PORTLAND, Ore. — Special Olympics Oregon, the Portland Timbers and adidas teamed up to put on the Special Olympics Oregon Soccer Festival at the adidas Village on June 23, 2012.
The event, which was part of the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC Cascadia Cup rivalry weekend, featured soccer games between the Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) Timbers and Special Olympics Washington (SOWA) Sounders in the Cascadia Challenge and the Rose City Unity Match. In keeping with the Special Olympics mission, both Soccer Festival games were played with unified sports teams which are comprised of individuals with intellectual disabilities playing alongside teammates without intellectual disabilities.
WATCH: Special Olympics Oregon Soccer Festival
“The Special Olympics Oregon Soccer Festival is a great way to educate the general public on what sports can accomplish and what people participating together can do,” said Mark Hanken, Senior Vice President of Sports for Special Olympics Oregon.
The day started off with a free youth soccer clinic at the adidas Village turf field in North Portland. Over one hundred individuals, with and without intellectual disabilities, participated in the session and were coached by Timbers Academy Coach Mike Smith along with Timbers Alumni Ambassadors Mick Hoban, Lee Morrison and Bernie Fagan.
Fagan, who has been involved with Special Olympics since 1986, said, “one of the many things the Timbers are doing is embracing Oregon Special Olympics.” Referencing the Cascadia Cup, he added that the Special Olympics Oregon Soccer Festival’s clinic and games were “part of the buildup of where we’re going tomorrow.”
The double-header soccer action first kicked off with the Special Olympics Cascadia Challenge. This 5 vs. 5 game, emceed by Timber’s play-by-play man John Strong, featured SOOR Timbers taking on the SOWA Sounders.
Following that, the Rose City Unity Match featured teams of seven compromised of Special Olympic athletes playing alongside Timbers front office staff and ambassadors and adidas employees. Timbers defender Madamou “Futty” Danso coached the “Green” team together with Timber Joey while Timbers midfielder Lovel Palmer coached the “White” squad. Despite the pre-game downpour of rain and strong winds, the competition went on and the match ended in a 5-5 tie.
For Timbers staffer Pat Rice, who was a member of the Green team, the impact was clear.
“I was humbled by how much joy I saw on the faces of my teammates when they were out on the pitch competing,” he said. “It was very apparent that Special Olympics competition plays an integral part in their lives and I was inspired to be a part of it and share in that joy with them.”
Guests in attendance were invited to the adidas Employee Store and exclusive soccer tent sale and 5% of the proceeds from the day went back to Special Olympics Oregon. Qdoba, Voodoo Donuts, Violetta and Ben & Jerry’s were on site with food carts. Volunteers were on hand to recruit participants to sign the "R-Word" Initiative, which is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics to raise awareness of the hurtful effects of the word "retarded."
The Cascadia Cup events continued on Sunday, where the Special Olympics teams played a mini-exhibition game during halftime of Sunday’s Timbers-Sounders regular-season match at JELD-WEN Field.
Kim Bergstrom, Director of Development for Special Olympics Oregon, summed up the whole weekend. “It was so great to see all the kids out there playing,” she said. “Even though it was raining, they did not care in the least bit. It was super fun—everybody was having a great time. The Timbers have meant so much to us.”
For more information about Special Olympics Oregon, go to www.soor.org.