As we enter a new year, numerous athletic competitions will be held across the Heartland. Many are made possible by the generous support of sponsors. That is the case for the Heartland Senior Games, now in its third decade. Thanks to the financial assistance of many local sponsors, entry fees have been kept modest, shirts are provided to all participants, medals are awarded by the hundreds and a complimentary lunch is provided at many of the events.

When South Florida State College first went looking for sponsors to help with the Senior Games, two gentlemen stepped forward immediately. Alan Holmes of Edward Jones was only too happy to open his checkbook to become the first gold sponsor. He was quickly followed by Dr. Hunter Newsom of Newsom Eye. Both play a big role in local activities and, in turn, appreciate the support seniors in the community have shown them.

Dr. Newsom is a strong believer in keeping physically fit. He has competed in 5K runs and enjoys tennis. He also encourages his family and staff to keep active. He warns everyone to protect their eyes with sunglasses when outdoors.

“Sunscreen for the eyes,” as Newsom calls sunglasses, is essential for all competing in the Heartland Senior Games outdoor events in February: golf on Feb. 2, shuffleboard being contested on Feb. 6, the horseshoe competition on Feb. 8, pickleball being played on Feb. 9-10, cycling on Feb. 16, track and field on Feb. 23 and tennis, which will take place over three days, from Feb. 26-28. Tinted goggles would be a good idea for swimmers competing at the Highlands County YMCA outdoor pool on Feb. 25.

Alan Holmes was keeping fit with a personal trainer but has been spending more time lately challenging himself by working on restoring old cars.

Holmes is concerned about his clients’ health, both physical and financial. He asks, “What good is financial wealth if you haven’t got your health?” When meeting with clients, Holmes takes time to ask them about their physical well-being as financial goals are so often aligned with health issues. Holmes is concerned that Americans have gotten soft and is pleased that South Florida State College coordinates the Heartland Senior Games.

Holmes urges all residents 50 and older living in the Heartland to consider joining in the Games, whether it be the outdoor events listed above or those activities which will be held indoors during February: euchre on Feb. 5, table tennis on Feb. 7, bowling at Bowl of Fun Lanes in Wauchula on Feb. 11 and Feb. 18, mah jongg at Tropical Harbor in Lake Placid on Feb. 15 and bridge being played on Feb. 21.

The Heartland Senior Games are just one of 20 similar events held annually across the entire state. Each local competition gives competitors in the athletic events a chance to qualify for the Florida Senior Games to be held Dec. 7-15. All events see participants compete in age/gender categories. Competitors will meet head to head with others in their same five-year age grouping, from 50 to 54 up to 90-plus.

Registration forms may be picked up at any of the South Florida State College Campuses, located in Avon Park, Lake Placid, Bowling Green and Arcadia, or at the SFSC website www.southflorida.edu/heartlandgames.

Don’t delay, registrations for golf, euchre, shuffleboard, table tennis, horseshoes and pickleball must be submitted by Jan. 18. Other registration deadlines are Jan. 31 for bowling, mah jongg, and cycling and Feb. 7 for bridge, track and field, swimming and tennis.

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