More than 1,100 Special Olympics athletes (including their "unified partners" and coaches) from around the state converged on Grand Junction last weekend, dwarfing the number of junior college baseball players who competed in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series earlier this spring.
It was the seventh straight year Grand Junction has hosted the Colorado Special Olympics State Games with events taking place at Stocker Stadium and Colorado Mesa University. While it's not quite the institution that JUCO has become (60 years at Suplizio Field), the State Games has become a tradition that we hope will continue here for years to come.
There's the obvious economic benefit of having people from all over the state spending a long weekend in town. But more impressive is the way the community comes together to support these special athletes, for whom the opportunity to compete is just as prized as the prospect of winning an event.
More than 600 volunteers helped stage the State Games. It was the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics being in Colorado. The summer games is the Special Olympics' largest yearly event.
Special Olympics Colorado provides year-round training and competition in 22 sports for more than 250,000 Colorado athletes with intellectual disabilities. With the support of volunteers and the generosity of individual, corporate and business donors, Special Olympics Colorado is able to offer more than 100 events a year to individuals from 2 to 82.
The experience builds confidence and creates opportunities to "participate as productive and respected members of society by increasing awareness of the athletes' capabilities," according to Special Olympics Colorado.
It's an inspiring event and we're lucky to be a part of it.