Fun, Good Times Finish First At Fort Smith Senior Olympics

By Rachel Rodemann Times Record

On Friday morning, the Fort Smith Convention Center filled with more than 100 gleeful seniors, ready to claim their victories in the SACA (Social Activity Certification Association) Senior Olympics.

"This is such a positive thing," said Dona Sosebee with Greenhurst Nursing Home in Charleston.

"You walk around and look at any of the residents, and the smile on their faces and the confidence — they’re ready to go today," she added with a grin.

Each participant earns a medal for attending, with larger medals and trophies going to the winners of events and categories. "This is a competition, and they give it everything they’ve got," Sosebee said.

"I love it because it shows spirit, especially to the people who are disabled," said Eve McDaniel, Greenhurst resident and returning wheelchair race champion.

McDaniel, 81, won both the hands-only and feet-only wheelchair races, her fourth consecutive year bringing home the gold for Greenhurst.

"We need to check your chair for rocket boosters," said emcee Jonas Schaffer, jokingly as McDaniel’s team cheered wildly following her second winning finish.

As the seniors raced, tossed and timed their events, dozens of family members, nursing staff and friends cheered. Emily Webb with Fianna Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation sat next to each of her contestants, giving them pep talks at the starting line and cheering wildly as they raced.

"Go, Lonnie, Go! Go, Lonnie, Go!" Webb shouted as Lonnie Smelser sped through a cone serpentine course with an enormous grin, his long, "Duck Dynasty" beard flowing behind him, and a chorus of duck calls echoing from his Fianna Hills table.

"Some have one leg, one hand, one arm," Soesbee said. "But they give it everything they’ve got."

David Lyle, who has been competing in the Senior Olympics for 27 years, sat focused at the starting line for the hands-only wheelchair races. As Schaffer shouted "Ready. Set. Go!" Lyle popped a wheelie and squealed off to a second place victory, smiling ear to ear.

Around the room, costumed supporters cheered and danced as each contestant competed in their events. Tables from each of the 12 nursing homes were decorated with themes, fiercely displayed and defended.

At the Fianna Hills table, every competitor wore a two-foot long beard. Crawford Health and Rehab boasted a tiki bar, flower leis and grass skirts. Sailors donned captain’s hats, camouflaged warriors intimidated with under-eye face paint, and a Bourbon Street-ready Mardi Gras crew let the good times roll.