Taking their marks for the first time in two years and the sound of the crowd pushing them through every stride, 900 Arizona Special Olympic athletes are back in action for the Summer games Friday.
“Having people cheering makes me run faster, makes you push yourself,” said 1,500-meter runner Joel Breck.
Breck hasn’t competed since the pandemic paused the games. He’s kept himself in shape, missed the competition but most of all looked forward to rooting on his friends.
“That’s what it’s all about, it’s about friendships,” said Breck.
“Not having it for over two years has really impacted socially our athletes,” said Arizona Special Olympics CEO Jamie Heckerman.
Heckerman says she’d received dozens of letters from athletes and their parents yearning to get back on the track.
“I think coming to an event like this and participating with other families that are just like you, you get to see that things are possible,” said Heckerman
“My favorite thing about this is when you see them support each other,” said parent Leticia Avena.
We got to see it all day long from distance running to powerlifting. Every spectator, including students from Raymond Kellis High School, were left inspired watching so many achieve despite their limitations. It's a lesson they’ll take back to the classroom.
“It becomes an easy discussion you know what I mean, because they get to see it, they get to feel it,” said teacher David Thistle sitting alongside his students as they watched the weight-lifting competition.
Scores were kept and medals awarded, but what’s clear from this day and every Special Olympics event, if you showed up, you walked away a winner.
If you are interested in volunteering, donating, or participating in the Arizona Special Olympics, visit the Arizona Special Olympics website.