Wednesday, June 1 , 2016, 1:09 am | Fog/Mist 56º

Special Olympics Santa Barbara Aims to ‘Inspire Greatness’ with Celebration Luncheon

By Michelle Duke for Special Olympics Santa Barbara |

On Thursday, Special Olympics Santa Barbara will recognize the athletes, volunteers and law enforcement agencies that contribute to the spirit of the Special Olympics Summer Games Invitation being held June-8 at USC.

The Inspire Greatness Luncheon Celebration will take place at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens in Santa Barbara from noon to 1 p.m. celebrating the athletic accomplishments of 425 local athletes and kicking off the Torch Run running through South Santa Barbara County on Wednesday, June 4.

The celebration will honor the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table with the Community Service Award.

Gregg Wilson, UCSB head swim coach and 27-time Big West Conference Coach of the Year, will be the keynote speaker, sending the athletes off with the encouragement to do their best and enjoy the competition at this year’s Summer Games Invitational.

Awards will be presented to Outstanding Youth Volunteer Sierra McNeel-Moore and Outstanding Adult Volunteer Jaime Rutiaga, and Athlete of the Year will be presented to the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Mayor's Trophy winner, Cristian Quintanar.

McNeel-Moore, a graduating senior at Santa Barbara High School, has volunteered as an aquatics coach with Special Olympics Santa Barbara since 2011, mentoring athletes at weekly practices and attending regional competitions. Quintanar is an exceptional athlete with Special Olympics Santa Barbara, where he competes in bowling, golf and track and field.

Rutiaga has been volunteering with Special Olympics for seven years as head coach of both cocce and floor hockey teams. She also serves as the liaison between Best Buddies at UCSB and Special Olympics Santa Barbara, helping to coordinate student involvement in annual events such as the Turkey Bowl bowling tournament, the R-Word Campaign and the Downtown Holiday Parade.

Luncheon sponsors include the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, MarBorg Industries, Montecito Bank & Trust, Pacific Western Bank, The Bank of Santa Barbara and Union Bank.

Sponsors, community organizations, individuals, foundations and 200 annual volunteers help make Special Olympics possible in the Santa Barbara area.

“The support we receive from the local community and law enforcement agencies helps empower 425 local athletes to become productive, included and respected members of our community through sports training and competition," said Michelle Duke, special events and volunteer manager. "Special Olympics athletes are incredible examples of the best in athleticism, sportsmanship and determination.”

To learn more about how to attend the luncheon, to make a donation or to volunteer, click here or call 805.884.1516 x102.

— Michelle Duke is the special events manager for Special Olympics Santa Barbara.

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