One Will Have To Kiss The Donkey

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Payson and Gila County officials are prepared to pin their lips on a donkey this year to raise money for Special Olympics.

Thirteen local officials have agreed to participate in an offbeat fund-raising competition that will require the "winner" to kiss a donkey on the nose.

Here's how it works: Each participant has set up a donation jar at the front desk inside Payson Town Hall. Residents are encouraged to "vote" for the person they would like to see kiss the donkey by dropping a donation in that person's jar for Special Olympics.

The official with the biggest bankroll by May 14 will have to pucker up.

All of the money raised through the "Special Kiss for Special Olympics" fund-raising campaign will be donated to Special Olympics for training, equipment and competition expenses.

The following officials have agreed to put their lips on the line: Payson Mayor Vern Stiffler, Payson Council member Ken Murphy, Payson Town Manager Rich Underkofler, Payson Town Attorney Sam Streichman, Personnel Services Director, Kelly Udall, Community Development Director Bob Gould, Chief Fiscal Officer Glenn Smith, Payson Police Chief Gordy Gartner, Gila County Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel, Payson Fire Chief John Ross, Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind, Payson Transportation Director Bob Olsson and Payson Public Works Director Buzz Walker.

The Payson Police Department, which organized the campaign, also is soliciting pledges for the state's Special Olympics Torch Run, which is held every year to raise money and awareness. The department has raised about $2,100 so far from local businesses.

The Torch Run, which will involve 650 officers from 100 law enforcement agencies around the state, will begin May 17 at six locations near the state's boundaries. It will end four days later in Phoenix, where the Special Olympics Summer Games will be held May 21.

The torch will travel through the Rim country May 20. The run will begin at 9 a.m. in central Payson and will end at the Roosevelt Lake turnoff on the Beeline Highway 17 miles south of town.

Payson Police officers John Heflin and Don Garvin will run the entire length of the 17-mile stretch. Other law officers, Special Olympians and supporters will walk, run and bike selected sections of the route.

Payson has 60 Special Olympians, including David Frohm, who will be competing in the Special Olympics World Games in North Carolina later this year.

The police department also is selling Special Olympic T-shirts, golf shirts and denim shirts to raise money for the organization. T-shirts cost $12, golf shirts cost $25 and denim shirts cost $30. For more information, call officers Heflin or Garvin at 474-5177.

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