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Special Olympics and LBCC make a splash with new partnership in Long Beach

Special Olympics athletes take the plunge at the Aquatic Center on Thursday, Mar. 23, 2023, at Long Beach City College’s Liberal Arts campus. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)By CHRISTINA MERINO | |

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2023 at 9:39 a.m. | UPDATED: March 27, 2023 at 9:44 a.m.

Read the article online here.


Backstroke, freestyle and the dog paddle are a few of Ivan Parrott’s favorite swim strokes.

Parrott, 29, is a Special Olympics Southern California athlete who has participated in the games since he was a teenager. He trained primarily at the Millikan High School pool in Long Beach.

“I like swimming in the water; it is good exercise and makes you healthy,” he said. But, during the coronavirus pandemic, Parrott learned from his coaches that Millikan pool repairs would leave him and his athlete friends without a place to train. He shared his dilemma with a friend which led to a new training home for Long Beach Special Olympic athletes.

The Long Beach Community College District and Special Olympics Southern California announced on Thursday, March 23, a new partnership that will allow more than 80 Special Olympics Southern California athletes to participate at LBCC’s Liberal Arts Campus facilities.

And, after the announcement and the speeches, Parrott and other athletes tried out the new digs.

Officials from the Long Beach Community College District, Special Olympics Southern California and athletes celebrate their new partnership on Thursday, Mar. 23, 2023, at Long Beach City College. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer) The college’s new aquatic center, Hall of Champions gym and the track at Veterans Stadium will be used by the athletes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evening where they will practice swim, basketball, bocce ball and track & field at LBCC ahead of the summer games.

“It’s been our mission since the beginning to share all this bounty with the community,” Herlinda Chico, LBCC Board of Trustees President said on Thursday at the event at the college’s aquatic center, “so it’s wonderful we’ve been able to establish this relationship with the Special Olympics of Southern California.”

It was Parrot’s friendship with Gina Mascaro, director of athletics fundraising and advancement for the LBCC Foundation, that led to the partnership.

Mascaro said she and Parrott met about a year and a half ago because one of her sons and Parrott’s younger brother were on the same baseball team. That’s when she learned the Special Olympics Southern California athletes in Long Beach did not have a place to train.

She brought in key members at LBCC to make the partnership between the organizations possible.

“Every time I saw Ivan, he reminded me that they did not have a pool, so I was very determined to get that done,” she said. “I’m so excited that I get to see you all jump in the pool and welcome to your new home.”

In addition to being drawn to Parrott’s persistence about finding a training facility, Mascaro said the timing was good. LBCC was looking for community partners, she said to “really extend our reach to partners that have significant need.”

Special Olympics was perfect partner to align with the school’s strategic initiatives for equity and inclusion, Mascaro added.

And that partnership with LBCC will really benefit Long Beach athletes, said Kelly Pond, president and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California.

“The Special Olympics transforms lives through the power of sports and the impact of our program, building self confidence for our athletes, more independence, better health and also they lead to acceptance and inclusion in the communities that we serve,” Pond said.

Partnerships like these create more acceptance and inclusion in communities, Pond said, and friendships such as Parrott and Mascaro’s are what help break down barriers. “I am honored to have a new home for the Special Olympics,” Parrott said. “We have upgraded.”

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