Thanks in part to the generosity of the local Knights of Columbus, Payson Special Olympians will be able to represent the Rim country at the Arizona State Winter Games to be held Feb. 19 to 21 near Flagstaff.
Each year, the Knights organization donates the proceeds of its annual Tootsie Roll candy sale to the SO program and this year is no exception.
Wednesday afternoon during one of the Special Olympians bi-weekly practice sessions at Frontier Elementary School, K-of-C officer Jim Craig is scheduled to present a check of about $1,800 to Special Olympics.
The money, local SO coordinator Becky Derwort said, is greatly appreciated and will be used to fund the 17-member team's trip to the winter games.
In the games, Payson will have athletes participating in cross country skiing, figure skating, speed skating and downhill skiing.
Volunteer coach Carmelita Locke heads the local figure skating program. Nancy Bruner and Jan Bartoli coach the cross country team. Mike Gillies and Derwort coach the downhill skiers.
At last year's Winter Games, 14 Arizona athletes entered the downhill skiing and five were from Payson.
"I think that says a lot about our program," Derwort said.
To some it might seem difficult to practice the sports without snow or ice.
But in the multi-purpose room at Frontier, the athletes have specialized equipment that allows them to simulate the skills of the winter sports.
The games in Flagstaff, Derwort said, are some of the most anxiously awaited events for local SO athletes.