Special Olympics

This fall’s Special Olympics empowers its athletes to perform well in the areas of bocce ball, softball and swimming.


Special Olympics Arizona will host one of its biggest competitions of the year, featuring more than 1,000 athletes vying for the top spot in swimming, softball and bocce. 

Presented by Casino Arizona, the 2021 Fall Games is Oct. 22 and Oct. 23. It will be the first competition hosted by Special Olympics Arizona in nearly two years.

“We tried to do virtual programming for athletes, and for a variety of reasons, it just didn’t quite work out,” said Jamie Heckerman, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Arizona. 

“Our athletes get to come back and share their talents and see their friends again that they haven’t been able to see.”

During the weekend, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program will provide athletes with complimentary medical exams, including Fit Feet, Fun Fitness and the Special Smiles program. 

“It’s in an environment that’s not so scary,” Heckerman said. 

“A lot of our athletes have medical conditions that require them to spend a lot of time in the hospital or doctor’s offices and getting poked and prodded. When they’re out at games and there are no white coats and no sterile environments, it’s a lot more interactive. They feel like they’re able to open up.”

Special Olympics Arizona offers 21 sports and hosts more than 300 events a year with the goal of empowering children and adults with intellectual disabilities to live healthy, meaningful and fulfilling lives.

“It’s just a lot of fun. There is a lot of joy, but it’s also a lot of hard work,” Heckerman said. “Our athletes work very hard to compete in the sports that they do, and they’re very competitive.”

Special Olympics Arizona encourages people of all ages and abilities to come and support their athletes and watch them compete in their events.

“Just by awareness, letting others see what our athletes are capable of, and to see the commitment that they give to the sport, I hope it motivates others,” Heckerman said, “I think it also gives us hope that others will see it and be inspired and want to join Special Olympics.”

There are more than 21,000 athletes who compete in Arizona and over 24,000 volunteers who help make it happen.

“Just come out and just try. If you just want to give bocce a shot because it’s not as high energy, that’s great. It’s somewhere to start,” Heckerman said. “Just come to see and make some new friends.”

Healthy Athletes will take place at Pioneer Park in Peoria from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with Special Smiles available Friday and Saturday. Fit Feet and Fun Fitness is on Saturday only. 

The swimming competition will be hosted at the Southwest Valley YMCA in Goodyear, and the bocce and softball competitions are set for Pioneer Community Park.

For more information and for a list of competition times, visit