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2018 Des Moines Register Elite Athletes

From the Des Moines Register

The Register’s All-Iowa program honors the top athletes in 21 boys’ and girls’ high school sports in Iowa.

We also honor one additional group — the roughly 2,500 boys and girls who compete in the summer games of Special Olympics Iowa, which began Thursday in Ames.

These All-Iowa team recipients listed below were chosen by Special Olympics Iowa and “represent the spirit of the Special Olympics Iowa movement and have gone above and beyond to show their dedication to sport and sportsmanship. They represent SOIA in competitions, service to their fellow athletes, and leadership within the organization and their community,” according to the organization.

“We are very excited to recognize our outstanding athletes again this year along with all of the other top athletes in the state,” John Kliegl, president and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa, said. “These athletes work hard to compete in their sports, and serve as leaders not only on their Special Olympics teams, but also in their schools and communities. We are proud to have them representing Special Olympics Iowa.”

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Meet Team Iowa: Key Volunteer Ray Strekal

By Emma Finn

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Ray Strekal will be attending the Special Olympics USA Games this July in Seattle, Washington as the Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) Assistant Head of Delegation. This isn’t his first time volunteering at the Games, however. He has been to every USA Games. He even attend the original USA Games held in Ames, Iowa in 2006.

Strekal is excited to return to the USA Games this July. He explained how he has made many friendships over the years and how seeing people again is always a fun experience.

“It is always good to meet people at the USA Games from different states. It’s good for us to hear about each areas successes and problems while running events so we can learn some things and take that advice back with us,” says Strekal. 

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Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago

By Emma Finn

In 1968 the first Special Olympics International Summer Games were held in Chicago, Illinois. Now in 2018, Special Olympics, in honor of 50 years, is returning to Chicago to launch the year-long global Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations this July.

Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Illinois and Special Children’s Charities in Chicago are all coming together to host a week full of fun and exciting events to celebrate the first 50 years of Special Olympics. One event planned is the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup, complete with both soccer teams and cheer teams.

Epworth Western Dubuque High School will be representing Iowa at the event!  The team will be cheering the soccer athletes on as well as doing their routine. The team will also get to do a routine with other teams from all over the world. The 4-day competition happens 17-20 July at Toyota Park in Chicago. Unified teams – including players with and without intellectual disabilities—will compete alongside their local football/soccer club sponsor. 

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Statewide Partner Hy-Vee Continues to Employ Athletes Across the State

Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) Champion Statewide Partner Hy-Vee has had a long-standing tradition of employing individuals with intellectual disabilities, including many SOIA athletes. Hy-Vee has provided funding, volunteers and resources to Special Olympics Iowa athletes for decades. As a Champion Statewide Partner, Hy-Vee has provided more than $300,000 over the years to support events like Summer Games, the Mid-Winter Tournament, Winter Games, Team Iowa at the USA Games, the Plane Pull, and Polar Plunges®. Not only does the corporation provide financial support, but local Hy-Vee stores throughout Iowa also generously donate food for Special Olympics Iowa events.

In addition to financial support and food donations, Hy-Vee provides dietitians at Special Olympics Iowa events who offer free education and resources to athletes and families regarding healthy eating and lifestyle choices. Many Hy-Vee employees also volunteer for SOIA.

Meet some of our Iowa athletes that work at local Hy-Vee stores across the state!

Kevin Schmieder, Davenport
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Kevin has worked at Hy-Vee for 21 and a half years. Kevin when first hired bagged groceries, picked up carts, and cleaned. He now works back in the kitchen busing tables and doing dishes. He is grateful for how good Hy-Vee has been to him over the years. He loves the friendly environment of coworkers and customers. He has always had great bosses and opportunities through Hy-Vee.

Tiffani Johnson, Sioux City
Tiffani has been working for Hy-Vee for three years. Tiffani works in the cafeteria IMG_0098cleaning off tables. She also is known for giving out hugs at work and has a clicker to count all the hugs she gets while working! Customers love to find her while at Hy-Vee to give her a hug and see what number they are! Tiffani loves working at Hy-Vee because of the staff and customers. She likes the safe environment there where they treat everyone respectfully.

Rob Beard, Marshalltown
Rob has worked at Hy-Vee for 22 years. His job is maintenance, everything from IMG_7043 (600x800)cleaning to putting things back on the shelf! Rob likes working at Hy-Vee because of how great the staff and customers are. Hy-Vee does a good job working with his Special Olympics schedule, while also celebrating his accomplishments.

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First-Ever DMPS Unified Sports Day Sponsored by Principal Financial Group

By Emma Finn
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The Des Moines Public School District hosted its first-ever Unified Sports Day on April 19 at the Knapp Center on Drake University’s campus. The event is sponsored by Principal Financial Group, who also provided volunteers to make it possible.

 

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. Unified sports days gives people with and without intellectual disabilities to join together to compete on the same team.

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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 Baier 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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