SPORTS: These are not your grandparents of the 1940s as the North Olympic Peninsula gears up for the Senior Games

PORT ANGELES — These aren’t your grandparents of the 1940s and ’50s.

These grandparents can boogie.

The public will get the chance to see these active grandmas and grandpas, and in some cases great-grandparents, at the seventh annual Olympic Peninsula Senior Games, scheduled for Aug. 26-28 in gyms, softball fields, track ovals, basketball and tennis courts and even a bowling alley throughout the Port Angeles area.

“Our goal is to break the stereotypes [of seniors],” D Bellamente, executive director of the Senor Games all seven years and director of Port Angeles Senior Center, said.

The theme is to encourage a healthy lifestyle, she said.

Bellamente invites spectators to come out and watch the seniors perform and compete.

“It’s free to spectators,” she said. “Come out and get a cookie.”

Evidently, these grandparents still can bake.

No couch potato herself, Bellamente practices what she preaches.

She has medaled in past Games in bowling and the 5-kilometer run.

Is she going to take time out of her busy schedule as director to compete in events this year?

“I have all weekend to think about it,” she said with a smile on Thursday.

Registration ends Monday.

However, it’s unlikely anyone will get turned away no matter how late he or she registers. It just makes it easier for the volunteers if participants make the Monday deadline.

“We try not to turn anyone away,” Bellamente said.

Longtime Games volunteer Bev Hawes said she registered to participate in horseshoes, an event that takes place beneath the trees at Lincoln Park.

“I don’t know if I can throw one, but I will try,” Hawes said.

“Have you been practicing?,” Senior Center intern and Games volunteer Candice Bullard kidded.

“I’m going to wear a hard hat [when Hawes’ tosses the horseshoe],” Bellamente joked.

All kidding aside, these Games aren’t just for the hard-body senior citizen.

Many events can be done by participants in wheelchairs.

That includes card games such as bridge, cribbage and Pinochle, Bocce and even bowling.

“You can throw the Bocce ball sitting down, and the bowling alley won’t turn away someone who wants to bowl,” Bellamente said.

Bowling competition is held at Laurel Lanes.

Some other activities include coed softball, volleyball, basketball, track and field, tennis, kayaking, Pickleball, racquetball, 5K and 10K running, swimming and indoor rowing.

This is the first year for volleyball and it is just the second team sport to join the area Senior Games.

“I’m excited about having another team sport because it’s another way for people to become involved,” Bellamente said.

Softball is the other team sport. Basketball is more like a Hot Shot activity where participants take jump shots at different points on the court, and they shoot free throws.

Participants must be 50 years or older unless they are women participating in the following activities: Pickleball, coed softball and volleyball.

Women can be as young as 45 in those three activities.

The sports and activities offered at the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games changes yearly.

“Just because we offer it this year doesn’t mean we will offer it next year,” Bellamente said.

A steering committee of Games administrators, volunteers and commissioners get together a month after the event ends to discuss, first, if there will even be a Senior Games the next year, and if there is, then what activities and sports will be offered.

Popularity of each activity is just one of the many considerations to determine what is kept and what is dropped.

The whole shebang could be dropped if the steering committee decides it doesn’t want to continue the next year.

Bellamente and her committee takes a pulse of everyone involved, including participants, to see if there’s enough passion to keep it going.

And so far in the past seven years the passion of the community to keep the grass-roots event going has been overwhelming, Bellamente said.

Each activity has a commissioner who runs the event.

“They are our experts,” Bellamente said.

The event keeps growing.

There were 525 participants last year and Bellamente is expecting at least 600 later this month.

More than 400 had registered for at least one activity through Thursday.

And that doesn’t include the 75 to 100 volunteers the Games get each year run the event.

There is no deadline to volunteer.

“We will accept volunteers any time,” Bellamente said.

And the Games aren’t just for area seniors.

Participants come from all over the state, country and Canada, longtime steering committee member and volunteer Elaine King said.

“We have a couple of Pickleball players coming from Philadelphia,” King said.

“About 40 percent of participants come from outside the area.”

This year that includes Oregon, Colorado, California, Texas and Arizona, to name just a few of the states.

“We would take them from the galaxy, if we could,” Bellamente said.

There are about a dozen sponsors and overwhelming support from the community that keeps the Games going, Bellamente added.

That support is keeping grandpa and grandma fit and healthy.

________

Sports Editor Brad ­LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at brad.labrie@peninsuladailynews.com.

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