The historic Howard Theater was the setting for the Opening Ceremony for the 30th anniversary of the DC Senior Games. More than 250 athletes, family members, recreation and sports professionals turned out to hear Mayor Gray and other dignitaries express the importance of senior fitness in the nation’s capital. “Bring home the gold,” Mayor Vincent Gray exhorted. “Make us proud!”
The gathering showed enthusiastic support for NSGA’s Personal Best Award presentation that honored one athlete each from DC, Virginia and Maryland to make a regional statement about the senior games movement and opportunities for seniors in the metro Washington region. We won’t go into their stories here, you can read about their life journeys on the Personal Best page. It is noteworthy that each of our honorees really took the recognition to heart and their comments were filled with emotion.
“The only thing Oscar Peyton doesn’t do fast is talk about himself,” said Maryland Senior Olympics Director and NSGA board member Ted Wroth in his introduction of the track speedster. True to form, the multiple gold medalist from Accokeek Md. kept his remarks short. “My goal now is to give back and encourage as many as I can to be active and do something to better their health.”
Helen White, who helped co-found the NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association with Jackie Stephens and three others, gave a heartfelt introduction to her friend and mentor Jackie Stephens. “She is a shining example of someone who believes it’s never too late to follow a dream and encourages others to join her.” Stephens, wearing the same #23 jersey number that her All American husband wore in college, softly honored her early church influences, her family and her teammates for enriching and empowering her life, and the audience, including some of her 70+ Classics teammates, hung on the former educator’s every word as she spoke athlete to athlete. “You are here because you had a dream and you believed and worked on your goals, and you will do your best because the very best is at the heart of us and we wouldn’t settle for anything less.”
Then came DC’s favorite son John Tatum, introduced by his longtime coach Rodger McCoy. Each said the other was keeping them going. Tatum honored his recently departed brother Bradford and other family members present and departed. “I have to carry on with my fitness. I’m happy to still be doing things, but it’s been hard. I have to live through this but I’ll be in the pool this week and I’ll be in Cleveland. And all those 90 year old swimmers out there, they better watch out!”
WUSA – CBS News aired a story that evening. WJLA – ABC also joined the party and used footage as background for the half hour weekly Toyota SportsTalk show that included in depth interviews with John Tatum and NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker. A number of other regional print and online news resources have shown interest in follow-up stories that will appear in days and weeks to come. Other national media outlets were made aware of our program and the upcoming National Senior Games and some expressed interest in potential coverage in July.
The following day, NSGA VP of Association Relations Becky Wesley and NSGA Board Member Ted Wroth observed DC Senior Games activity while Marc T. Riker and Media & Communications Del Moon attended the annual meeting of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
In our second tour stop we made many new friends and our message is steadily getting out. Our thanks to John Stokes and Jennifer Hamilton with DC Parks and Recreation for their assistance and overwhelming hospitality. On to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina on May 18!