by Lucy Karrys, Special to the Roundup
Payson Special Olympics held its annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Parade April 30 from Chapman Auto to Western Village along Hwy. 87.
Approximately 200 friends, family, athletes, teachers, coaches, caregivers, social workers, law enforcement personnel, Payson High football players and cheerleaders lined the route to hoot and holler, march and cheer as police sirens wailed and horns honked while the parade passed by.
Torch runs and similar parades went on around the nation and state as athletes celebrated the upcoming Summer Games.
To aid the effort, law enforcement throughout Arizona raised $1.2 million for Arizona Special Olympics this year.
This generous gift was presented at the opening parade ceremonies and lighting of the cauldron followed by the statewide track and field meet held at Grand Canyon State University (GCU) in Phoenix.
A thousand or more athletes, plus hundreds of volunteers attended the meet from the Special Olympics office and major corporations, athletes’ families, college students and medical personnel.
Escorted by women and men of the armed forces and Arizona law enforcement volunteers and their motorcycle brigade, athletes paraded May 1 on the GCU track field.
Rim Country athletes marched with others from all the cities and many small towns of Arizona including the Navaho Nation, the Tonto Apache Tribe, as well as athletes from the Hopi, Pima and other tribes, were represented from all over the state.
After an honor guard salute, a military fly-by surprised the families and their athletes.
Mascots from the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Coyotes danced, mimed and interacted for three days with the athletes.
An Olympic village hosted games, karaoke, face painting, crafts, prizes and bounce houses.
Doctors and nurses and their many interns from all over the state held free clinics in the college for hearing, dental, eyes, nutrition, exercise, psychological coping skills for the families, foot and chiropractic care. Athletes received recommendations for health care and for those in need, free glasses, hearing aids, new shoes and stress-coping techniques.
Rim Country Special Olympic athletes spent three months of hard work preparing at the Payson High track with coaches Ruby Lane of Payson High special ed and Mark Smith, father of eight, a longtime head coach and parent of three Payson Special Olympics athletes.
Rim Country athletes participated in a full array of track and field events including the relay where athletes David Frohme, John Agent, Todd Orr and Austin Conway won the gold.
Adrianna Barnes won the gold in the 1,500-meter. Payson’s own Kobi Smith of the Tonto Apache Tribe won a gold in the softball throw. Adam Ostrom won a gold award in the wheelchair slalom and should have won another for his extraordinary flag shorts and costume at the dance.
All participants demonstrated good sportsmanship, gave their best and showed great team spirit.
At the end of each event, athletes stood on the podium as family and friends loudly cheered them and awarded metals and ribbons by yet another volunteer group The HoHoKams.
In all of the events, athletes always kept in mind their oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”