The Opening Ceremony

The weekend's festivities began with the Opening Ceremony on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the UC ARC Pavilion. The Opening Ceremony is an evening of excitement for our athletes and the coaches, families and volunteers who support Special Olympics.       

The ceremony started with the traditional parade of athletes. Athletes and their coaches were welcomed to the Games by the "Wall of Honor" consisting of Law Enforcement personnel from all over Northern California who raised funds and awareness for Special Olympics throughout the year.

The Opening Ceremony concluded with the dramatic arrival of the Flame of Hope, escorted by a police motorcade and law enforcement personnel. The Law Enforcement personnel were joined by Special Olympics athletes, and together, they lit the Special Olympics caldron to officially open the Games.   

Meet our Emcees

Phillip Gonzales

Phillip is a Special Olympics athlete from Galt and was a radio personality for HOT 103.5 FM. He has competed in soccer, track & field, and basketball for Special Olympics in Sacramento County and has earned five medals.

Philip worked for HOT 103.5 for more than six years and interviewed notable celebrities including Hulk Hogan, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Woodson, MC Hammer and others. Along with regular on-air segments, Phillip wrote for the station’s blog covering sports, with a particular focus on professional wrestling (WWE). Phillip was also the PA announcer for his hometown Galt High School Warriors.  This will be Phillips third year as an emcee for our Summer Games Opening Ceremony.

Melanie Hunter

Melanie Hunter is the morning traffic anchor for NBC 3 Sacramento and is a longtime friend and supporter of Special Olympics.

Prior to moving to Sacramento in late 2017, Melanie’s previous experience includes time at the NBC affiliate KVOA in Tucson, Ariz., and at the NBC affiliate KSNF in Joplin, Mo. Her on-air roles have including reporting, traffic, weather, lifestyle and anchoring.

Melanie has volunteered at a variety of Special Olympics events since moving to Northern California. She served as the emcee of the 2019 Sacramento Polar Plunge; was the emcee at the 2018 Torch Run Ceremony at the California State Capitol; and has been a part of a number of regional competitions. She was also a coach and volunteer for bowling, basketball and track and field while in Tucson.

Melanie is a graduate of the University of Arizona and is currently pursuing a meteorology certificate at Mississippi State University. She is also an active member of the Junior League of Sacramento.

Jon Root



Jon Root is the in-arena host for the San Jose Sharks and San Jose Barracudas, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate. He brings energy and passion to the Shark Tank for every home game and is responsible for emceeing the game day entertainment, is featured in fan videos and contests, hosts special events and contributes to the team’s social media accounts.

Jon has also worked for the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A’s and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of Minor League Baseball.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run

An important part of Summer Games is the running of the Special Olympics Torch, the "Flame of Hope" prior to the start of the Games. The Flame of Hope was relayed through our communities throughout Northern California, escorted by various Law Enforcement agency personnel.  The final relay of the Torch started at the State Capitol building, ending at Opening Ceremony where it lit the caldron signaling the opening of the Games.  Over 3,500 Law Enforcement personnel had the honor of escorting the Flame of Hope in their community on its journey to the Games.  Many of them were at Summer Games presenting awards to the athletes on Saturday and Sunday.