Let the games return: CMU to host Special Olympics

Tim Foster, President, Colorado Mesa University
Tim Foster, President, Colorado Mesa University

A statewide competition that attracts more than 1,200 athletes and their families will return to Grand Junction this summer.

Special Olympics Colorado announced that it will bring its state summer games back to Colorado Mesa University on May 31 and June 1.

“I know we were hoping for a return engagement this year, and I think a lot of folks in the community shared our hope. We are very pleased to have the competition coming back to our campus and to our community,” said CMU President Tim Foster.

Mindy Watrous, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Colorado, said the summer games in Grand Junction last year were “overwhelmingly positive” in terms of not only the athletic facilities, but also the community response.

It was the first time a Special Olympics event of that size occurred in Western Colorado since the organization began hosting competitions in 1969.

“We encourage people to come out again and cheer on our athletes as they showcase their abilities,” Watrous said. “The enthusiasm from the large crowd at opening ceremonies was heart-warming.”

Special Olympics Colorado offers year-around training and competition in 22 sports to more than 12,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities. The programs are designed to help participants build confidence as well as increase awareness of their abilities.

The summer games are the largest Special Olympics event of the year in Colorado in involving more than 1,200 athletes and their families, 500 volunteers and supporters and sponsors. The two-day competition serves as a state championship for gymnastics, soccer, swimming, track and field and weight lifting.

The summer games are scheduled to begin with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. May 31. Competition is planned for May 31 and June 1 at a number of CMU venues, including the El Pomar Natatorium for swimming and Maverick Center for gymnastics. Track and field events are planned for Stocker Stadium.

Events on May 31 also will include a victory celebration with a dance for athletes at the University Center Ballroom at CMU and a fireworks show.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

“It was gratifying to see how everyone embraced the Special Olympics Summer Games last year when the event was held at CMU for the first time,” Foster said. “Initially there was concern about our ability to provide enough volunteers. The reality turned out to be that we had more volunteers than we had jobs for them to do.”

Because of interest from local business leaders, Special Olympics Colorado will expand its sponsorship opportunities, starting at $1,000, to accommodate more partners.

Additional interactive booths and vendors also are sought for Olympic Town. And volunteers with medical backgrounds are needed to conduct healthy athletes screenings that weekend.