Special Olympians Really Not That Different

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Have you ever thought that you were different than someone else? Or that every time you walk into a room, everyone is staring at you?

This definitely isn't a problem for the people who participated in the Special Olympics Wednesday, Feb. 11 at Payson High School.

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The Payson Special Olympians include (left to right) Micaela Medlock, Heather Werlinger, Sharon Cheek, Cassi Byers, Betty Carter, Donna Pruiksma, and Stefani Weissert. (This was the Payson Team)

Special Olympics is a day of events set up for the people with special needs to show off their talent.

These Olympians have no idea that they are different because they think of themselves as, what society refers to as "normal."

There were many student volunteers from both high schools to help organize the events, and make the day go by smoothly. A group went out to the parking lot at about 11 a.m. to help gather all the people getting off of the buses and out of the vans, and guide them to the cafeteria for lunch.

For the most part, the people getting off the buses were exhausted from their long drive up here, but when they heard the word lunch, they perked right up and became very happy.

After lunch the volunteers were instructed to take everyone back to the gym to start the competitions. The Olympians all split into their groups. Groups came from Payson, Tempe, St. Michaels, and Camp Verde. They all started to warm up and prepare themselves for the day. After all of the stretching, they did the traditional, "Pass The Torch" opening. Everyone stood in a huge circle while they played the song "We Are The Champions" and passed the torch.

The Olympians then broke into groups and went to their activities. They would sit patiently until it was their turn to compete. There were many activities for the Olympians to compete in. Among the activities were a ball routine; balance beam; hula-hoop routine; and a floor dance routine. After competing the athletes were taken to another area for their award and placement in the event. There was an award podium set up where they were recognized. While on the podium, each participant had their picture taken. After the ceremonies, the participants could play or participate in a number of other activities prepared for them.

They were able to make Valentine's Day cards, color, have their face painted, play basketball or parachute, and much more. The volunteers kept things organized, worked with the athletes on their special activities and made sure that everyone was having fun, but stayed safe.

All in all, the day went by fast, and the Olympians -- and their coaches -- were very appreciative of the student volunteers. Many of the volunteers left the event with a few new friends, and a happy heart. Most realized that people with special needs can do whatever they put their mind to, and that the Olympians they met aren't that much different.

Becky Derwort, the director of Payson High Schools Special Ed Department and Northern Gila Area Director for Special Olympics made the day possible. Anyone interested in volunteering at the next Special Olympics event can call Derwort at (928) 472-5722.

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