Local champions crowned at Special Olympics

“Nobody loses in Special Olympics,” said Brandon Eubanks. “Everybody’s a winner.”

A Cortez Special Olympics basketball coach, Eubanks led a group of 17 special needs athletes this past weekend at the Colorado Special Olympics Western Regional basketball tournament in Grand Junction. Nine athletes from Cortez participated in the 5-on-5 tournament, and eight other athletes competed in individual skills: passing, shooting and dribbling.

“Working with Special Olympics, I’ve learned that our limitations are far beyond what they seem,” Eubanks said. “You can do anything if you’re willing to put in the effort.”

Eubanks started volunteering with Special Olympics as a 16-year-old Montezuma-Cortez High School student. A self-described “good-natured” guy, the now 28-year-old said Special Olympics gives him a purpose in life.

“The most fulfilling thing, for me, is knowing that I’m having a positive impact on someone else’s life,” he explained.

Last week, two local business owners made a positive impact by leading efforts to raise nearly $900 to help cover travel, food and lodging costs for the Grand Junction tournament. Blondie’s Trophy Room donated a portion of their sales at a Special Olympics fundraiser, raising some $600, and Mr. Happy’s also contributed approximately $250.

“Our goal was to raise $500,” Eubanks explained. “Due to the generosity of these two businesses, we smashed that goal.”

Blondie’s Trophy Room owner Desmond Calhoon said he was honored to help with the fundraiser, especially knowing the extra money generated helped to outfit the Cortez Special Olympic athletes with new uniforms and equipment.

“We’re glad we could assist with a community-wide effort to help the most special members of our community,” Calhoon said.

Special Olympics Colorado hosts more than 100 annual sports competitions, events and training. The Grand Junction basketball championship serves a preliminary to the state’s March Madness tournament where more than 50 teams will compete next month.

Eubanks, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fort Lewis College, works with Durango-based Community Connections, Inc., the only organization providing 24-hour, seven days a week, comprehensive services to people with developmental disabilities in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties. The company was established in 1985.

Eubanks said the greatest need in Montezuma County is expanding available sporting opportunities for Special Olympics athletes. To do so, however, requires additional community volunteers to serve as coaches, he added.

For more, including how to volunteer, visit specialolympicsco.org.