The Rams and Special Olympics of Southern California (SOSC) teamed up to host their fourth football FUNdamentals Camp and PKK Challenge this year on Thursday, October 19, at College of the Canyons (COC) Football Stadium in Santa Clarita. With the guidance of coaches and COC football players, nearly forty Special Olympics athletes engaged in football-related activities and participated in a Punt, Pass and Kick Challenge for a chance to compete at the Rams' PLAY60 Game on December 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Flag Football will kick off as a demonstration sport in next year's Special Olympic Games and is currently being introduced to SOSC athletes. Senior Manager of Sports and Programs with Special Olympics Santa Clarita & Tri-Valley Regions, Wendy Ellet, believes the Rams football clinics are an unforgettable way to engage the athletes in a new sport. All SOSC athletes left last week's skills camp with some basic football experience, a team-branded shirt, and of course, the continued support of the Rams.
"Our athletes felt empowered," said Ellet. "They were treated like NFL football players getting to wear Rams jerseys, and they loved it. There was attention to detail that meant a lot to our athletes. The skill stations were excellent. Everyone went home proudly wearing their Rams tee shirts. The Rams' efforts to partner with Special Olympics is greatly appreciated and I know the Rams Camp is an experience that none of us will forget. It was the best event I have ever experienced in my 14 years with Special Olympics. Pure sport and joy."
According to Chuck Lyon, Dean and Athletic Director of College of the Canyons, the skills camp had as much of an impact on his student-athletes as it did on the SOSC athletes the event was designed to serve. He believes this project was a great way to support SOSC while also giving his student-athletes an experience they can learn from. The COC football players led the SOSC athletes in drills that incorporated football components such as kicking, punting, catching, backpedaling, throwing and line rushing. The cheers of encouragement for the SOSC athletes were boisterous and contagious as the evening had no shortage of heartfelt moments.
"We haven't had this much fun all week. I can't stop smiling," said Lyon after watching his players cheerfully embrace an SOSC athlete after successfully kicking a field goal. "This is one of the best events I have been involved with in my 30 years in education. Education doesn't just happen in a classroom. I believe this experience will be carried with them for the rest of their lives. I know it will for me!"
The Rams will host two more FUNdamental Camps and PPK Challenges this season. The top performers at each of the six camps will have an opportunity to compete during pregame of the Rams' PLAY60 Game on December 10, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.