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Darby Special Olympics team a 'family' every season

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Posted at 4:57 PM, May 15, 2023

DARBY — No matter the size of the town in Montana, Special Olympics are always a community event, whether you're back in Missoula or down in the Bitterroot Valley in the small, tight-knit town of Darby.

And these Darby Tigers always look to make an impact at Special Olympics, and they know how to have fun as well.

"As you've seen, we have six wonderful young men from the age of 12 to 24, so when they get out of the school program and they go to an adult team," Darby coach Sharon Westfall said. "Darby, they start with us, they don't have to leave. That is why we set this program up is for these kids."

Darby's Special Olympics program began 18 years ago, and offers the athletes a chance to compete, gain confidence and also spend time with their friends.

"Family," athlete Sheldon Medearis said about the team.

Darby also partners with communities in Victor and Twin Bridges, giving athletes a chance to compete.

"It's a great program," Westfall said. "I encourage anyone if you have a chance whether it be spring games or winter games, get out, enjoy the smiles because you'll walk away changed. It'll change your mind, change your life."

Westfall also gets to coach one of her sons, Tyler, and coach with another, Anthony, making it a family affair every year.

"It's definitely different," Anthony Westfall said. "The smiles on these kid's faces are astounding. You can't beat it. It's always a great pleasure to come out and coach these kids."

And as brothers do, the Westfalls find a way to tease each other, but also have a blast together.

"I just love it as much," Tyler Westfall said.

"To watch their growth from year to year," Sharon Westfall added. "I have one that when we started eight years ago, he could barely walk the 25 meter. This year he's running the 100 meter, so to watch their growth from year to year it's incredible. As the Special Olympics motto says, 'Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.'"

Their impact on the community is important, and they want to keep providing that opportunity to all who are interested.

"Togetherness. Together as family," Medearis added.