Tables were pushed out of the way, toward walls and to corners of the spacious dining area. Streamers — blue, yellow, black, green, red — hung from the ceiling. The grandstands — made up of wheelchairs and walkers — were full. An excited, almost tangible buzz filled the room.
Hoots and hollers flooded the Aurora residential memory care community. The first participants, Jake Jacobs, 86, and Ken Gould, 81, took to the starting line for the men’s biathlon. The crowd counted down in unison: “10, 9, 8… Go!”
The two men launched from the starting line. Buoyed by spectators’ applause and boisterous support, they walked cautiously down the course, a ski pole in each hand. As they neared the finish line about 90 seconds later, they traded their steadying poles for Nerf guns and shot foam pellets at a target — roughly mimicking the Olympic biathlon competition, in which rifle shooting follows cross country skiing.
These Olympic games wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a bunch of rambunctious teenagers — students from Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School. As part of a 60-hour service project, 13 boys visited Chelsea Place five days a week for two weeks.
Between getting to know the residents and tasks like cleaning, flower arranging and cooking, the teens created the Chelsea Place Olympic Games.
Together, Dill and the teens used their imaginations to tailor real-life Olympic sports for safety and ease. The students helped the seniors through several of the competitions: They pushed them in wheelchairs for the bobsleigh event, then again in gurney-like chairs during the luge race.
Read about the event and the joy shared at the Denver Post.