Early on the morning of March 31, the Lehi Community Center greeted tribal seniors from all over Arizona eager to compete in this year’s Senior Olympics. To start, the seniors entered the cafeteria, where they were met by the aroma of eggs, sausage and other breakfast items. While they enjoyed their breakfast, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Vice-President Martin Harvier stopped in to share some encouraging words and a quick childhood story that had everyone laughing.
“Have fun, laugh, enjoy yourself and have a good time, because that’s what today’s all about,” Harvier said.
Before the seniors headed out to compete in the events, Dion Begay from the Salt River Fitness Center offered a few healthy reminders and led some warm-up stretches to help everyone loosen up and prepare for the day’s activities.
The Lehi gym filled with laughter and greetings to old friends and new ones as the highly anticipated chair volleyball was ready to begin. The games were 15 minutes each, with two games being played simultaneously. Over the next few hours, teams were eliminated one by one, resulting in the White Doves from San Xavier winning the championship. The Salt River Thunder team made it to the final four.
“It’s really fun to watch them compete; they’re still young at heart,” said Alonzo Nez, who drove his in-laws up from the Tohono O’odham Nation to participate. “They asked me to drive them, so I did because I have never been here before. But they are having a great time,” he said, smiling while watching his in-laws cheer on their friends in the volleyball match.
Following the competitive and fun-spirited volleyball tournament, seniors, staff and volunteers returned to the cafeteria and enjoyed lunch.
After lunch, the seniors were anxious to get back and participate in the rest of the activities, including the sandbag throw, the oompa loompa competition, and others. In one game, teams of two had to pick up a large ball and carry it to the other side of the gym and back, with the fastest time winning. Afterward, teams of four were preparing for the relay race.
The day’s events concluded with multiple games going on at once, including the rubber-chicken toss, basketball and the obstacle course. As everyone gathered one last time in the cafeteria, staff and volunteers distributed goody bags and this year’s Senior Olympics shirt and handed out awards to the winners in all events.
“It’s really fun to watch them,” said SRPMIC Council Member Deanna Scabby. “I don’t know when my time will come, but it will,” she replied, laughing, when asked if she will ever compete.
Every year Salt River hosts the annual Senior Olympic Games. To learn more about the games and other activities for seniors, contact Tara Gonzales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 662-6689.