Even on a cloudy Monday morning, spirits were bright for four Angeleno student-athletes as they celebrated the New Year in style. Four youth ambassadors, representing the LA84 Foundation, rode alongside Olympians and Paralympians on the City of the Los Angeles and the Los Angeles 2024 bid’s “Follow The Sun” float at the 128th Rose Parade on January 2.
These ambassadors also joined more than 500 volunteers in decorating the colorful float, which featured a sand volleyball court and a reconstruction of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the site of the opening ceremonies of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games.
The four riders embodying LA84 and its ideals on the float were 18-year-old SaraJoy Salib, water polo athlete and Outstanding Academic All-American award recipient, 17-year-old Rafael Lopez, LA Galaxy Special Olympics Southern California Unified Team member, 14-year-old Kayla Novak, a cyclist, tennis and track & field athlete at Redondo Union High School and 11-year-old Ezra Frech, a record-holding track & field parathlete.
“I had only been on the other side of the TV screen,” said Novak about the opportunity to take part in the parade. “When I was told that I would be riding on the float, I couldn’t stop my excitement from coming out. I feel bad for my cat because I was so excited that I picked her up and squeezed the living daylights out of her!”
“I really loved seeing all the people so excited for our float. There were people waiving, clapping and screaming the entire parade! It was really fun getting to wave and interact with the crowd,” Frech said about his experience.
Alongside these youth riding the float was a delegation including LA84 President Emeritus Anita DeFrantz, Olympic legends Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, and Paralympic long jumper Lex Gillette, who also inspired an awestruck crowd at the 2016 LA84 Summit.
“I gained knowledge from spending time with all the Olympian athletes, and also proudly represented the foundation that helped me participate in the parade,” Lopez said about his experience at the parade.
The youth are inaugural members of LA84’s Student Athletes in Motion (SAMbassadors) Program, a group of Los Angeles-area youth aged 11 to 18 who are actively engaged in sports, civic advancement and symbolize LA84’s mission in transforming lives through the power of sport. Established in 2016, the SAMbassadors are an advisory board to LA84 and offer valuable input on grants, programs and activities.
“What a successful morning on the float with my fellow SAMbassadors,” said Salib on a day she and her three fellow ambassadors won’t soon forget.
“The LA84 SAMbassadors do serious, important advisory work for our Foundation,” said LA84 President and CEO Renata Simril, who attended the parade, along with her family. “So it was great to see SaraJoy, Rafael, Kayla and Ezra out there having so much fun, with such big smiles, hanging with Olympians, and representing all 27 of their Student Athletes in Motion peers so well. And having Anita DeFranz aboard that float as well? Just wonderful!”
There was even dancing atop the float…
More highlights from the SAMbassadors’ Rose Parade adventure on Social Media: