The sound of bowling balls striking pins filled the air at Rim Country Bowl on Monday afternoon.

Shelly Orr made the most noise.

Her 170 score led the way as 22 Payson Special Olympians capped their season with their area bowling tournament.

Family and friends added their own “noise,” cheering every strike and spare.

Twenty-eight bowlers signed up to take part in the activity with weekly practices from September through December. And the tournament put a wrap on the first bowling season since 2019. COVID-19 precautions led to the cancellation of the 2020 season and all other Special Olympics activities. The pandemic canceled some sports for two years.

“They’re thrilled to be back with their friends, happy to be in sports,” said Payson Special Olympics Director Becky Derwort.

“It provides entertainment and something extra for them to do besides family activities. They’re very happy to be there.”

Some Special Olympians took part in virtual activities during the pandemic shutdown.

“There were not that many that participated in the virtual, I’d say 10 or less,” Derwort said. “The athletes missed the in-person (experience).”

Payson Special Olympians got back into action with swimming and bocce ball in the fall before they switched to bowling.

Derwort said there were about 40 bowlers two years ago. Not all athletes take part in every activity. Fewer have participated since activities resumed.

“We have about 99 athletes in our area,” Derwort said. “It’s starting slower than it has been in the past, but I think it will grow again.

“Coming out of the COVID, we didn’t have anything last year. The swimming was the first thing we had in a year and half and we had about five fewer swimmers this year. We’re just getting back into sports. There has been some hesitancy because of COVID, that some athletes chose not to participate.”

Some Payson Special Olympians are pretty good bowlers.

“Several actually have gone to bowl in evening leagues, which I thought is very cool,” Derwort said.

Now, they shift focus to basketball. Payson Special Olympics also offers snowshoeing in the winter.

They need more volunteers.

“I would like to invite people to come out and volunteer for basketball or any sport all year long,” Derwort said. “We have weekly practices and just need volunteers to help.”

Call Derwort at 928-978-3893 if you’re interested in helping.

Contact the reporter at

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