Angel City Games Bring Connections and Community to Athletes with Disabilities

By Christina Elston

There are three things L.A. dad Clayton Frech wants you to know about the Angel City Games – which will take place June 21-24 this year on the UCLA campus.

  1. This is not the Special Olympics.
  2. Athletes can participate for free.
  3. There is so much more going on here than just sports.

Frech founded the games, the only multi-sport competition in L.A. for those with physical disabilities, in 2015. He wanted a nearby option where his son, Ezra, who was born with no left knee or shin bone and is a lower-leg amputee, could compete. Special Olympics, which hosts competitions across the country and around the world, is for athletes with developmental and cognitive – not physical – disabilities.

In its fourth year, the Angel City Games continue to grow. And this year, thanks to a grant from the LA84 Foundation, registration for participants ages 17 and younger who reside in Southern California is free. The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Adaptive Sports USA funds participation for all military veterans, and registration for all other participants is donation based. “We don’t want anyone to not come because it seems expensive,” says Frech, adding that similar competitions can cost $100 or more.

Adaptive sports competitions at the games will include archery, wheelchair basketball, track and field, wheelchair tennis and swimming. Frech says many Paralympians have taken an interest in the games, and that some will compete and participate in the opening ceremonies – giving young athletes a chance to see their heroes in action. “You’ll be able to meet more than a dozen Paralympians from a wide variety of sports,” Frech says.

He stresses, though, that the games are not just for adaptive-sports elites – or even people who consider themselves athletes. Clinics throughout the games are designed for folks who are new to adaptive sports, and there will be equipment available and even organizations that can connect those who are interested with adaptive sports equipment. “If you have a physical disability, this is for you,” Frech says. “We will get you into the game.”

There is even a running blade clinic June 22, where runners can see and try on several different blades. Frech says many lower-level amputees have never used a blade and that they can be expensive, but resources are available to help finance them.

Other festival highlights include the Great Games Family Cookout, the Celebrity Wheelchair Basketball Game and an expanded Fun Zone for kids. The games’ first Awards Gala fundraiser will also take place this year. For the littlest athletes, the Toddler Games for ages 5 and younger let kids run, jump and throw. “It is the cutest thing in the world and there is not a dry eye in the whole track,” Frech says.

The games are open to athletes of all skill levels with amputation, spinal cord injury, paraplegia, quadriplegia, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, blindness or visual impairment, TBI or head injury, stroke, muscular dystrophy, other neuromuscular or limb differences and dwarfism, among other challenges. Registration deadline is June 13, and Frech says you have every reason to attend.

“We need more athletes,” he says. “We can connect people to the resources they need to live an active, healthy life.” And, given the isolation that many people with disabilities feel, they can connect them with lots more. “This is an incredible place to find community,” Frech says. “It’s more than sports. Sports is just the reason we get together.”

Learn more at angelcitygames.org.

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