Athletic involvement enriches the lives of millions of Americans. Special Olympians benefit as much or more than any of them.

But COVID-19 sidelined athletes everywhere.

So what are Payson Special Olympians doing until this pandemic subsides and they can get back in action in the pool or on the athletic field, track or court?

Plenty, thanks in part to a Special Olympics Arizona Connected Facebook page that keeps them engaged and connected to friends and teammates.

“There are a lot of activities,” said Lucy Karrys with the Payson Special Needs Family Support Group. She regularly accesses the page with her Special Olympian daughter, Jacquelin.

“Jacquelin and I post on SOAZ daily with short videos on exercise, stress release, mindfulness, yoga, healthy cooking, art projects and gardening,” Lucy said.

People share their own posts on a wide variety of topics and activities.

Logan Wright gets outside to hike and play pickleball in one of the local parks. Jordan Tame keeps active with home aerobics and cardio and also learned to play Foursquare outside.

Adrianna Barnes and her cousin, Becky Radimaker, both walk their dogs and get on their trampolines several times a day.

Brandon Nichols, the Payson High prom king a few years ago, loves to cook. “I’ll bet Brandon is helping a lot more at home,” Lucy said.

“Last night, we had a statewide Zoom dance-a-thon and fundraiser that Jacquelin danced in with many other athletes statewide,” Lucy said.

Lucy is working with Terry Legassie, a founder of the Special Needs Community in Payson and co-founder of Payson Special Olympics, to start a Zoom dance group just for Payson.

Beyond Limits, a church-based study group for special needs families that meets for worship and dinner the second Tuesday of every month at alternating churches delivered curbside activities packets to all the participants.

Lucy said most area churches hold virtual services over Zoom or FaceTime and reach out to athletes. “They are exceptionally good at being inclusive,” she said.

Organizers of a special needs art class for adults run by Jenny Smith, Laurie Farr and Jane Medlock set up a group text to keep everyone connected. One assignment for students is to call and check up on each other. Art students share their weekly art projects in the group chat.

“This week’s assignment was to make posters for our frontline health workers, which will go up at Banner Payson Medical Center,” Lucy said.

Jenny Smith and her daughter, Jaherr, who usually volunteers at Payson Community Kids, have been painting uplifting sayings on rocks and leaving them around town for people to take. They are doing the same at the hospital.

Special Olympian David Frohm reports he’s staying home and keeping his spirits up by not watching the news.

Dueker Ranch regularly hosts special needs individuals for therapeutic sessions with their horses. But that too is on hold.

“Dennis Dueker says the horses are missing the riders,” Lucy said. He said, “When it’s the usual time for lessons they get restless and look around for the kids.”

Special needs individuals often have secondary health concerns and parents are always vigilant because of these issues.

“Special needs families are close knit and very creative in keeping their kids of all ages occupied in meaningful activities,” Lucy said.

“We quarantined in early February getting medicines for three months and extra food and cleaning supplies. My daughter already has had an aneurysm, two strokes and a brain bleed in eight weeks, so I’m extra protective and kept her home from her volunteer job at Rim Country Health early on as I expect all my co-moms have done the same.”

Payson Special Olympians missed out on the annual Law Enforcement Torch Parade on April 29 ahead of the caravan to the Summer Games in Glendale that would have attracted more than 1,000 athletes.

Swimming normally starts in June but Taylor Pool won’t open this summer and Special Olympics Arizona has postponed swimming through the end of June.

“Athletes really miss their sports,” Lucy said.

So they stay connected via social media.

The world has changed but we’re able to stay connected now more than ever before.

And many people are especially thankful for that.

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