Members of Craig’s team participate in the opening ceremonies for last year’s Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games at the Moffat County High School track. This year’s Summer Games begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the high school, 900 Finley Lane.

File photo

Members of Craig’s team participate in the opening ceremonies for last year’s Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games at the Moffat County High School track. This year’s Summer Games begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the high school, 900 Finley Lane.

Special Olympics to host spring games Saturday at MCHS

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If you go…

What: Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane

• The competition includes track and field, aquatics and weightlifting events. Everyone is invited to watch. For more information on Special Olympics Colorado, call Julie Fite at (970) 945-0395.

Everybody wins – athletes and spectators alike – this weekend, according to Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games organizers.

The games take place Saturday at Moffat County High School. The event, which first began in Chicago in 1968, has been hosted in Craig for more than 30 years and includes track and field, aquatics and weightlifting events for regional children and adults with disabilities.

Special Olympics Colorado’s Western Area athletes hail from Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco Counties, among others. Of the 95 competitors scheduled to participate, 16 are Craig locals.

Dan Severson has been a helper for the games for five years, first getting involved through the Craig Kiwanis Club. This is the first year he has worked as games director, handling registration for the athletes.

“It’s really inspiring to watch them compete, watching all the work that they and their coaches put into it,” he said.

About 50 volunteers, many from the Kiwanis Club, will be working at the games, assisting athletes during and in between competition. Severson said the number of people who are involved can never be too high.

“We’ve got things pretty well handled with the volunteers, but if nothing else, it’d be nice to have more people there to cheer,” he said.

Before the games kick off, athletes and their families will meet for dinner Friday night at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, followed by a 1980s-themed party. Competitors will also meet for breakfast at McDonald’s at 7 a.m. Saturday, with the traditional torch run starting at 8 a.m. in the Safeway parking lot, moving up to MCHS.

Restaurants including Wendy’s, Carelli’s and Subway will be providing food, while Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Gatorade will offer refreshments.

Julie Fite, Special Olynpics of Colorado’s Western Area manager, said she loves the amount of work the Craig community puts into the event every year.

“They really go all out, and I think it’s neat because the same teams come back every year and form friendships,” she said. “It’s always a nice turnout.”

Fite operates out of Glenwood Springs and oversees teams from numerous towns in the Western part of Colorado, big and small.

“I might be showing a little favoritism, but I think having it in a small town like Craig is a lot more comfortable and friendly compared to something in a big city,” she said.

Fite, who has been involved with Special Olympics since 1989, said she always looks forward to “seeing the competition come to fruition.”

“It gives the athletes an opportunity to shine,” she said. “It’s just priceless seeing the sportsmanship and camaraderie.”

Severson said the spirit of the event, which recognizes the efforts of each participating athlete regardless of placing, spreads beyond the track or the swimming pool to the spectators.

“If everybody went to it just one time, we’d always have a thousand people in the stands because they’d be back every year,” he said. “These kids are so inspiring, and the whole thing’s just a lot of fun.”

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