By Kristen Johanson

by Kristen Johanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Friday kicked off Villanova’s annual Fall Festival: the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world.

More than 1200 people from all over the state coach, participate, or volunteer.

The three-day-long event started with a torch relay marathon run from Citizens Bank Park to Villanova University

Sporting events include soccer, bocce ball, walking, powerlifting, long distance running, and volleyball.

Senior TJ Farrell says the purpose is creating bonds that last.

“It’s more than just volunteering, it’s a friendship,” he said.

A treat for Michael, from Warminster, who didn’t have many before being introduced to the program.

“In my old school, I didn’t really have a lot of friends and now here, I have loads of friends. And it’s just nice to have people to talk to and play a game with,” said Michael.

His tearful and proud mother Beth says it’s completely changed her son.

“Everybody’s so supportive, it’s such a great environment, and such a great group of people to be around,” she said.

Which is Cindy’s favorite part:

“Just hanging out with friends.”

Mark & Joe can’t wait to spend the weekend together.

“Joe’s always been my best friend for how long I know him, and we always do a lot of things together,” said Mark.

“We’ve been involved ever since we were kids,” said Joe.

“My best man. 28 years,” said Mark.