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Highland Springs athletes contend for Olympic gold

North Dallas community hosts own version of summer games

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November 3rd, 2016
Athletes who competed in the Highland Springs Olympic games sing the national anthem at the closing ceremonies.

Athletes who competed in the Highland Springs Olympic games sing the national anthem at the closing ceremonies.

While the world watched standout athletes Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt compete in Rio, residents of Highland Springs were basking in their own Olympic glory.

The Erickson Living community in North Dallas hosted a two-week version of the summer Olympic games, with nearly 230 residents competing in 23 events.

“The goal of our Olympic games was to encourage residents to have fun and meet new people,” says Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator at Highland Springs.

The competition kicked off on Monday, August 8, with Olympic Chair Wii Bowling, where residents vied for the highest score in Wii bowling while seated in a chair. Norma Hill took top honors and was the first gold medal winner of the Highland Springs Olympics.

In an interesting twist, Norma notched another first during the community’s Olympic games.

To encourage Olympic zeal, Blachly set up a program to raise awareness of U.S. athletes competing in Rio. For a $1 donation, residents drew a U.S. athlete’s name at random. If a resident’s chosen athlete won a medal, the resident was invited to a pizza party at Highland Springs. 

The initiative raised $570 for the Resident Care Fund, which supports residents who, despite careful planning, experience a genuine and unforeseen change in their financial situation. Highland Springs’ Residence and Care Agreement has complete details.

For her $1 donation, Norma drew the name of Virginia Thrasher, who competed in the women’s 10-meter air rifle event and won the first gold medal of the Rio Olympics.

“Norma was the very first gold medal winner at Highland Springs, and she drew the name of the first gold medalist of the Rio games,” says Blachly. “It was fun to see residents get excited about events they might not otherwise watch, simply because their selected athletes were competing.”

Challenging mind and body

Other events at the Highland Springs Olympics included Wii singles tennis, Wii doubles tennis, bocce ball, regular Wii bowling for men and women, Wii darts, “the big shootout” (residents sprayed water guns at targets), water volleyball, long putting, chair volleyball, a balance challenge, 8-ball pool, fly casting, plug casting, bucket ball toss, and chunk a chicken (residents launched rubber chickens at targets).

Events to challenge the mind included Rummikub, Bible trivia, bridge, Texas Hold’em, five-card stud poker, and a memory challenge.

Throughout the two-week duration of the Highland Springs games, residents also logged their minutes of cardio exercise. Those with the most minutes earned medals.

Sam HeLal earned the gold medal in the cardio challenge. He logged the majority of his cardio minutes in the community’s on-site fitness center.

“I’ve watched the Olympics before, but that’s the first time I’ve ever watched them while I was riding a [stationary] bike,” he says. 

Enthusiasm, patriotism, and celebration

Just like the Rio games, the Highland Springs Olympics inspired enthusiasm, patriotism, and celebration.

“We’ve all got a little competitiveness in us,” says Leslie Doran, fitness specialist. “It’s fun to see our residents getting into the spirit of the games.”

Gerald Duerksen led the medal count with 11 medals, 5 of them gold. Sam HeLal brought home 9 medals, and Wayne May rounded out the top three with 6 medals.

The athletes were recognized at the community’s closing ceremonies, where resident Sue Bullock led the national anthem during the raising of the American flag.

“There was an incredible amount of energy in the room as we celebrated our athletes,” says Blachly. “We’ll get back into the Olympic spirit in 2018 when the winter games are held in South Korea.”

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