Huntington Harbour resident named Special Olympics Athlete of the Year

Joseph Hreish.

Joseph Hreish of Huntington Harbour has been named the Kiwanis Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. The award will be presented at the Kiwanis District Education Convention in the Crystal Ballroom of the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells on Aug. 5, according to Jennifer Chaves, executive director of Cal-Nev-Ha Children’s Fund.

Hreish, 46, was selected for the K-Team Special Olympics Athlete of the Year Award because of his leadership, sportsmanship, his athletic abilities in floor hockey, basketball, swimmng and bocce ball and especially for being an unselfish team player with the Laguna Hills Hawks Special Olympics team. His goal is to bring home a medal in the World Games.

He’s a Sports Ambassador and a Global Messenger for Special Olympics and gives speeches on the need for inclusion and encouragement to police and fire departments and at Kiwanis meetings. Nicknamed, “Big Joe,” Hreish also promotes Special Olympics through radio and TV interviews and has stayed active throughout the pandemic raising money for Special Olympics playing bingo with Microsoft and educating their employees about Special Olympics, raising money at Jersey Mike’s Subs for the Special Olympics USA Games and working as a committee member for the Special Olympics Heart of Champion Gala–the biggest fundraiser of the year for Orange County Special Olympics.

To become an even better speaker, Hreish  joined the Toastmasters International Gavel Club. He has been a torch runner in the annual Special Olympics Torch Run, participated in many of the Tip-A-Cop fundraisers and other Law Enforcement Torch Run events. “Big Joe” also helps his family, which includes his mom, Nouha, as well as his brothers, Ghassan and Shukri. As a participant in Kiwanis for over 30 years, he volunteers at the Huntington Beach Fishing Derby, Easter Egg Hunt, the monthly special needs dances (which he spearheaded in bringing to Huntington Beach), and the 4th of July Parade.

“Joe is an inspiration to all of us and he is well-deserving of this award,” said Dr. Van Vu, president of the Huntington Beach Kiwanis Club. “He lets all of us know that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize, who has known “Big Joe” for many years, soon will be presenting him with a City Council Commendation.

“You may think we call him ‘Big Joe’ because of his size but I prefer to think of him as ‘Big Joe’ because of his many amazing achievements, the most recent being a tribute to his commitment to Special Olympics and the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach,” said Patrick Brenden, Bolsa Chica Conservancy executive director. “We’re proud of all he does to make our community a much better place.”