 pounds and was down around 100 pounds.  He was in the local hospital in Ventura and they were about to do a test for Lymphoma.  When he was admitted, he was within hours of death, slipping in and out of consciousness.

Vincent was a regular at our tournaments.  He participated in swimming, former winter sports of skiing and snowshoeing, equestrian, bowling, and others throughout the years, and also helped with coaching.  His infectious smile and upbeat personality was always a welcomed addition to our day. 

Vincent used to join me as I followed all of the law enforcement agencies during the Law Enforcement Torch Run.  He would hop out of my car about a half mile down the road and run with the District Attorneys to the end of their leg at Faria Beach.  He loved helping out at our Tip-A-Cop events and was also a Global Messenger, visiting civic organizations and corporations, speaking on behalf of Special Olympics and sharing his experiences.

Vincent on the right, with athletes Ian and Linda on his left.

I called a few days after the tests were conducted and was unable to reach either Helen or Vincent, so I was terribly concerned.  Finally, a few days ago, I received the news.  Vincent was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis – a rare auto-immune condition with the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells (granulomas) in different parts of the body, most commonly the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes and skin.  It can come on without warning and can go away almost as mysteriously.  The best part of this story is that his doctor had suspicions of this and tested Vincent for the disease.  Medical science a wonderment – and thank you to the doctors and nurses who were there for him in his hours of need.

Vincent is now home, receiving and responding to treatment, with an excellent prognosis.  He hasn’t lost his great sense of humor and enthusiasm and wants to revisit Special Olympics if his health permits.  Something tells me we’ll be seeing him around our offices and tournaments again.

Regional Director Peggi, Vincent, and mom Helen

Vincent Peterson is Special Olympics Strong!


Getting The Feel of Law Enforcement

One of our Ventura County bowling coaches, Marilyn Mok, won third prize at our 2017 rubber duck race - an opportunity to participate with a representative from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office in the Sheriff's Force Option Simulator. Here is what Marilyn had to say after her experience:

"Happy New Year! Just wanted to let you know my boyfriend and I just came back from the Sheriff Force Simulator class.  Man, was that intense and very interesting. The room we were in had surrounding screens projected with real life scenarios (shop lifting, domestic assault, robbery home invasion). We had to think like a sheriff and decide what to say and what action to take with a taser, pepper spray or gun strapped around our waist. Virtual reality I guess you would call it. It was like I was really there at the scene.

I have so much respect for Law Enforcement. They have to surmise quickly, be rational and stay calm on the job. Whew! Deputy Mike Zabarsky was very nice. My boyfriend and I really enjoyed the class.  I am glad I won this prize from the drawing."

Thank you for sharing your experience, Marilyn, and we are glad you liked the prize you won from the Lucky Duck Race & Plucktacular last September. We are all so appreciative of the support all of our law enforcement agencies give Special Olympics, and this puts in to perspective just what these heroes go through on nearly a daily basis!

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is one of Ventura County's largest supporters and is comprised of 11 different law enforcement agencies.


Athletes enjoy Parade of Lights at Ventura Harbor

Over 120 athletes and their families enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and a visit by Santa, who handed out goody bags full of treats and fun.  Then, it was off to a 90 foot yacht, all decorated for the Christmas holiday, and a tour around the Ventura Harbor for the Parade of Lights.


The evening was courtesy of Joseph Fan, President of Brighton Management and owner of the Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor.  Each year, the Sheraton hosts our Ventura County athletes and their families and it is an event which is eagerly anticipated and fills up quickly.  The yacht won 2nd prize in the Parade of Lights.

Brighton Management also made a $10,000.00 donation to Special Olympics Ventura County.  We truly appreciate the ongoing support of our athletes – Joseph is a treasured friend of our athletes!









2017 Annual Parade of Lights

On Saturday, December 16th, over 120 athletes and members of their families, coaches and volunteers were treated to a scrumptious dinner, a visit from Santa Claus, goodie bags, and a ride on a rather large boat!

It was the annual Parade of Lights at the Ventura Harbor, and for about the 11th year, the Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor invited Special Olympics Ventura County to join in the festivities. 

This is an event which always fills up quickly, and this year was no different.  We had to start a waiting list, but fortunately, the Sheraton came up with a 90 foot yacht to accommodate everyone!  The smoke from the recent Thomas fire didn’t dampen spirits and everyone who attended had a fantastic time.

Joseph Fan, President of Brighton Management (owners of Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor and other hotels) continued to show his unwavering support for Special Olympics and our Ventura County athletes with a Holiday gift of $10,000.00!

Wishing a wonderful Christmas and Holiday Season for everyone!


Athletes on Parade (of Lights!)

Every year, one of our most valued supporters, the Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor Resort, hosts over 120 Ventura County Special Olympics athletes at the annual Parade of Lights at the Ventura Harbor.  Boats & yachts, large and small, are decorated in festive Holiday decorations and lights and then line up and sail around the harbor.  Entries are judged and awards are given, and it is a wonderful and festive event finished off by spectacular fireworks.

Each year, the hotel enters three to four yachts and athletes get to ride in the parade.  Prior to this, the hotel provides a scrumptious dinner by the hotel's restaurant, Alexander's (and it's good!!) for the athletes and their parents.  Wouldn't you know, Santa even arrives to give out Holiday treats and gifts.  The dinner is completed by a generous check presentation to Special Olympics Ventura County, and then the athletes are off to board the yachts!

This year's event will be held on Saturday, December 16th.  The Parade of Lights begins at 6:30 p.m. and we would love everyone to make their way to the Harbor, the shops and docks, to watch from the shore, and cheer as our athletes sail by.

We truly appreciate the Four Points by Sheraton, their staff, management, and owner Joseph Fan of Brighton Management, for their outstanding generosity for everything they do for our athletes throughout the year.  In July, the athletes are treated to an annual dance in the Grand Ballroom, with buffet munchies, decorations provided by volunteer groups, and a live D.J.

Here is a photo from last year's event.


Ventura County visits New Zealand!

In 2015, Special Olympics Southern California hosted the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles.  Athletes from around the world arrived to compete and for a few days before the games began were housed by Host Cities around Southern California.  Four Ventura County cities were tapped to be Host Cities.  These cities hosted certain delegations and the Camarillo location housed and entertained the delegation from Saudi Arabia and New Zealand.

Long time Special Olympics supporter and Law enforcement Torch Run representative for Ventura County, Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Zabarsky, was tasked with providing security for the New Zealand delegation.  During the time they were here for World Games, Deputy Zabarsky made numerous and lasting friends among the coaches and athletes.

It was a surprise and a great honor when Deputy Zabarsky received an invitation to attend the New Zealand National Games as an honored dignitary.  In addition to attending the games, he was given the honor of carrying the Special Olympics Torch along with one of the New Zealand Global Messenger’s and athlete named Rochelle.

Before leaving, Mike stopped by our Ventura office and asked if we had anything that he could take to the New Zealand dignitaries, coaches and athletes as gifts.  He was taking Ventura County Sheriff’s patches and special Challenge Coins, and we gave him the remaining 2017 Torch Run shirts we had on hand.

Mike arrived about a week prior to the National Games and has been sending us numerous photos of his visit to the New Zealand countryside.  And then, it was time for Opening Ceremonies.  Mike sent a touching photo of an obviously proud Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy and the New Zealand representative, Rochelle.  Note the Ventura County Sheriff's badge sticker on Rochelle's tee-shirt!

Day by day, photos are still coming in and we hope you check out the albums we have posted on our Facebook page at Special Olympics Southern California Ventura County Region.