GREAT FALLS — The COVID-19 pandemic hit Special Olympics hard, and some teams harder than others.
The Purple Hornets are the adult team in Great Falls that features nearly 70 athletes.
And for team members, Special Olympics was more than just an outlet for competition. Quite simply, their team is their family.
"It was really bad and during that time I had to stay home, and I couldn't be with my friends, and it really made me upset,” said 59-year-old athlete Brenda Heminger.
But through it all, the Purple Hornets still found time to stay connected and active through weekly Zoom calls and activities like the virtual games in 2020 and 2021.
"We talk to each other and ask how they're doing and stuff,” Heminger said. "And then when anyone was feeling really down, we always tell them to cheer up and have hope and everything would be okay.”
And that's why the team was dancing for joy when they were cleared to practice in person this spring.
"I love every bit of it!" Heminger exclaimed
And earlier this month at CM Russell High School, the team participated in its first regional competition in more than two years.
“I have the best life here,” said team member Kevin Shaver after running the 100-meter race. "I have so much love here.”
Fifty-three year-old athlete Paula Hannah agrees: "Just being around caring people and you can root them on and everything, and that's awesome.”
The Purple Hornets are there for each other through good times and bad - and that's what a team is all about.