Return of the SOFF


A train from Camp New Hope rides in the parade at SOFF with many characters riding in it. Photo via Audra Gullquist.

Audra Gullquist, Editor-in-Chief

The 39th annual Special Olympics Family Festival, “Return of the SOFF,” took place on Sept 17 in parking lot A at Lake Land College. The event was very well attended and full of fun activities. 


This was the first in-person event in two years due to COVID-19. Tiffany Walters, the 2022 SOFF Chairperson, stated that “After two years of virtual events, I hope you are as excited as I am about being back on the grounds of Lake Land College for what is, in my opinion, one of the best days of the year.”


They kicked off the festival with an opening ceremony and a lively parade to get the attendees excited for what the day had to come. The local pageant queens, Lake Land College’s athletes, Laker Louie and even Santa were included in this parade. A lunch tent was available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m for anyone to stop by and grab some Jimmy John’s, water, apples and/or a Go-Gurt. 


From 11 a.m to 2 p.m., games and activities were open at the tents in the parking lot for everyone to play as they pleased. These games included softball, golf, bowling, volleyball, Plinko and much more. Many fun activities such as face painting, nail art, tattoos and a photo tent were also available during the festival. At 2 p.m, there was a closing ceremony in which medals were presented and the closing song was sung. 


The festival was packed with volunteers and Olympians celebrating the fantastic event. Isabella Smith, a junior at Mattoon High School, volunteered at the food tent at SOFF. She’s wanted to volunteer at SOFF for a while now, but her schedule never allowed her to until this year. Smith was thrilled to be a part of the festival and help provide an opportunity for everyone to feel included in the fun. She stated that “SOFF gives an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the day.”


Many people also volunteered as a “Friend-For-A-Day.” These volunteers helped the Olympians with anything they needed, including taking their medications, finding what tent they wanted to go to, eating lunch and much more. Morgan Moll, a sophomore at Lake Land College, spent the event helping two Olympians as a “Friend-For-A-Day.” Moll is majoring in special education at LLC and has volunteered at SOFF several times in the past. Moll shared that she thought SOFF was very important and that it gets everyone involved in such a wonderful event. 


SOFF would like to thank everyone that was a part of this year’s festival. Walters stated that “I hope when you leave us today, your heart will be full from an amazing experience and that you, too, will be eagerly anticipating next year’s SOFF on September 16, 2023.” If you were unable to attend this year’s SOFF, hopefully you can participate in next year’s festival and help create a wonderful day for everyone!

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