A $23,000 donation from the Tonto Apache Tribe allowed the Payson Special Olympic swim team to travel to the Arizona State Fall games in style.
The donation, given the local SO program last summer, helped pay the hotel, meal and transportation expenses to the games held Oct. 8 and 9 at the Surprise Recreation Campus west of Phoenix.
"It's so very generous, we appreciate it greatly and it will be put to good use," Payson SO director Becky Derwort said.
The money will also be used to buy new team uniforms and more equipment.
"My husband tells me I don't have to go to yard sales now to try and find things we can use in our program," Derwort said.
According to Tonto Apache tribal controller Jerry Holland, the donation was made as part of a gaming agreement the tribe has with the state.
The agreement mandates the tribe donate a portion of its casino profits to selected entities.
"Last year, we donated it to the town," he said. "This year, a council member suggested Special Olympics would be a good organization to donate to."
At the SO games, Payson was represented by 13 athletes, including the gold medal winning 4x25 relay medley team of Tomacina Quain, David Frohme, Melody Hurwitz and Krissy Sexton.
For Quain, the SO experience was nothing new.
"She has participated every year since 1975," her mother, Nadine Hightower, said.
In preparing for the state SO games, the local athletes practice twice a week, since last summer, at the Tonto Apache pool located on the reservation south of Payson.
In addition to swimming, the local team will compete this season in bowling, figure skating, speed skating, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, power lifting, basketball, gymnastics and track and field.
"Our new sport being added is bocce," Derwort said.
Anyone interested in volunteering or becoming an athlete may call Derwort at (928) 474-9142.