News

SOIA Athletes Play During Halftime at ISU Men’s Basketball Game

On Monday, December 4, Special Olympics Iowa athletes got an opportunity to play during the halftime festivities of Iowa State University’s Men’s Basketball game against Northern Illinois.

Athletes from Johnston team “The Johnston Outlaws” scrimmaged each other on the full court in Hilton Coliseum, while they were cheered on by an excited student section.  The scrimmage game was even announced by the ISU game announcers.

The Johnston Outlaws began playing together as a Special Olympic basketball team in 1996. Over the years the delegation has grown to form two teams. They have gone to state competitions 18 times and have come home with 10 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze metals between the two teams. The team is coached by Jeff Simpson and assistant coaches Natalie Ginty, Courtney Fritz and Chris Ayers.

“My favorite part of playing in Hilton Coliseum was the atmosphere and having some of the students I met from Greek Week be there to watch us. They were all very excited for both teams and everyone cheered us on when we made a shot,” said SOIA athlete Tyler Leech. “It was like they were fans of us and even though we played against each other it was as if everyone was on the same side. It really means a lot since I never did anything like this before.”

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Invest in Something Special Social Media Effort Raises $10,000 for Special Olympics Iowa

Voya Financial, Inc. announced on Friday, December 7 that it will donate $10,000 to Special Olympics Iowa as a result of the success of its Invest in Something SpecialTM effort – a week-long social media campaign designed to share the goals and dreams of Special Olympics athletes on social media, and to raise money for local Programs.voya

“Every day at Special Olympics Iowa, we work to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are recognized, accepted and valued as members of our communities,” said John Kliegl, President and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa. “We are grateful to Voya for supporting this important work and for helping to raise awareness of the strength and determination that Special Olympics athletes bring to our community.”

During the Invest in Something Special campaign, Special Olympics athletes from across the country were encouraged to share their goals beyond sport on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Voya pledged to donate $1 for every like, share and comment on athletes’ #InvestInSomethingSpecial stories, up to $500,000. The response to the campaign was overwhelming, resulting in more than 940,000 people participating on social media and an amplified donation of $520,000 from Voya, which will be shared among the 52 U.S. Special Olympics Programs, including Special Olympics Iowa.

“The personal stories of these Special Olympics athletes touched people around the world, as we saw from the overwhelming response on social media,” said Chairman and CEO Rodney O. Martin, Jr. “Nearly 21 million families in the U.S. have at least one member with a disability – and through our donation to Special Olympics, as well as other initiatives like Voya Cares, we’re working to raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by these Americans, and how we can create a more supportive and inclusive environment for them, as well as their caregivers.”

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SOIA to Celebrate 50th Anniversary in 2018

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The spark that became today’s Special Olympics movement ignited at the first 1968 International Summer Games in Chicago, Ill., USA. Special Olympics Iowa was represented by Iowa athletes at those first games and in 2018 SOIA will also be celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary!

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. For our year-long anniversary, we are celebrating 50 years of joy, courage and empowerment. Starting in January 2018, you’ll see the 50th Anniversary logo at SOIA events and on our website. We’ll also be making some exciting announcements about upcoming fun in honor of the 50th Anniversary.

In July, it was announced that Chicago will host the Special Olympics movement’s 50th Anniversary global celebration events July 17 – 22, 2018. Mary Davis, Special Olympics International CEO, and Justice Anne Burke, who founded Special Olympics Chicago, announced the news along with other organizers of the upcoming events.

Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Illinois and Special Children’s Charities have united to host nearly a week of exciting events to celebrate the past 50 years of Special Olympics and to launch the movement into the future.

“The 50th Anniversary will be a pivotal moment for Special Olympics, as we aim to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and as the leaders of inclusion through sport,” shared Mary Davis. “We have spent the past 50 years breaking down barriers for our athletes and creating opportunities through sport, but we still have much more work to do. For our 50th Anniversary, we are inviting all to join us as we shape a more accepting and inclusive future.”

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UnitedHealthcare Celebrates Another Year as Premier Statewide Partner

IMG_1754Special Olympics Iowa is happy to announce that UnitedHealthcare will be a SOIA Premier Statewide Partner and a sponsor of Challenge Days and the Healthy Athletes program in 2018.

UnitedHealthcare fits right in with the SOIA mission, as the company works every day “to help people live healthier lives.” The company has a strong history with SOIA, serving as a Gold Level Sponsor in past years before becoming a Statewide Partner in 2017.

UnitedHealthcare volunteers will continue to help with SOIA Healthy Athletes events throughout the year by providing athletes with screenings like Healthy Hearing and teaching athletes about nutrition, safety, and fitness through Health Promotions.

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UNI & LSB Partner for UNI Men’s Basketball Games

Special Olympics Iowa Statewide Partner Lincoln Savings Bank, along with Learfield Sports and the University of Northern Iowa, have partnered together this winter to present an Athlete of the Game at each of UNI’s home Men’s Basketball games.

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Athletes will be selected prior to the games and will be given the opportunity to be announced during the second half of the games. Athletes will also receive four complimentary tickets to the game and a shirt.

Lincoln Savings Bank was looking for a way to help showcase SOIA athletes. “Lincoln Savings Bank is a proud supporter of Special Olympics as well as Panther Sports Properties,” says Lincoln Savings Bank Regional Marketing Coordinator Ashley Ungs. “The opportunity came to fruition for recognition at men’s home basketball games. LSB preferred to highlight the men and women of Special Olympics and their accomplishments versus our own employees.”

As a Statewide Partner, Lincoln Savings Bank works with SOIA athletes year-round and volunteer for events like the West Des Moines and Cedar Falls/Waterloo Polar Plunges. They also volunteer at SOIA’s Summer Games every May. “Our corporate sponsorship with Special Olympics is near and dear to the hearts of LSB employees,” says Ungs. “As a community bank, it is our passion to give back to our communities.”

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Special Olympics Iowa receives $25,000 grant from Variety- the Children’s Charity

Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) has received a $25,000 grant from Variety- the Children’s Charity to fund its Young Athlete Play Days and Unified Champion Schools special programs.logo-variety-268x94

Young Athlete Play Days are designed to provide play activities and socialization opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities between the ages of two and seven. Play Days were created to serve children too young to participate in formal Special Olympics events (athletes can begin competing at age eight).

The Unified Champion Schools program partners SOIA with pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges to implement three main components of inclusion: Unified Sports, youth leadership & advocacy and whole-school engagement.

SOIA is a nonprofit organization serving children and adults with intellectual disabilities by providing them with sport programs. Since 1968, Special Olympics Iowa has been a statewide movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports. Using sports as the catalyst, and including programming on health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.

The Variety grant will be used to help continue SOIA special programs and to improve their already existing activities to ensure full physical exercise and overall healthy lifestyle for the over 14,000 athletes in the state of Iowa.

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Meet Team Iowa: Mary-Kate Dorrlacombe

By Stephanie Kocer

When it comes to competition, Mary-Kate Dorrlacombe knows how to keep her cool. She’s been participating in Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) activities since 2011 and in that time she’s learned about sports, as well as friendship and socialization. Now, at 32 years old, she’s ready to take on her second trip to the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle to compete in swimming.

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From July 1-6, 2018 – more than 4,000 Special Olympics athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will gather in Seattle to compete before tens of thousands of spectators and volunteers. The 2018 USA Games will showcase the limitless talents of people with intellectual disabilities while promoting the barrier-breaking power of sport to promote inclusion and acceptance. Among those 4,000 athletes and coaches will be 34 Iowa athletes, who will compete in athletics, flag football, powerlifting, swimming, tennis, Unified bocce and Unified bowling.

In 2014, Dorrlacombe attended the Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey, where she swam the 50 meters freestyle and 50 meters breaststroke. She says she had fun and learned a lot. But Seattle will be a little different. For starters, she’ll be swimming the 100 meters freestyle and 100 meters breaststroke. Her coach, Mark Robinson, wanted Dorrlacombe to be challenged this time around. And she feels ready for the change. “Those are the ones I do at state and I can do it,” she says. “I just need to practice more.”

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Special Olympics Iowa VP of Development to Become President/CEO

025 (533x800)John Kliegl, a longtime Des Moines-area special needs advocate, who has been on the Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) staff since February 2016, will become President and Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

“We are excited about John Kliegl being named President and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa,” said Jill Southworth, SOIA board member and chair of search committee. “He is the right person to lead the organization.

SOIA conducted an extensive national search for a President and CEO to ensure over 14,000 Iowa athletes and Unified Sports Partners would have a strong leader to advocate for them. “We’ve seen the leadership and passion that John brings to SOIA,” said Southworth. “He knows where SOIA has been, and where we’re headed, and he has the ability to speak on behalf of our athlete population and their families.”

Kliegl is currently the Vice President of Development with SOIA, a position he’s held for the past year and a half. He will begin his new role at SOIA November 6, 2017. His association with SOIA began when his daughter first started participating in Special Olympics events. Since then, he has served as a coach and volunteer at state events and has helped raise funds and awareness for SOIA at numerous fundraisers. As the Vice President of Development, Kliegl manages corporate fundraising with SOIA’s Statewide Partners as well as individual gifts and donations. He also helps ensure the success of all SOIA signature fundraising events, like Polar Plunges, Tailgate for Teammates, Plane Pull and Over the Edge.

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First-Ever University of Iowa Unified Flag Football Season a Success

By Bryan Coffey

22384046_10155995405387526_5649094252158941992_oSpecial Olympics Iowa (SOIA) and the University of Iowa (UI) Recreational Services Department have collaborated over the past several months to develop a unique and exciting partnership that promotes the Special Olympics Unified Sports component to university students and SOIA athletes.

This partnership has allowed SOIA athletes to compete alongside UI students in a six week Intramural Unified Flag Football Season. On Monday, October 23 the season championship game was held in Kinnick Stadium, where the teams played under the bright stadium lights and were cheered on by the University of Iowa Varsity Cheer Squad.

It was evident during this game that the friendships developed throughout this season were meaningful as the fans in the stands witnessed SOIA athletes and UI Student Partners huddle together to form plays and score touchdowns.22382326_10155995409822526_7965410523128040863_o

“Our first-ever Intramural Unified Flag Football league was a great success. We received great feedback from UI students who participated as partners, as well as the Special Olympics athletes and their families,” says Tommy Schorer, Associate Director, UI Sport Programs. “Great relationships were formed, and the smiles on everyone’s faces were indicative of the great time they were all having. We are excited to be leading the way in the state of Iowa in terms of implementing Unified Sports into our Intramural Sports program, and we hope to see other schools around the state follow our lead. We look forward to expanding to even more sports in the near future.”

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