News

ISU Ames Greek Polar Plunge Raises $295,000 for SOIA

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The 22nd annual Ames Greek Polar Plunge was held on Friday, April 6 at Iowa State University. The Polar Plunge is a signature fundraiser for Special Olympics and offers a unique opportunity for individuals and organizations to raise money and support Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) athletes by plunging into frigid waters.

The Iowa State University Greek Community were the sole participants in the Plunge as part of their annual Greek Week. The Greek Community raised a total of $295,000 for SOIA with the Plunge this year.

The Polar Plunge is the single largest fundraising event for Special Olympics Iowa. Participants jumped into State Gym’s pool due to weather conditions. Athletes were also given the opportunity to plunge with their Greek Week teams whom they had been paired with all week to participate in events with.

Thank you to the Iowa State Greek Community for all of the hard work for this year’s Polar Plunge!

Check out more photos on our Facebook Page.

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SOIA Athletes to Compete at 2018 Drake Relays

By Stephanie Kocer

Relays

On Friday, April 27, eight Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) teams from across the state will compete at the 2018 Drake Relays at Drake Stadium on Drake University’s campus in Des Moines. The teams will run a 4×100 relay race. The Special Olympics teams will include:

Scott County Adult Females
Arc of Story County Females
Griswold Tigers
Grandwood Hawks
Waterloo Goodwill
Cedar Rapids Park and Rec Cheetahs
Clinton County Special Olympics
Des Moines Roosevelt Roughriders

This will be the first time in the history of the Drake Relays that Special Olympics teams will compete.

“For decades, the Drake Relays has helped launch athletes to unrivaled athletic success. Each year, many of the world’s best athletes begin their season on the Blue Oval and end their season on a medal podium. We’re honored to partner with the Special Olympics Iowa to provide these tremendous and inspiring athletes the same opportunity to race on the Blue Oval as they prepare to advance and represent the state of Iowa at the Special Olympics USA Games,” says Blake Boldon, Director of the Drake Relays. 

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Meet Team Iowa: Brandon Baier

FB_IMG_1522872672141By Emma Finn

Twenty-six year old Brandon Baier of Atlantic, Iowa will be representing team Iowa at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington. The USA Games will take place July 1-6, 2018. Over 3,500 Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 1,000 coaches, 10,000 family members, 10,000 volunteers, and an estimated 50,000 spectators will be at the event.

This is Brandon’s first year at the USA Games. He will be competing in track and field in the 100, the 4X100, shotput and javelot events.

Brandon explained how he has been preparing for the USA Games by running every day and also practicing the specific events. Brandon will be accompanied by his mother Bernice Bair to the USA Games.

“I am excited for the competition and to meet new friends,” says Brandon.

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2018 Ankeny Young Athletes Play Day

By Emma Finn

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On April 12 Sammons Financial Group will help host the 4th annual Young Athletes Play Day at Ankeny Centennial High School in Ankeny. Young Athletes Play Days are designed to provide activities and socialization opportunities for children with and without intellectual disabilities between the ages of two and seven.

Play Days give children who are too young to participate in formal Special Olympics events an opportunity to compete and engage in Olympic activities. It is an event that helps promote inclusion and acceptance at a young age.

Sammons Financial Group has been a Statewide Partner with Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) for 10 years. This year, 50 volunteers from Sammons are scheduled to help out at the event. They do everything from helping put lunches together to handing out awards to participants.

“We have a lot of repeat offenders, once they volunteer at this event they become hooked,” says Mary Buscher, a Human Resources Manager for Sammons and a long-time SOIA volunteer.

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DMPS First-Ever Unified Sports Day

The Des Moines Public School District will host its first-ever Unified Sports Day on April 19 at the Knapp Center on Drake University’s campus.

In December of 2017, all ten Des Moines Middle Schools became active Unified Champion Schools, meaning that in partnership with Special Olympics Iowa they committed to pursuing Unified Sports, Student Leadership and School-Wide Awareness of intellectual disabilities. Next year, the district will register a number of elementary schools as Unified Champion Schools as well.

The goal of this initiative is to build upon and promote to students the concept of inclusion and acceptance across the school district.

There is still time to sign-up to volunteer at the event. Sign-up online today to get involved!

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Staff Column: What the Polar Bear Plunge Means to Me

By Emma Finn, Marketing & Communications Intern (middle left) 

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This April will mark my third year of raising money and participating in the Greek Community’s “Polar Bear Plunge” at Iowa State University. As a freshmen I knew very little about what the Polar Plunge was. I knew to an extent what Special Olympics was, but I never fully understood what I was raising the money for. That year I raised my $75 for the plunge and participated.

Then my sophomore year came around and I became friends with Katie Buscher. Katie has been a volunteer for Special Olympics Iowa for years, along with her parents Dan and Mary and sisters Lizzy and Annie. The Buscher family’s passion as advocates and volunteers for SOIA is truly inspiring. Getting to know their family better and meeting Katie’s uncle Michael who is a SOIA athlete, helped me realize more about what SOIA really was. The Buscher families’ kindness, generosity and involvement with SOIA inspired me beyond belief. That year for the plunge I raised $575.

Fall of my junior year rolled around, which is when the SOIA State Volleyball tournament is held in Ames. One of my good friends, Mallory Majors, helped run the event. Mallory had such dedication and drive when helping organize the event. She came home that day after the tournament with a smile on her face and loads of stories that stuck with me. It was then that I decided I wanted to get more involved with SOIA.

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Meet Team Iowa: Sioux City Unified Bowling Team

By Emma Finn

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A Unified Bowling team from Sioux City West Middle School will be representing Iowa in the USA Special Olympic Games held in Seattle, Washington July 1-6. The team is made up of four players: Ron Schmidt, Estrella Tejeda, Ann Newton and JJ Reeg-Beckner.

Although Bowling does not belong to the Olympic sports, it is among the most popular sports in Special Olympics. It is a particularly beneficial sport to people with intellectual disabilities, regardless of their age or sports abilities, since it ensures physical exercise and at the same time participation and social integration.

The team is extremely excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity. They will be the only bowling team representing Iowa at USA Games, and it will be the first year these athletes have been on a team together.

Ron Schmidt, a Unified Partner on the team described how when practicing they all learn from one another. He explained  how he teaches the athletes things while he also learns new things from them. He also commented on the team’s good sportsmanship.

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Loras College Wins NCAA Special Olympics Spotlight Poll

By Stephanie Kocer

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Loras College’s Student-Athletic Advisory Committee has received the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll. The poll’s purpose is to, “enhance the lives of Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes through a mutual learning experience; provide a platform for recognition of Special Olympics athletes and Division III student-athletes within their communities; and raise awareness of Special Olympics, its programs and services,” says the NCAA partnership website.

The partnership is a way to encourage Loras students to participate in existing Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) events, while also creating their own events to help serve Special Olympics athletes. On October 20, 2017, Loras student-athletes volunteered at and hosted the Dubuque area Challenge Day at the Athletic & Wellness Center on campus. Following the event, Loras was entered into a voting poll on NCAA.org with two other schools, winning the vote by 78 percent. The college won $500 to go towards future SOIA events, which they plan to use on March 22 for the first-ever Dubuque area Young Athletes Play Day.

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Meet Team Iowa: Officer Ron Lane

By Emma Finn

Ron Lane is a Conservation Officer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Cedar Rapids native has been involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) since 2000. He got his Torch Run start when he first joined the department and found out it was an event they always participated in. When he heard about it he jumped at the opportunity and has been involved ever since.IMG_9581s

The Torch Run is an event each year in which law enforcement officers carry the Special Olympics Flame of Hope along planned routes, covering all corners of the state. For the Final Leg, officers run and bike the torch from Des Moines to Ames, converging on Hilton Coliseum. The Torch is passed to a Special Olympics Iowa athlete who lights the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games. Officers around the state collect donations for the opportunity to run or bike in the Final Leg.

With 18 years of Torch Run experience Lane has made many memories. One in particular that he recalls was when an officer’s son participated in the games, and they decided to get him an officers’ shirt to wear that they had all signed. He also got to help the officers on the run. He remembers them all taking a picture together and how incredible that moment was.

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Special Olympics Iowa Delegates Made Case of Impact and Need for Critical Funding on Capitol Hill

Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day 2018

Special Olympics athletes, Program leaders, Unified partners, and family members from all 50 states and the District of Columbia converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 13 for Special Olympics’ annual “Capitol Hill Day.” This was the first time in the 16-year history of Capitol Hill Day in which all 50 states were represented, honoring the organization’s 50th Anniversary.

Special Olympics athletes held more than 250 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, challenging and inviting their elected officials to partner with them to achieve the goals of expanding Special Olympics Unified Sports and Unified Champion Schools programming, and to end health care disparities and discrimination against the 15 million persons with intellectual disabilities in America by supporting inclusive health initiatives.IMG_3937

Special Olympics athletes, serving as self-advocates, educated lawmakers and their staff about the significant consequences that arise from the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They described how that impacts their lives in the areas of sports, health care and education. The goals of Capitol Hill Day were to effectively convey the high impact and cost-effectiveness of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues, to educate lawmakers and to secure continued support from legislators.

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