Add Volunteering to Your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Elin EditBy Elin Phipps, SOIA Director of Volunteers 

It is that time a year again! The New Year is here and it is time to start making a list of 2018 New Year’s resolutions. Exercise more, lose weight, eat healthier, spend more time with family and friends, pick up a new hobby, travel more…these are all popular resolutions. Why not add “spend time volunteering” to your New Year’s resolutions list? Volunteering not only benefits the community and the organization, it has benefits for you too! Here are some ways volunteering has a positive impact on your life and the lives of those around you.

Did you know that volunteering can be beneficial to your health? According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, research indicates volunteering provides individual physical and social health benefits. It has been established that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

In relation to physical health, often times volunteer positions have some level of physical activity involved. Whether it is lifting boxes, helping a child or adult at a sporting event, or even just getting up off your feet and walking around, volunteer positions can help individuals stay active. It has been reported that those who volunteer frequently throughout the year have better overall physical health and are some of the healthiest people in the U.S.

Volunteering not only benefits your physical health, it has great benefits for your mental, emotional and social health. Spending time volunteering often helps individuals feel like they are a part of a group that makes a difference in the lives of others and helps people feel a real sense of achievement. Being part of a volunteer group also helps people develop a social group that is outside their friends, family or work and helps people get involved in their community. According to “Psychology Today,” volunteering and being part of a volunteer group that has social interactions benefits your brain health and function, lowers risk for depression and anxiety, helps develop emotional stability, and increases self-esteem.

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SOIA Charity of Choice at Des Moines Home and Garden Show February 8-11

Special Olympics Iowa is the charity of choice at this year’s Des Moines Home and Garden Show February 8-11 at the Iowa Events Center in Downtown Des Moines. There are several ways the show plans to give back to SOIA.


SOIA athletes will be on hand to help throughout the event. An athlete will also get to decorate one of the mailboxes in the show’s annual “You Got Mail” display. Local celebrities and tastemakers will also take a plain old mailbox and turn it into a masterpiece. There will be a silent auction, so attendees could walk away with a one-of-a-kind mailbox. All proceeds will go towards SOIA.


On Media will be doing a promotion at the show on Friday for “Hero Day.” They plan to bring in The Justice Corps of Iowa (Super Heroes). Attendees can purchase a photo opp with them, with all proceeds from the photos going to Special Olympics.


If you buy tickets for the Home and Garden show and use the promo code OLYMPICS, $1 of your ticket price will be donated to SOIA.


Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets.
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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



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.


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.

Mary Kate Photos_F

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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