Michigan Senior Olympics kicks off summer games Aug. 7

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published July 28, 2015

ROCHESTER — The Michigan Senior Olympics is celebrating its 36th anniversary this year and invites the public to an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 in Rochester Municipal Park.

The free event will include a torch lighting ceremony at 6 p.m., free ice cream, face painters, balloon artists, music, mini-olympics for children and more.

“We want people to know that we are here in the Oakland County area, so we are just trying to spread the word and make it a fun event,” said MSO Executive Director Becky Ridkey.

Ridkey expects approximately 1,000 participants ages 50 and older to compete in the summer games this year, which take place Aug. 7-14 and 23 at various locations throughout Oakland County.

“Anyone can do it. It’s never too late to start participating. We’ve had athletes who didn’t even start running in track and field until they were in their 60s or 70s, so it’s really never too late to get involved,” she said. “And there are all different levels that participate. We have athletes that train year-round, and we have those who are doing it for their own personal best or just for the fun of it.”

This year’s events include archery, badminton, bocce ball, bowling, cycling, dancesport, a new disc golf category, golf, a 5K, a 10K, pickleball, a racewalk event, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, tennis, a triathlon, volleyball, and track and field events. All events, with the exception of dancesport, are free to watch.

Although seniors participating in the summer games had to register by July 17, Ridkey said she’s currently searching for volunteers of all ages to assist before and during this year’s events.

“We need people to help with check-in, maybe working out on the course of the 5K and 10K, directing traffic and passing out water, and we need a lot of help with our track and field event,” Ridkey said. “It’s just a fun way to get involved in the community.”

The Michigan Senior Olympics also relies strongly upon sponsors, Ridkey said. This year’s major sponsors are Waddle and Reed, Boulevard Health Center, Cherrywood Nursing and Living Center, the Older Persons’ Commission, Oakland County Parks and Recreation and Oakland University, but she said there are lots of different sponsorship opportunities still available.

New this year, a Celebration of Athletes dinner will be held from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 13 at Steiny’s Restaurant & Banquet Hall in Shelby Township and will feature Willie Horton, a 1968 Detroit Tigers World Series champion. The event, which is open to the public, will include a buffet dinner, a silent auction, raffle prizes, awards and the bestowing of the Personal Best Award from the CEO of the National Senior Games, Marc Riker, to MSO athlete Sharon Huczek, of Oakland Township.

“I was shocked, really. I didn’t think I warranted any kind of recognition like that, but it was quite a comeback,” Huczek said.

Huczek, who was inducted into the Racquetball Association of Michigan Hall of Fame in 2011, overcame various physical injuries — including shoulder surgery in 2011, knee replacement surgery in 2013 and wrist surgery in 2013 — to compete in the MSO over the years. The injuries didn’t stop Huczek from competing in the games for the past five years — she just did it at her own pace.

“What’s amazing is all the athletes and the people you meet from the other parts of the state and the friendships you form. That’s why I wanted to keep participating, even if I didn’t do that well,” Huczek said of competing in the MSO while injured.

This year she will compete in raquetball, racewalk and pickleball MSO events.

Tickets for the Celebration of Athletes, which cost $17 for MSO members and $20 for nonmembers, must be purchased by Aug. 6 by calling (248) 608-0252.  

The Michigan Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance the quality of life for people over 50 by providing and developing programs in physical fitness and nutrition, while enhancing mental strength and sports skills.

For more information, to volunteer or to become a sponsor for the upcoming games, visit www.michiganseniorolympics.org or call (248) 608-0252.