The Kiwanis Speical Games are perhaps our most important community service project. Established by the Kiwanis Club of Los Altos, the games are now produced by all of the Kiwanis Clubs of our Kiwanis Division 34 and our neighboring Kiwanis Division 12. Well over 1,000 severely challenged kids from more than 60 area schools participate. The games are simple, but competitive, and carefully matched to the abilities of the participants. The children look forward to our Kiwanis Special Games all year. It’s the one occasion when they are able to excel and find themselves at the center of attention because of their positive accomplishments. It takes about 600 volunteers to run the games, including Kiwanians, Key Club and Circle K Club, teachers, and volunteers from the community.
The Kiwanis Special Games were created to address the physical and emotional needs of the substantial number of extremely challenged children in the schools of our region. More broadly known programs such as the Special Olympics presume a much higher level of function. The KIwanis Special Games exclude no one. The Games were first organized in 1979 by two Adaptive PE teachers and Los Altos Kiwanian Walter Chronert. Under Walt’s leadership, spanning more then 25 years, the Games flourished from modest beginnings involving just the Los Altos Kiwanis Club to the regional event they are today.
On Game Day, about 140 buses will deliver approximately 1,000 K–12 athletes from 60 schools. The Games will be run by over 600 Kiwanis members from 30 Kiwanis Clubs, 6 college Circle K Clubs, 21 high school Key Clubs, and 3 middle school Builders Clubs. They will be assisted by about 1,500 friends, family, schoolmates, teachers and caregivers who accompany the 1,000 athletes.
How the Games Work: The Games begin with a Parade of Athletes and formal opening ceremonies.
Groups: Each athlete is placed in a group with half a dozen others with similar abilities. Events, appropriate to those abilities, are chosen for each of the 150 groups so that each child competes on a level field with their peers. The events are tailored to fit the limitations of the athletes, ranging from the 100 yard dash, to dropping a bean bag on a target by signaling a volunteer who actually drops the bag. The athletes in a group stay together the whole morning, and compete, within the group, in the same events. Their age, mobility, and athletic abilities are similar, so competition within the group will always be fair. Every athlete is presented a T-shirt and a participant ribbon, and each event contestant is awarded a first, second, third or “best effort” (there are no “losers” at the Games) place ribbon. About 5,000 ribbons are given out. After the games, all athletes reassemble with their schools, and relive the adventures of the morning, while eating a picnic lunch.
Pushing the envelope: We are told repeatedly that the Special Games is the most important day of the year in the lives of many of these determined athletes. This is the one day when they are validated, rather than excused, for their physical capabilities. It’s obvious from the joy on their happy faces that these kids are having FUN, but the value of the experience goes far beyond mere play, the conduct of the Games is formal and official and competitive. The value is not just going through the motions of the event, the value is in trying your hardest, and WINNING that ribbon as a recognition of your valor and success in a demanding physical endeavor. Teachers report that in the days and weeks after the Games, many of the athletes are trying new things, being more confident, pushing themselves harder.
The Process: Groups spend two hours competing in as many athletic events, appropriate to their abilities, as time and energy permit. All groups and events are led and managed by Kiwanis volunteers.
The Events: There are 18 events laid out on the college playing fields, covering a wide range of skill levels. Arriving groups are formally and officially greeted, staged, coached, and recognized with an awards ceremony after each contest.
How You Can Help: The games are 100% volunteer and anything you can do to help is greatly appreciated. Our big expenses are T-shirts, ribbons, water, traffic management and maintaining the equipment. The Kiwanis Club of Los Altos Foundation, which operates the games, is a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization (Tax ID 77-0566550), and your support of our cause will make a big difference. If you’d like to help us out financially, please consider the following options: