Verde Valley Special Olympians prepare for Saturday's bocce tournament
CAMP VERDE - Some say that the word bocce - or bocci in Italian - means kiss.
In truth, bocce is plural of the word boccia, meaning ball.
Whether in Italian or American English, bocce is a bowling game played on natural or asphalt courts
On Sept. 24 at the home of Camp Verde residents Allan and Judy Roughton, dozens of Special Olympians will compete in the Mountain Area regionals of the Special Olympics.
Open to the public, the Bocce Regional Tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Hosted by Rainbow Acres for the Mountain Area Region, Saturday's competition is a qualifying event, as winners will move on to the Special Olympics state games.
Winners at the state games would qualify for the Special Olympics USA Games.
'Let me be brave'
The motto of the Special Olympics is "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
Brent Peterson, a resident - known as rancher - at Rainbow Acres, has not only been brave, but he has won at bocce. In fact, he has won a lot.
For the past 16 years, Peterson has been playing bocce at the 50-acre ranch-style community for adults with developmental disabilities. And he has won 17 gold medals in the Special Olympics for bocce, 18 medals in all.
Monday, Peterson and the other Special Olympians at Rainbow Acres practiced for the Saturday event. It's the frequent practice Peterson said that has allowed him to succeed at the event.
"I'm good at it - and something I enjoy playing," Peterson says.
The Mountain Area team covers Special Olympic athletes from the Verde Valley, Sedona, Flagstaff and the Prescott area, as well as from Williams, Page and surrounding cities and towns.
Getting ready to compete
Chris Bell, a rancher at Rainbow Acres since 2014, enjoys throwing the white ball - known as the jack or the pallino - to start a match.
"And I like to score points," Bell says. "I feel I am pretty good at it."
When Susan Welch plays bocce, she likes to bowl the bocce balls next to the pallino.
"It takes a long time," Welch says. "We're going to win."
For Matthew Mitschelen, bocce is most fun because of the interactions with his teammates.
"It's fun. And I'm good at it. It's a good sport, more of a fun game," Mitschelen says. "I like the people, my friends."
The Bocce Regional Tournament will take place from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 467 W. Pheasant Run Circle, in Camp Verde.
According to Adele O'Connor-Vernier, director of Marketing and Community Relations for Rainbow Acres, volunteers are needed to help with the event and will be provided a free lunch.
For more information on the tournament, or to volunteer, call 928-567-5231.