For Larry Gholar, Special Olympics basketball is a family affair.
A native of the Los Angeles area and seasoned basketball coach, Gholar is overseeing all basketball competition at the World Games.
That’s a big job, especially for a volunteer. So, to make the competition a success, Gholar has enlisted the help of his wife Malori, their three daughters, two sisters, two nieces, sister-in-law, and son-in-law. Together, in lieu of a family vacation, the Gholars are working around the clock to ensure the 600+ basketball players from 57 countries have a fantastic experience on the court and off.
Gholar’s own introduction to Special Olympics also came about through family. “I was forced by my father who said ‘you gotta go serve,’” explains Gholar, “I was there [at Special Olympics] fifteen minutes and I fell in love.” Since becoming a volunteer at the age of seventeen, Gholar has served as an official, coach, and even mascot in various Special Olympics competitions.
“I belong to the Baha’i faith,” he said, “We serve others. We believe that work done in the spirit of service is like worship. It’s always been really important in my family to do that.” Another source of inspiration for Gholar is his nineteen-year old niece Jasmine, a Special Olympics athlete.
For Malori, her family’s commitment to the Games is also about empowerment. “Our family is very passionate about having the athletes just show who they are to the world. Whatever we can do to support them, we are here to do that.”
After years of service, it is clear to Gholar that he has gotten just as much out of his time with Special Olympics as what he has given.
“These athletes, they work as hard as anyone else; they train as hard as anyone else. But the difference between them and other athletes is that they’re really okay with the results,” he explains.
What’s more, as a former basketball and football player, Gholar has taken the lessons he learned from Special Olympics athletes with him off the court. “I’m very competitive. And, I used to feel that if I didn’t win, then I wasn’t successful,” he said. “What I learned from these athletes is that if tried my hardest and did my very best, the results didn’t matter. I’ve carried that on in my life. I’m going to work as hard as I can, be as competitive as I can. And wherever the chips fall, I’m going to be happy about that.”