Move over Big Red, stand down Cornhuskers — a very special group of Special Olympians is bound for Lincoln.
More than 3,000 athletes, accompanied by 600 coaches, will visit the Nebraska capital and home of the state’s university July 18 to July 23 to participate in the 2010 USA National Games.
Among them will be two Payson athletes, David Frohme and Roseanne Hendricks, who will be escorted by longtime S.O. coach and former Payson High School teacher Becky Derwort.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait to go,” said Frohme at a swimming practice on July 13 at Taylor Pool.
Frohme will participate in track and field and is entered in the 3,000 meters, 1,500 meters, long jump and relay.
“The 3,000 is my best event because I am a runner,” said Frohme.
Hendricks is entered in the swimming events and will participate in the 50-meter freestyle, 25-meter butterfly and the 50-meter breaststroke.
At Tuesday’s practice, she worked on all three strokes under the watchful eye of Derwort.
Arizona will send 31 athletes, 15 coaches and eight Unified Partners to the big show. The Partners will participate alongside S.O. athletes in flag football and soccer.
Frohme, Hendricks, Derwort and the remainder of the Arizona team depart Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport at 10 a.m. tomorrow and return about 10 a.m., Saturday, July 24.
Special Olympics officials have organized a send-off for the state’s team that will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. tomorrow at Sky Harbor.
USA Olympic gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman will speak to the S.O. athletes at the send-off party and the team will be flown to Lincoln on a Swift Aviation charter aircraft.
It is the same plane that flies the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Coyotes and Phoenix Suns.
Swift Transportation founder and CEO Jerry Moyes donated the plane for the trip.
The send-off is open to the public and will be held at the Swift Aviation hangar.
In Nebraska, athletes of all ability levels will compete in 13 Olympic-style sports at venues around Lincoln.
State gold medal winners in aquatics, athletics, bocce, power lifting, Unified Soccer and Unified Flag Football will represent Arizona.
To receive a berth to the National Games, athletes must have earned a gold medal in their specific events in the 2009 state games.
“Then they had to apply,” said Derwort.
Opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
For Frohme, participating in Special Olympics will be old hat. He’s been involved since 1978 when he entered snow skiing as an eighth-grader.
He’s also competed in several other S.O. sports over the years including track and field, bowling and snowshoeing.
He is also a volunteer for S.O. bowling, assisting athletes who are in wheelchairs roll the ball down the alley.
Frohme says he has been training seven days a week for the National Games by swimming, walking and running.
In order to attend Nationals, he raised $1,400 with the help of several friends including some who work at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery in Chandler.
Special Olympics spokesperson Rachel Martin praises the Payson athlete saying, “He is one of the most uplifting athletes that Special Olympics Arizona has.
“He has made it a goal in his life to be a great example of sportsmanship, leadership and to help others.”
In 2007, Frohme was featured on the first-ever Arizona Special Olympic Promotion DVD.
One of the segments included an interview with Frohme who, S.O. coach Ruby Lane said, “spoke amazing words of inspiration.”
Teacher-coach leads the way
Derwort, who has coached Hendricks about eight years and was her teacher in high school, calls her “absolutely one of the most active athletes we have.”
Over the years Hendricks has participated in figure skating, bowling, snow showing, skiing and track and field.
Hendricks was also a medal-winning member last year on Payson’s team that competed in the Arizona State Individual Skills basketball competition in Mesa.
Derwort is almost a legend in Northern Gila County Special Olympics having coached for decades and as the teacher who laid the foundation for the Payson High School Special Education program.
When she transferred to PHS from Julia Randall Elementary more than 20 years ago, she jump-started the Community Based Instruction (CBI) program that is modeled after some of the most successful curriculums in the country.
“It involves teaching functional skills that students can apply in their everyday lives,” she said.
Former PHS assistant principal Tim Fruth once lauded CBI, as “a top-notch program that does wonderful things for the students.”
In the program, which continues to be used, students in grades nine through 12, attend regular education classes, but when they are 18 to 21 years of age they are asked to move to a more advanced stage in which they are to join the work force.
While employed, the students are closely monitored and tutored.
The program helped scores of PHS students, mostly always also Special Olympians, acquire gainful employment and keep their jobs into their adult lives.
When she retired from her teaching career in 2008, Derwort vowed to continue her work with S.O. and remains the organization’s area director.