By Tracy Correa Lopez
There was an abundance of high fives and fist bumps as athletes, spectators and PG&E employees celebrated the opening ceremonies of Special Olympics Spring Regional Games at Cuesta College on Friday (May 5).
But that was only the kickoff.
Some 500 athletes from programs and schools throughout San Luis Obispo County later took to the track, fields and pools at the college campus where they competed in 11 events such as the 25-meter walk/run, softball throw and swimming.
Helping to cheer them on were about a dozen PG&E employees who joined local law enforcement and first responders to celebrate the event. Many of the PG&E employees have taken part in the event — that has grown close to their hearts — year after year.
“It is just a great joy to see the happiness on their faces,” said PG&E’s Brian Ruggles, general construction, electric distribution supervisor.
Ruggles, who is based in Templeton near Paso Robles, has helped support the Special Olympics regional event the past three years and he has encouraged his crew to join in the effort.
PG&E’s Keith Wales, miscellaneous equipment operator, was recruited this year by Ruggles to join the company’s support team at Special Olympics. Wales, who didn’t know what to expect, said he has already decided that he will be back next year.
“It’s great. You see them, as happy as they are… they want to show off in their own special way,” said Wales.
The feeling you get when you show up and give back at a community event like this is so worthwhile, said both men.
“Just to see that excitement in their faces,” added Wales. “I’m hooked.”
The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The San Luis Obispo area is part of Special Olympics Southern California.
It wasn’t just a human cheering section that PG&E displayed at the event. The company also brought out a blue line truck, equipped with a boom, and allowed a few of the athletes to sit up in the truck. A huge 10-foot-by-19-foot American flag was affixed to the truck.
In addition to the general construction team, Pat Mullen, who leads the Los Padres Division Leadership Team, and several other employees took part in the event.
PG&E has also contributed $3,000 to Special Olympics.
Email Tracy Correa Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.