By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – At the local Special Olympics in Safford, there is more thrill of victory than agony of defeat because every competitor is a winner to their family and supporters.
The Safford Lions Club sponsors the annual event, which will be held April 1 from 9 a.m. to about 11:30 a.m. at the Safford High School football field.
“It’s kind of the biggest (local Special Olympics competition) around the state,” Lions Club member and organizer Chris Gibbs said. “It’s very well attended every year.”
The Lions Club provides food and refreshments for the competitors and support system in attendance and serves hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks, according to Gibbs.
The participants compete in a variety of track and field events, including a shot put with a softball, modified javelin toss, sprint and distance races, as well as weight lifting competitions inside the school’s weight room.
“They (competitors) love it,” Gibbs said. “What a fun day.”
In addition to the Lions Club sponsoring the event, other organizations, including rotary clubs and The Clubhouse motorcycle group will be on hand as well. Gibbs encourages anyone who would like to volunteer at the event to come out and help with the races, process times and hand out awards. All athletes receive a medal, but those who place receive recognition medals denoting first, second or third place.
Graham County is part of the Monument Area of the six different Special Olympics areas denoted in Arizona. The area offers year-round sports programs and competitions for more than 500 athletes from the Navajo Nation and eastern Arizona, including Graham and Greenlee counties. The area services 15 local programs, offering four sports and more than eight year-round competitions in multiple sport programs all provided at no cost to participants.
“Graham County has always had a very good sized event,” Gibbs said.