By Chelsey Kimmel-Kendrick
More than 425 young children came together to participate in several sports for the Ankeny Play Day on Thursday, April 20 at Ankeny Centennial High School. This is one of many events that is sponsored by one of Special Olympics Iowa’s Premier Statewide Partners, Sammons Financial Group.
Play Days are events where children between the ages of two and seven with intellectual disabilities can play activities and have socialization opportunities. Since athletes cannot participate in Special Olympics events until they’re eight years old, these days were created for those to participate in a more formal setting.
Mary Buscher, human resources consultant for Sammons, says nearly 80 employees from the organization signed up to volunteer for the event. She said Play Days are an event where people do it once and then get hooked.
“We have a lot of team members that really enjoy the Play Day,” Buscher says. “Special Olympics is such an easy thing for our employees to get passionate about and give their time.”
Buscher says the reason Sammons Financial Group likes to get involved is because the company not only likes to give financial support, but also like to support the organization through “sweat equity,” by giving them volunteer hours. The company’s philosophy, Buscher says, is “we don’t just give money, we want to give time.”
Sammons Financial Group has been a statewide partner of SOIA for nine years, and it has been an ongoing partnership. Buscher says she likes to think of the donation as the gift that keeps giving, but it doesn’t have an end to it.
Buscher enjoys volunteering for Special Olympics for a more personal reason. Her brother has a mental disability and has participated with SOIA. She has seen him grow, learn and saw how the nonprofit organization taught him sportsmanship.
“I’ve seen the good that the reach, the inclusion and the acceptance of Special Olympics, and those are just really great things that make our world a better place,” she says. “It goes beyond just volunteering.”
The Ankeny Play Day is just one of many events that Sammons Financial Group sponsors and volunteers for throughout the year.