Bball tourney highlights Special Olympians

Photo by Senior Airman DEVANTE WILLIAMS

Athletes from all over Arizona came under one roof to compete in the Palo Verde Area Special Olympics Basketball Tournament Feb. 19 in Avondale.

Fourteen teams participated in the tournament in which each division winner moved to the state competition in March at the University of Arizona in Tucson. This basketball tournament has existed for 12 years and features teams participating from the West Valley ranging from children to adults.

“The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” said Sarah Haines, Special Olympics Arizona Volunteer and Human Resource Director. “It provides them with continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”

The three-day basketball tournament has seen more than 103 high-level teams participate. The stands were filled with family members and friends as they cheered for their favorite athletes throughout the tournament. In its 13th year, the Special Olympics basketball committee has made improvements to make the tournament more accessible for athletes.

“Every year is a learning experience for us,” said Jamie Heckerman, Palo Verde director, Special Olympics Arizona. “This year we added official referees for the tournament. It helps to make the atmosphere a very competitive one while also keeping the fun intact.”

With the tournament being a success, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the volunteers from Luke Air Force Base who assisted by helping out with the scoreboard and aiding staff members.

“Special Olympics Arizona couldn’t exist without the generosity of our volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to help provide assistance to the training and competitions Special Olympics athletes deserve,” Haines said. “We are grateful to the dedicated volunteers from Luke Air Force Base who came out and helped run all of our events.”