Seniors explore sporting life

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The recently concluded 27th consecutive games of the St. Louis Senior Olympics were a great success. There were over 35 categories of events and activities for participants to choose from this year. “I like to say we had everything from A to W: Accuracy Plug Casting, Archery and Art to Washer Toss, Weight Lifting and everything in between,” said Jerry Ehrlich, volunteer chairman for the 2005-2006 games.

While the majority of the participants were from Missouri, more than 1,300 athletes from over 15 states competed in the St. Louis Senior Olympics. The games are for individuals ages 50 and over and attracts a diverse group of athletes. Said Ehrlich, “According to the athletes themselves who have been to numerous — as in hundreds of — senior games, they come up to us to tell us the St. Louis games are the best in terms of organization and in terms of professionalism. We are incredibly flattered by that.”

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Of course it isn’t all about the athletes. The games depend on the assistance of many volunteers. Lois Grand has been a volunteer for the games for over 20 years. Said Grand, “I started out working at the track. It used to get so hot we would throw water on the racers to cool them off.” She has also handed out food and headed up the hospitality committee. This year she won the Walter “Doc” Eberhardt Memorial Award for her outstanding volunteerism, commitment and dedication to the St. Louis Senior Olympics. “It is so much fun to see some of the same people year after year, athletes and volunteers. It is a lot of fun to be part of it all. It does a great deal of good for everyone’s mental and physical health. It is such a great event for the St. Louis area,” said Grand.

George Ruh has been an athlete and a volunteer at the games for 11 years. This year, he served on the steering committee and as the event director for the softball tournament and the homerun derby. He’s participated in shot put, javelin, basketball, football and thinks he’s actually tried all of the events at one time or another. He enjoys being with friends at the games as well as the health and social aspects of participating. Said Ruh, “You don’t have to be an athlete to participate. You just have to be somebody who likes to have fun and meet people.”

This year on the last day of competition the games unveiled a new event: the home run derby. The competition was covered by Channel 5. Said Ehrlich, “It was really a big hit — pun intended. Though Channel 5 was not an official sponsor this year they did a great job covering the games and we are very grateful for that.”

This year the games had a wrap-up video night a week after the conclusion of the games. In the past, the closing ceremonies came at the end of the last day of competition when many people have already left. The committee loved the idea of giving everyone an opportunity to come back together and reminisce and see each other again. Mark Silverman prepared a video with the highlights of all the festivities from the games. Said Ehrlich, “The St. Louis Senior Olympics provides a wonderful opportunity for individuals to come together for the common goals of friendship, camaraderie and sportsmanship under the umbrella of healthy competition.”