Eighty-five-year-old Sarah Brooks is one of hundreds of local seniors getting ready for this year’s Piedmont Plus Senior Games.
Brooks has played in the games for the last two decades, accumulating too many medals and good memories to count.
She was drawn to the olympic-style sports competition for competitors 55 and older by a recommendation from a friend. Brooks had just moved to the Twin City from New York to be closer to her daughter.
She said the competing was a great way to get to know Winston-Salem.
“I’ve always been athletic, I’ve always been involved in community affairs,” said Brooks, a retired educator, “and it is fun and you meet a lot of people.”
Other seniors who want to shine in dozens of sports and arts/crafts events or who simply want to be social are being invited to join the Piedmont Plus Senior Games family. An open house of sorts for this year’s competition will be held Friday, Jan. 25 at from 10 a.m. to noon at Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center, 501 Reynolds Blvd. Seniors will have an opportunity to sign-up for events and learn more about the games. The event will also feature games, refreshments and booths manned by representatives from agencies that cater to seniors, according to Senior Games Coordinator Chuck Vestal.
A city-sponsored free program, the games, open to residents of both Forsyth and Stokes counties, had 549 participants last year. Vestal said the combination of lively physical activity, seeing friends and having fun draws seniors in.
“I had … them come to me and say ‘Hey Chuck keep the medals. I just came down here for the fellowship part of it and the fun part of it,’” said Vestal.
Brooks loves the camaraderie, but she also competes to win. Bowling is her sport of choice, though she is also a gold medal-winning cornhole competitor. Brooks has a number of local and state bowling medals under her belt.
Senior Games competitors take part in practices for several months leading up to the culminating local games, April 11-19, when medals will be awarded to the best in Forsyth and Stokes county. Local winners then go on to compete at the state level. Winners there are given the opportunity to compete against seniors from across the nation.
Though she’s qualified in the past to go to the national competitions, Brooks hasn’t made it to one yet. She and her bowling partner, Margie Bohannon, are still considering traveling to Cleveland, Ohio for nationals this year.
Bill Gramley, 77, also takes full advantage of the games, competing in both sports and arts events. A retired Moravian pastor and administrator, he now regularly paints in a variety of mediums and sells his works at street festivals around the state. He’s entered many of his paintings in Silver Arts categories.
Gramley also competes in the track and field events. As a high school student, he won statewide shot-put and discus competitions; he went on to set a school record in discus at Davidson College, where he also won the conference championship. Decades later, the Senior Games have proven that Gramley is still a champion. In recent years, he has earned many medals, including the national gold in discus in 2007.
Gramley said competing at 77 is a bit different than doing it at 17. Senior Games organizers understand that. Competitors are divided into age groups and shot-put balls and discuses are lighter the older the competitor is.
A member of her college basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and gymnastics squads, Brooks has always been an athlete, but the vast variety of Senior Games offerings allows her other talents to shine as well. A longtime avid photographer, Brooks won a gold Silver Arts (the games’ artistic wing) medal last year for one of her photos. She’s also competed in Silver Arts categories like painting, writing and dancing, as a member of the Snappy Tappers.
“Whatever you do as a hobby, there’s something for you to do in Senior Games,” said Brooks.
For more information, visit weplay.ws and click on “Seniors,” or call Vestal at 336-727-2325.