Special Olympics Student Spotlight: Claudio Velardo, Event Director
Claudio Velardo ’20 didn’t know much about the Special Olympics before coming to college. But that all changed when he was asked to volunteer at the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival at Villanova University.
“I honestly got there and was blown away by the sheer size of the event and how awesome the athletes were,” Velardo says. “The one thing that stood out was the awards ceremony—everyone was so supportive of each other. I fell in love with it at that first event.”
When he found out that DeSales was hosting the Eastern Fall Sectional last year, he jumped at the chance to volunteer and served as the director of competition. This time around, he knew he wanted more.
As the event director of the DeSales Special Olympics Committee, Velardo serves as a bridge between Special Olympics and DeSales. He’s spent hours each week coordinating every last detail, all while keeping up with his studies and interviewing for medical school.
“Honestly, it doesn’t feel like work because I know what it means. The athletes train for this all year. I know how much they love it, and I love it myself.”
Velardo credits the experience with teaching him leadership, interpersonal, and public speaking skills. He’s spoken in front of the freshman class, and Father Greenfield even invited him to present to the entire faculty.
His main goals this year were to bring more faculty members on board and to have more athlete personalization. Athlete profiles—with pictures and bios of each athlete—were displayed on televisions in the DUC and Billera Hall, as well as on a jumbotron in the Olympic Village. Volunteers also held up signs on the long distance running course, cheering on the different counties.
“It’s a really loving event,” says Velardo. “It’s a celebration of humanity. We’re celebrating people’s skills and their friendship. That’s really what we’re about.”
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