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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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Meet Wendy Olinger: New Director of Athlete Initiatives

Wendy2Special Olympics Iowa is excited to introduce its new Director of Athlete Initiatives, Wendy Olinger.

Wendy has been a supporter of Special Olympics for 23 years. She has served as a volunteer and coach in the areas of bowling, basketball, skiing, swimming, track/field, cheerleading, cycling, Challenge Days and golf. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, where she studied special education. She also has a master’s degree in deaf education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Before coming to SOIA, Olinger worked as a severe and profound special education teacher in Marshalltown, Iowa for 13 years. Olinger has also worked at various day camps and respite camps for individuals with disabilities across the state of Iowa.

As Director of Athlete Initiatives, Olinger will be responsible for Special Programs like Play Days, Challenge Days and Healthy Athletes. She will also be working closely with SOIA Global Messengers, helping them write speeches and be leaders in the community. 

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Athlete Competes in 2017 Principal Charity Classic


For the third year in a row, Special Olympics Iowa athlete Brian Rolek was asked to take part in the Principal Charity Classic . On Tuesday, June 6 Rolek tee’d off for a fun round of golf with some special guests during the Pro-Am portion of the Classic. A Pro-Am takes place before the professional event and joins ordinary golfers on a team with a PGA Tour golfer. This year Rolek teamed up with pro Rod Spittle.

When he’s not golfing and participating in other SOIA sports, Rolek works full-time at the YMCA, enjoys hunting with his brothers, and often volunteers at Special Olympics fundraisers.

Rolek says he had a great time golfing at the event. Congratulations on a great day of golf, Brian!


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Special Olympics Founder to be Honored at The 2017 ESPYS

From Special Olympics North America

18920334_10156388605263782_4870732662088496858_nEunice Kennedy Shriver dedicated her life to championing the rights and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities. Her legacy lives on through Special Olympics, the global movement she founded in 1968 that harnesses the transformative power of sports to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and celebrated members of society.

A Visionary and a Revolutionary

To honor her work and her creation of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver will be posthumously honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The 25th ESPYS Presented by Capital One on Wednesday, July 12.Timothy Shriver, one of Shriver’s five children and Chairman of Special Olympics, will accept the award on her behalf. The award is sponsored by Cadillac.

“My mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was a visionary, but, more importantly, a revolutionary,” said Timothy Shriver on behalf of the Shriver family and Special Olympics. “Fueled by love and anger, she used sport to break down the barriers, she used fields of play to bring people together, and she opened the doors of inclusion and equality to the most marginalized on Earth. It is now up to all of us to follow the athletes of Special Olympics who can teach us all to accept and include each other.”

Shriver grew up as a member of the Kennedy Family alongside her sister, Rosemary, who had intellectual disabilities. Rosemary’s talents and gifts made Shriver acutely aware of all that people with intellectual disabilities have to offer, but she recognized early on that there were limited programs and options for people like her sister. The pair bonded through sports like football, skiing and sailing, and Shriver appreciated the role sports play in unifying people from all walks of life.

The idea started in 1962 as Camp Shriver, as a summer day camp in the backyard of her Maryland farm. Camp Shriver grew and eventually evolved into Special Olympics, with the first International Special Olympics Games taking place in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, welcoming 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada to compete. Today, Special Olympics is year-round, includes 5.3 million athletes in more than 170 countries, and over 1 million coaches and volunteers, delivering 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 108,000 competitions throughout the year. Read More

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Rich Fellingham Named President and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa

rich-editRich Fellingham has been named the President and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa. He will lead the organization and help manage donor relationships, finances and administration as well as being a liaison to the SOIA Board of Directors and Iowa’s representative with Special Olympics North America and Special Olympics International.
Fellingham has a long history with SOIA, as he served in the CEO position for 12 years in the past. The SOIA staff looks forward to working with him once again.
Welcome back, Rich!
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Thank You, Norm Johnson!

The Special Olympics Iowa family would like to thank Norm Johnson for his service Johnson_Norm_09241963and dedication as the North Area Director for the state of Iowa. Norm will be moving into a position with the YMCA in Louisville, Kentucky after July 22.

Norm has been involved with Special Olympics in high school and college in both Iowa and South Dakota. He ran the very first powerlifting event for the South Dakota State Games and went on to coach the South Dakota delegation for the World Games in 1995 in New Haven, Connecticut.

There is a lot he will miss about working with SOIA. “Working with the athletes, and giving them a venue and platform to compete is the best. I also really enjoyed bringing our volunteers together to support the various activities, and seeing their genuine enthusiasm and support for the athletes,” he says.

With dedication to SOIA, athletes, parents and volunteers, Norm will be missed. SOIA wishes him the very best of luck in all his future endeavors. We know he will continue to promote the power of INCLUSION.

Norm and athletes

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Discounted Iowa Football Tickets

Iowa vs. Miami, OH Sept. 3, 2:30 p.m. Kickoff 

SOIA athletes and their families are invited to Iowa’s season opener at great discounted group rate pricing!


SOIA Youth (high school and younger): $25
SOIA Adult: $45
Regular single game rate: $55


ORDER TODAY! Call Bravo Sports at 319-626-8286 or order online.
All orders will be seated together.
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Look, Cook, and Eat’s “Super Special Soups” Event at 2016 Iowa State Fair

Look, Cook, and Eat invites you to participate in a new event during the Iowa State Fair on Monday, August 15 at noon at the Elwell Family Food Center on the west side of the Fairgrounds.

Here’s what’s happening: New this year is a cooking competition called “Super Special Soups” sponsored by LCE and Kitchen Craft, a cookware company in Florida. It’s open to anyone 16 years of age or older with special needs. They want to taste your favorite soup recipe that uses nine ingredients or less–all you have to do is prepare the soup, bring it to the Fair for the competition, and write the recipe out on a card along with a few sentences about why your soup is special.
Each soup will be judged on Taste, Ease of Preparation, Appearance and Creativity.


1st Place winner receives $200, a 1-year subscription to LCE, and a 1-qt. saucepan from Kitchen Craft.
2nd Place winner receives $150, a 1-year subscription to LCE, and a 1-qt. saucepan from Kitchen Craft.
3rd Place winner receives $100, a 1-year subscription to LCE, and a 1-qt. saucepan from Kitchen Craft.
Every person that enters will receive a Look, Cook, and Eat spatula to use in their kitchen.


Participants can enter online here or print the documents below from the Fair booklet and mail them in on the address provided on the forms. Here’s the catch: deadline for entry is July 1! That’s this Friday!! Now, the soup recipe doesn’t need to be perfected by then. Participants just need to enter. The fee to enter is $5. From July 2 to July 8, the fee is $10. After July 10, entries close. Participants have plenty of time to get their soup recipes in shape for competition!


Questions can be directed to Sue Hoss of LCE at


We hope to see you at the Iowa State Fair on Monday, August 15!



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SOIA Welcomes New Information Manager

Special Olympics Iowa is pleased to announce the hiring of Tanner Nissen as the new Information Manager — Games and Events.staff- Tanner-1

Nissen was a recent Fellingham Intern with SOIA. During his time at SOIA he worked with both volunteers and games management systems, helped plan and execute Unified Days, and assisted with many other events and projects. He has a strong skill set in technology systems and applications.

A graduate of Northwestern College in Orange City with a degree in Sports and Business Management, Nissen has also completed internships with the Principal Charity Classic and the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Originally from Sacramento, California, he came to Iowa for college and is now happy to call Iowa home.

Please join us in welcoming Tanner to our Special Olympics Iowa family!

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