Special to News-Herald

Beck Bushnell was named the Special Olympics Arizona Coach of the Year at the Special Olympics Coaches Conference held in Phoenix in August.

Bushnell, a winter visitor to Lake Havasu City, lives is Manitou Springs, Colo., the rest of the year.

Chris Bergen, Special Olympics Mohave/La Paz County area director, presented Bushnell with a plaque in honor of the award at the recent Halloween Party Dance held for people with special needs at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

“Beck has her sports program well organized,” Bergen said. “She makes sure it is fun while running a tight ship. She has such an upbeat, positive attitude that it instills self-confidence in the girls as they strive toward higher achievement.”

Bushnell volunteered to start Special Olympics cheerleading in Lake Havasu City in 2000. Cheerleading had been a Special Olympics Arizona sport for nine years but no Mohave County Special Olympics program offered the activity at the time.

Earlier this year, Bushnell led training for area cheerleading so coaches could be certified. Bullhead City participated in the training.

“Beck has been extremely generous with her time, talent and money,” said Patricia Rahnefeld, one of Bushnell’s assistants. “We are very fortunate to have her as coach and mentor for our cheerleaders. She truly epitomizes the mission of Special Olympics.”

Linda Samuelson also assists in local training.

Bushnell teaches new cheers and dance routines to the girls she coaches each year. Her cheerleading program combines strength, flexibility, memorization and artistry. Bushnell stresses physical fitness, skills, courage and sportsmanship with other athletes as well as pride in the community.

This year, Bushnell moved her athletes into the advanced level bracket for competition. Against four other advanced teams, the Lake Havasu City cheerleaders won a gold medal in dance and captured a silver medal in chant/cheer. In individual competition, local cheerleaders earned two golds, three silvers and one bronze medal.

At the state events, Bushnell plans activities for her squad, her hotel room becomes a community gathering place and she bakes and makes gifts for all of the competing squads at the Games.

“Beck does not coddle the girls as many people do. She gives respect and demands it in return,” said Kim Rager, whose daughter Tessa is the youngest cheerleader on the squad. “She makes the practices fun and enjoyable while instilling a strong work ethic. Perfection isn’t expected, but giving their best attempt is.

“The strength of Beck’s coaching and leadership skills are obvious through the cheerleaders’ outstanding performances and the fact that they are having so much fun while performing.”

Bushnell, who has returned to Lake Havasu City, will lead Special Olympics cheerleading practices on Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the high school aerobic room.

For more information about volunteering or participation in Special Olympics, contact Chris Bergen at 680-0052.

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