She and head coach Bernie Radcliff work regularly with several Grand County athletes who are gearing up for the state championships on the Wasatch Front June 8 and 9. The team May 19 participated with local law enforcement officials for the Special Olympics Torch Run, held at Swanny City Park. The event encouraged recognition of the athletes, and helped to raise money for them to travel north for statewide activities.
Moab Police Chief Jim Winder, with numerous other enthusiastic law enforcement officials, helped to re-activate the event after a 16-year hiatus. He hopes the community can expand its support of Special Olympics locally by involving more participants and building golf and bacci ball programs, in addition to swimming. “We are trying to improve the sporting opportunities for our own residents,” said Winder, who encourages more Grand County individuals to begin participating in Special Olympics.
In the pool, some Special Olympians are able to swim on their own, while other participants need one-on-one assistance. Radcliff and Birsfield help the athletes stretch, walk and get warmed up before they hit the water.
“They teach me more than I could ever give them,” said Birsfield, who has worked at the city pool for more than a dozen years. “They are humorous, their jokes are fabulous, and in the water they are a happy group of adults.” She said team members listen attentively and are very courteous and respectful. “Of course, all of our input is positive,” she said of the coaching efforts. “They are all doing the best they can.”
Birsfield hopes that local Special Olympics programming can be done year-round here and not just seasonally.