Special Olympics DC is honored to announce the host of the 38th Annual Night of Trees Gala: Victoria Arlen!
Victoria is a Gold Medalist, ESPN SportsCenter host, reporter, author, speaker, and overall inspiration. In 2022, Victoria was named a Special Olympics Champion Ambassador, giving her the opportunity to cover Special Olympics state-level and National events – including in our very own District of Columbia! We are so excited to welcome her back to the District for the Night of Trees Gala on December 17th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
For Team DC, Victoria’s involvement in Special Olympics feels personal.
At USA Games, Victoria was Team DC’s celebrity escort into the Opening Ceremony, bringing the hype for our athletes. This past May, Victoria hosted the National Banner Celebration for Garfield Elementary School in Southeast DC. On this day, she led a workout with two elementary schoolers, and moderated a panel about inclusive education in DC. Victoria has been generous with sharing her time and her story, as a person with disabilities herself.
Special Olympics DC athlete Novie Craven interviewed Victoria Arlen on the Special Olympics International Podcast Inclusion Revolution to discuss her involvement in Special Olympics and her journey with disability.
At the age of 11, Victoria developed two rare neurological conditions that left her paralyzed. She then also lost the ability to eat, talk, and move, and many doctors thought there was no hope for Victoria’s future. Victoria told Novie, “I had a lot of odds to overcome and really was fortunate, with the right support system, to be able to do that.”
In 2010, Victoria began the journey back to living, re-learning how to eat, talk, and walk again after 4 years in a vegetative state. For 10 years, Victoria used a wheelchair to get around, and learned how difficult life can be in a world not built for people with disabilities.
She trained and became a world class swimmer, winning a gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. In 2016, Victoria took her first step again. By 2017, Victoria was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, wowing the nation with her uninhibited progress and spirit. Victoria’s autobiography, Locked In, was published in 2018, the same year that ESPN debuted a 30 for 30 episode detailing her journey. Victoria then founded a non-profit that supports people with mobility challenges she once experienced.
“I celebrate what I can do versus what I can’t do. We all could learn that lesson from time to time.”
Victoria loves covering Special Olympics events and meeting Special Olympics athletes: “as someone who has overcome challenges, I know firsthand the power of celebrating inclusion.” Victoria told Novie, “you’re an athlete Novie, you get it – you just want to become the best version of yourself. That’s what I always strive to do.”
We are ecstatic to have Victoria join us back in the District for our 38th Annual Night of Trees Gala, a night that brings together Special Olympics DC athletes and families with supporters and community members at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Saturday, December 17th. The Gala will be an exciting night of dancing, mingling, and bidding during our auction – and you will have to be there in-person to experience the energy and magic of Victoria and Special Olympics DC athletes.
Victoria says about her disability: “I celebrate what I can do versus what I can’t do. We all could learn that lesson from time to time.” We look forward to celebrating our athletes and all they can accomplish with Victoria as we raise funds for essential Special Olympics DC health, education, and sports programming. It will be a night to remember!