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Lakewood hosts Special Olympics athletes

Lakewood hosts Special Olympics athletes

Before a single one of the 7,000 Special Olympics athletes competed at the 2015 World Games, Special Olympics delegations from around the world were treated to three memorable days of recreation, entertainment, and cultural exchange at their Host Towns in Southern California, including Lakewood.

Lakewood hosted Special Olympics athletes from Guyana, Slovenia and Turkey in partnership with the Cerritos Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A special event at the Lakewood Youth Center on July 22 welcomed them to the city and included face painting, photos with backdrops of iconic California landmarks, a magician and an official greeting from Lakewood Mayor Jeff Wood. Gallery of photos.

Lakewood Center also treated the athletes to an afternoon of shopping fun, providing each with a $20 gift card and bag of goodies. One athlete from Guyana was especially thrilled, saying she'd never had $20 in her hands before. She spent it on a stuffed animal to take home to her sister. That evening, the Latter-day Saints church on Bloomfield Avenue in Cerritos treated all the athletes to a luau.

Since 1981, Lakewood has offered the Adaptive Recreation and Special Olympics programs for people with special needs.

“Our Special Olympians have brought Lakewood so much honor and pride in their achievements throughout the years, just as you all will bring honor and pride to your cities and countries,” Mayor Wood shared with the athletes.

Dustin Plunkett, one of Lakewood's most accomplished athletes, is now an International Messenger for Special Olympics and an ESPN sports analyst for the World Games.

More than 80,000 spectators are expected to attend the opening ceremony at the LA Coliseum. With 500,000 fans anticipated to cheer them on over the course of the competition and 30,000 volunteers, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in this year.