Articles from December 2016

Staff Column: Kathy Irving Reflects on 27 Years with SOIA

staff-kathyI remember the very first time I attended a Special Olympics Iowa event. I had signed myself up, along with my two children, to be volunteers at the State Summer Games in Ames. This was when we were using an outdoor track at ISU. As we walked toward the track, we continually had athletes come up to us telling us they were there to compete or to ask us what we were there for. We heard nothing but positives about how hard they had worked, how much fun they were having, and that we could be their friend. I was hooked before I ever got started.

Little did I know what they meant by the word friend. For eight years, we kept coming back. Every year I made more “new friends.” I ran the 50 meter dash and worked the relay races on Saturday. Later I became a member of the Summer Games Steering Committee. I was amazed at how much work went into just putting together the Summer Games. I couldn’t get enough of Special Olympics. I dreamed of working for them full time, but in reality, I knew the odds were slim.

But one Saturday morning at the State Summer Games, the CEO at that time, Bob Ligouri, was standing beside me as a race was going on. I was my usual obnoxious self, screaming at my new friends to keep up the good work. When the race was over, he asked me if I had ever thought about switching careers. I looked at him, very puzzled as to why he would ask that. He then asked me, “How would you like to work for Special Olympics Iowa?” I told him I dreamed of working for them, but knew I wouldn’t qualify. He said yes you would and asked me to meet with him and Pam Wagner the following Monday. On Monday morning he offered me the job, and I said yes.

Thus began the most wonderful 27 years of my life.

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31st Annual Winter Games Coming to Dubuque

_dsc0174-800x532Over 300 athletes from across the state are set to compete in the 2017 Special Olympics Iowa Winter Games January 9-10 in Dubuque. More than 130 coaches and chaperones, as well as 150 volunteers, will donate their time to serve the athletes and make the event a success.

Children and adult athletes of all abilities will participate in sports like Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, short track speed skating and figure skating. The Grand Harbor Center, Sundown Mountain, Albrecht Acres and Mystique Community Ice Center will host the competitions and activities.

“Our athletes are very excited to showcase their skills and abilities at the Winter Games,” said SOIA Director of Sports & Advanced Competitions, Rhonda Schwarzkopf. “Their dedication is amazing to watch. Winter Games would not be possible without the support and commitment of athletes’ families, coaches and our volunteers.”

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2018 Special Olympics USA Games Information

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be held in Seattle, WA July 1-6. Special Olympics Iowa is now accepting general applications for both athletes and coaches.


Athletes and coaches interested in applying for the  USA Games are to submit completed applications to by 06/01/2017.


Please direct any questions regarding the USA Games to Rhonda Schwarzkopf at


2018 Special Olympics USA Games Application
Fillable PDF | Word
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Underwood Schools Promote Inclusion With New Delegation



Special Olympics Iowa is always proud to have new delegations starting up across the state. Whether they’re big or small, beginners or experts, they add another voice for SOIA and all of our athletes.

And sometimes small can be mighty. That’s what Jolene Whitmore thought when she came to Underwood Community Schools in Underwood, Iowa three years ago. She noticed that something was missing at her new job. “When I came here I started in a more self-contained classroom and started asking why there wasn’t a Special Olympics,” says Whitmore. “I had come from West Harrison where they had a big Special Olympics following. I thought OK, we need to change this. We need a Special Olympics team.”

So Whitmore and another teacher decided to start a delegation at Underwood, making Whitmore the Delegation Manager and head coach. The Underwood team currently has four athletes, but that small number doesn’t stop them from competing at the highest levels. Just this fall they had a student compete in State Bowling, where they came in first place. 

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Iowa State Athletics and UnitedHealthcare Team Up in Support of SOIA

bball3Thanks to a partnership between Iowa State University Athletics and UnitedHealthcare, Special Olympics Iowa athletes have been given opportunities to attend a men’s basketball game during the 2016-2017 season.

In collaboration with SOIA, UnitedHealthcare presents the “Athlete of the Game” at ten men’s basketball games at ISU. A Special Olympics athlete is recognized on the floor at Hilton Coliseum and presented with an autographed basketball.

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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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Bruce Wilson Receives Simpson College Coaches Hall of Fame Honor

bruce-hofWest Region Director of Field Services, Bruce Wilson, was inducted into the Simpson College Coaches Hall of Fame in October. Before joining the Special Olympics Iowa staff, Wilson served as the head coach of Simpson’s men’s basketball team for 25 years.

Membership in the Coaches Hall of Fame at Simpson is reserved for coaches who have made significant contributions to the college, athletic program, his or her sport, and the students of the college. Wilson is the winningest coach in the school’s history. He went 341-305 in his 25 years as head coach, won three Iowa Conference Championships, and made three trips to the NCAA Tournament. He’s been named the Iowa Coach of the Year three times and was named the Division III West Region Coach of the Year in 1992. 

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Congratulations to our 2016 Holiday Card Design Contest Winner!

Thank you to all of our amazing athletes who submitted designs for our 2016 holiday card! We had a record number of entries and we loved them all so much.
The artist’s design we selected this year was done by Sam Gathercole, a 5th grade athlete from Spirit Lake Middle School. He was so excited his artwork was chosen!

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2017 Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant February 17-18

The 5th annual Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant will take place February 17-18, 2017 at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs. This year’s pageant will feature a two-day show with full areas of competition both days. ma4

Rising Stars, Preteens, Jr. Teens and Teens will participate on Friday, February 17 while Jr. Miss, Miss, Sr. Miss and Shooting Stars will participate on Saturday, February 18. Girls ages 5 and older can participate.

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SOIA Athlete to Open Restaurant in Conrad, IA

By Kandy Fisher 

Blaine Fisher of Conrad, IA is a Special Olympics Iowa athlete and Global Messenger and is in the process of opening his own restaurant in his hometown. His restaurant will be called “Blaine’s on Main.”blaine-shirt

Blaine will be naming his daily lunch specials after those who have made an impact in his life; his former high school football coaches will have a sandwich called “The Locker Room Slider” and the men in the high school bus barn, who he helped when volunteering, will have “The Bus Barn Burger,” just to name a few.

Eventually, Blaine will hire others with intellectual disabilities and give them a place to learn work and social skills. He will also be selling goods made by those with disabilities in his gift shop. Blaine will be sole owner and proprietor and is selling T-shirts and accepting donations to help with unexpected remodeling costs. The shirts come in sizes Youth L-Adult XL for $15 and 2-3X for $17.

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