Articles in Athletes

FREE Iowa State Football Game on April 8

On Saturday, April 8 Iowa State University will hold its annual free spring football game. SOIA athletes and family and friends are invited to attend the game and be a part of a Special Olympics section! The athlete section is being sponsored by Learfield Sports and SOIA Statewide Sponsor UnitedHealthcare.


SOIA will be seated in section 25. There will be signage to find the Special Olympics section in the stands. Guests are encouraged to park on the south side of the stadium (S2/S3) and can take the general public elevator up to the East Concourse.


No tickets are needed for this event. There will be wheelchair accessible seating.


What: Iowa State Spring Football Game
Who: SOIA Athletes, Families & Friends
When: Saturday, April 8, 2017
Time: Gates open at noon, game begins at 1 p.m.
Where: Jack Trice Stadium, ISU Campus


Details below. Call the state office at 515-986-5520 with questions or email Stephanie Kocer at


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SOIA Athlete Headed to World Winter Games

By: Chelsey Kimmel-Kendrick

Tabitha Darnell was named an outstanding Olympic Athlete of the Year in 2008, was named a Big 12 Special Olympian of the Year in 2009, and has received many ribbons and medals since she started participating in the Special Olympics at age eight. Now, she’s 36 years old, and she’s headed to the World Winter Games in Austria.TabithaSki

The World Games are an international competition where Special Olympic athletes from more than 170 countries participate. The Winter Games include skiing, skating, snowboarding, snowshoeing, floor hockey, floorball and stick shooting. This year’s event will be taking place in March in three locations in Austria: Graz, Schladming and Ramsau. Davenport’s Darnell will be skiing like she has since she was 13 years old. She will not only be representing Iowa, but Team USA as well. This isn’t Darnell’s first World Games event. She went to Dublin, Ireland in 2003.

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Sign Up for the Annual SOIA Youth Games TODAY!

On Saturday, April 22, young athletes are invited to participate in the annual SOIA Youth Games at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with participant registration starting at 9:30 a.m. that day. All events will be held in the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye Recreation Fields. Youth Games are free of cost and each athlete will receive lunch at the event and a T-shirt.

Sports instruction and competition is limited to youth ages 6 to 21 years of age with intellectual disabilities. Participants will choose between track & field, basketball, and soccer and spend the day learning and mastering the skills of that sport!

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SOIA Welcomes UnitedHealthcare as a Premier Statewide Partner

Special Olympics Iowa is happy to announce that in 2017, UnitedHealthcare became a SOIA Premier Statewide Partner and a sponsor of Challenge Days and the Healthy Athletes program, positively impacting thousands of Iowans with intellectual disabilities.bball31-300x230

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 coming on as a Statewide Partner. And in 2016-2017, in collaboration with Iowa State University and SOIA, they started the “Athlete of the Game” presentation at ten men’s basketball games at ISU, where a Special Olympics’ athlete is recognized on the floor at Hilton Coliseum and presented with an autographed basketball. Prior to that, UnitedHealthcare donated $25,000 to support SOIA programs and activities across the state.

On Saturday, April 8, as a part of their sponsorship at ISU games, UnitedHealthcare will honor all Special Olympics athletes at the ISU Spring Game. The game starts at 1 p.m. and the event is free. They encourage everyone to come!

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FREE Tickets to Iowa Energy Game February 13 Available

Iowa_Energy_logo.svgSpecial Olympics Iowa (SOIA) has 50 FREE Iowa Energy tickets for the game on Monday, February 13 at 7 p.m. vs. the Reno Bighorns. 

The state office has 50 Iowa Energy tickets available for athletes and their families provided through the Veridian Cares program.

In addition to attending the February 13 game, athletes will also receive inflatable Thunderstix to root on the team and the opportunity to participate in the on court fan tunnel during the starting lineup. This is the tunnel that the players run through right before the game starts. To participate in this, your group will need to check in at Fan Services the night of the game at 6:30 p.m. Fan Services is located on the south side of the concourse at the top of Section 124 at Wells Fargo Arena.

Tickets are available at the state office. If interested, call 515-986-5520, or email Stephanie Kocer at to claim tickets.

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Pledge to End the “R-Word”

By: Chelsey Kimmel-Kendrick


Join us on our quest as we continue to educate people around the world about the Spread the Word to End the Word® Campaign on March 1. The “R-word” is a commonly used word in our society today. By using that word, you are affecting the attitudes and feelings of the millions of people who have, or know someone, with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This grassroots campaign continues to strive for a community that is offensive-free and acceptable of every person by spreading the word through school events, rallies and social networking. Every year, Iowa’s Special Olympic athletes and supporters gather at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines in an effort to continue to raise awareness and share their stories. They encourage others to pledge to put an end to using the “r-word” by signing petitions, banners or by taking an oath.

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Third Annual Night to Shine Prom Coming to Iowa

By: Chelsey Kimmel-Kendrick 

For one night, it’s YOUR time to shine! Night to Shine is an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation that slowly began in 2015 as a way to connect thousands of guests with mental and intellectual disabilities simultaneously for a special prom celebration. Now, there are 11 countries and over 350 churches joining in.

On February 3 you can join in on the dance at one of five churches in Iowa to host the event. This worldwide event is for people with disabilities who are ages 16 to 99. The night is filled with fun from dancing, paparazzi and even a red carpet. Students from the Iowa School of Beauty help out to make everyone look spectacular for the special night. They help the ladies with their hair and makeup, and help shine the gentlemen’s shoes. The churches also have limousines and decorated Link buses to help transport people to and from the locations.

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Basketball Skills Venue Change for Mid-Winter Tournament

There has been a venue change for the Special Olympics Iowa Mid-Winter Tournament, March 10-11 in Iowa City.

Basketball skills will now be conducted in the Main Gym of Iowa City High School located at 1900 Morningside Drive. 

Please make sure your athletes are in the staging area, in the auxiliary gym at Iowa City High School, at the appropriate time for their competition with their name tags on the front of their shirts.

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Staff Column: New Cheerleading and Dance Rules for Mid-Winter Tournament

As we get ready for another Mid-Winter Tournament, I would like to touch base with you on the Cheerleading and Dance Competition. My name is Katie Rasmussen and I am one of the venue directors for the Cheerleading and Dance competition that DSCN2974takes place at the Mid-Winter Tournament in March. We have completely revised our Cheerleading and Dance manual that you can locate on our website here.

All Special Olympics Iowa Cheerleading and Dance competitions will be ran according to the rules and regulations in this manual.

Here are some helpful reminders to keep in mind for cheerleading:

  • No music is allowed
  • Time limit: 3 minutes
    • This includes changes in props, signs, etc.
  • A squad or individual must perform two different cheers
  • No more than 16 athletes are allowed on a squad
  • Two coaches will be allowed to coach in the coaches box
  • Divisioning will be based on ability, squad size and age (please see below for clarification)

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