Staff Column: What the Polar Bear Plunge Means to Me

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


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.

Read More

Meet Team Iowa: Sioux City Unified Bowling Team

By Emma Finn


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.

Read More

Loras College Wins NCAA Special Olympics Spotlight Poll

By Stephanie Kocer


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 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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Meet Athlete Kim Lively

By Emma Finn

Meet Kim Lively from Ames, Iowa!  Kim has been participating in Special Olympics for many years. The events that she competes in are track, bowling and softball. Her favorite event to participate in is bocce.Kim 1

Kim got involved in Special Olympics through her mom and friends who already participated in events when she was a little girl. Over the years Kim has racked up a number of gold medals. However, her biggest accomplishment through Special Olympics is being named the 2015-16 Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year.

KimLivelyOne of Kim’s favorite memories with SOIA is playing bocce with her friends Mikey, Lizzy and Katie through the Unified Sports program. When Kim is not practicing in Special Olympics she is working at Walmart, spending time with friends and family, or cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones.

Read More

Meet Team Iowa: Billy Habermann

By Emma Finn

Billy Habermann of Sioux City will be representing Iowa this summer at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington July 1-6. He will be participating in tennis, coached by his mother and father, Kathy and William.Billy 5

Billy did not start his Special Olympics career as a tennis player. He got the idea to start participating in the event by watching his brother who is a tennis player. Billy not only participates in tennis but has also participated in bowling, basketball, softball, track and golf.

Billy got his start with Special Olympics when he was in middle school. One of his teachers got a group of students together and he has been competing ever since. Billy is one of the original five members of the Sioux City Knights delegation that was started five years ago. Over time the Knights have become so popular that they now have around 100 members representing them.

Read More

Betsworth Father/Son Duo Takes on the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games

By Emma Finn


The fourth annual Special Olympics USA Games will be held this summer in Seattle, Washington. The USA Games take place every four years with previous locations being: Ames, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska and Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The event will offer 14 different sports with the help of 10,000 volunteers recruited. It is expected that over 70,000 spectators will attend. The USA games give athletes from all over the country the opportunity to participate, meet other athletes, and showcase their talents

Twenty-two year old Mitchell Betsworth of Sioux City will be helping represent Iowa in the 2018 Special Olympic USA Games. He is one of 4,000 athletes participating in July. Mitchell’s event is the powerlifting competition. The lifts that he performs are the bench press, deadlift and he also squats. Mitchell trains 4 days a week, usually 45 minutes to an hour per session with his coach and father, Troy Betsworth. Mitchell’s favorite lift to preform is the deadlift.

Mitchell got his start with powerlifting back in high school when a teacher aide recommended he try powerlifting. He originally began his Special Olympics career as a basketball skills competitor back when he was in junior high.

Mitchell is no stranger to USA Games. He competed back in the 2014 USA Olympic Games held in New Jersey. Other Special Olympic sports he participates in are: swimming, softball, soccer, golf and bowling.

Read More

2018 Spread the Word to End the Word Day


By Emma Finn 

In today’s society the R-word is used by many. The R-word, “retard,” is slang for mental retardation. It is the word that doctors first used to describe individuals with an intellectual impairment. This word is becoming a problem in today’s world by the way it is being used. It has become a trend to be used in place of stupid or idiot. Instead of being used as a medical term it is used to put down another person. The R-word is turning into something that is offensive and derogatory to a group of individuals. The R-word has become a non-inclusive word that affects so many people all over the world.

It’s just the way I talk, I did not mean it like that, or it is just an expression are not excuses that justify the use of this word. “Individual with an intellectual disability” is the way correct to describe a person with a medical impairment. Spread the Word to End the Word is a campaign to help raise awareness about the hurtfulness of the R-word. It is a way for individuals to do their part in creating an inclusive society.

Special Olympics and the Best Buddies partner with the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign in efforts of ending prejudice towards those with intellectual disabilities. Anyone and everyone is able to take this pledge by going to Here people can take the pledge, read stories about how words affect our society, and help spread awareness. To date, more than 700,000 people have taken the online pledge while millions have signed petitions, banners and taken oaths around the world to stop hurtful language and banish prejudices.

On Thursday, February 15, Special Olympics Iowa and Best Buddies of Iowa will gather at the Iowa State Capitol to encourage lawmakers to participate in the campaign and sign the pledge. Athletes and Best Buddies members will also be meeting with Governor Reynolds that day to sign a proclamation in support of the group’s efforts.

Spread the Word to End the Word will also be implemented in schools across the state of Iowa in an effort to aid the campaign’s cause. On March 7, 40 schools will have banners for students to sign to take the pledge. Students will also be participating in school-wide activities that will teach students the hurtfulness of the word and how it can be prevented.

Read More

Basketball Skills Competitions

By Bree Jacoba 

SOIA’s Basketball Skills competitions help teach athletes basic skills of the game, while preparing them to compete at the state level.MWT 163

For basketball skills, individuals compete in three events: Target Pass, 10 Meter Dribble and Spot Shot.

In the target pass event, a square is marked both on the wall and on the floor. The athlete must stand within the square marked on the floor and try to get the ball to hit inside the ball on the wall. In the 10-meter event, the athlete begins from behind the start line and between the cones and starts moving and dribbling when the official signals. They must cross the finish line between the cones and must pick up the basketball to stop the clock. If the athlete loses control of the ball, the clock will continue to run until the ball is recovered. In the spot shot event, there are six spots that are marked on the floor around a basketball hoop and the athlete has two attempts from each of the six spots to make a basket.

Read More