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South Valley Journal

Harmons’ ongoing support provides Special Olympians’ opportunities

Sep 03, 2022 12:03PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Randy and Bob—the faces of the Harmons Grocery Stores—were in elementary school, their mother agreed to host three Special Olympics athletes who were to compete the next day at the University of Utah.

“It was the first time we were introduced to someone different, but we didn't look at them as being different,” Harmons Grocery Chairman for the Customer Bob Harmon said. “We watched them compete and at that age, we were like, ‘we want to run too.’ They were engaged and a part of something, which is wonderful. It was an amazing experience and because it was so positive, we just continued to support Special Olympics.”

That support has extended to 42 years, and it continued Aug. 12 as Harmon handed Special Olympics Utah President/Chief Executive Officer Scott Weaver a check for more than $302,000 from root beer float sales in March at the chain’s 19 grocery stores as well as donations at the checkouts. It was almost double the previous year’s contribution.

Weaver said the money is earmarked for the teams who told Harmons’ patrons about Special Olympics during the root beer float sales and will be used to offset sporting fees, uniforms, transportation, equipment and other costs.

“Bob’s parents started supporting Special Olympics 40-plus years ago and the family has continued ever since,” Weaver said. “When it comes to my years of nonprofit work, not many partners stick around that long. The longevity of this relationship is truly impressive.”

Harmon said it’s through the generosity of their customers during annual promotions that they can impact the lives of so many Special Olympians.

“We are very proud to hire those with special needs and they do a phenomenal job as a part of our staff and that’s a special experience for our customers,” he said, adding that the chain also hosts an annual golf tournament amongst other ways to support Special Olympics.

As a token of appreciation, Jordan School District 2022 graduates Kate Williams and Miranda Clegg, who have been a part of unified cheer with Forever Athletics for the past five years, presented Harmon with a Utah Special Olympics jersey that the team worn at the Special Olympics USA Games, with the slogan, “Shine as 1” on the back.

Williams and Clegg both volunteered to tell Harmons’ customers about Special Olympics during the selling of root beer floats back in March.

“It was really awesome, but my feet hurt; it was tiring,” Williams recalled. “I like getting to do cheer. I like the pom poms and when we do the jumps and stunts.”

Clegg said that she was able to tell them about her experiences with cheerleading and making friends.

“I liked talking to people and they asked me about Special Olympics,” she said, adding that now she has transitioned to help coach the team. “It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve been able to help coach since I’ve been there cheering, I have that perspective.”

In addition to the Forever Athletics cheer team, members of the Oquirrh Thunder community team showed their appreciation to Harmon for supporting Special Olympics.

Mountain Creek ninth-grader Jaymi Bonner has participated in Special Olympics for five years.  She competed this summer in the inaugural sport of unified golf and competes in unified track for the Oquirrh Thunder.

“It makes me strong,” she said. “It’s fun to do it with my friends.”

Weaver said the bonds people make through Special Olympics is what makes it memorable.

Through his 42 years of being involved with Special Olympics, he’s made unforgettable friendships, starting when he was in college, meeting 7-year-old Buddy.

“I just connected with him and that became my connection with the disabled community,” he said, adding that because of that bond, he changed his major from forestry to therapeutic recreation and special education.

Weaver went on to play and coach a unified softball team in 1986-7[LL1] , then he formed lasting friendships with his unified double tennis player Gary and unified cycling race partner Jeff.

“I've had friendships with them for about 20-25 years now,” he said. “It’s the people that make such an impact, the support and connections we have that make all the difference