Hello Special Olympics family! staff-gary

I hope you are having a great summer! Ours has certainly been a busy and exciting one thus far. For those of you who were able to attend Summer Games, you experienced great weather, saw many of your good friends and, in the words of many, “experienced the best Summer Games we’ve had in a long time.”

As always, the city of Ames and ISU opened their doors, arms—and, most importantly, their hearts to all of us as they have for over 30 years. Medals and ribbons were proudly displayed by our friends and they happily shared stories of triumphs.

But the best thing I saw was the joy of friendship among all who were there. Certainly our athletes led the pack (as they should), sharing high-fives, hugs and displaying smiles that were a mile wide. The same enthusiasm was obvious in our family members and our volunteers. Athletes were able to demonstrate their abilities—vs disabilities. I was (and am) so very proud of them. 

We recognized our top athletes, coaches and volunteers from around the state, and, for the first time, named our All-Iowa Special Olympics Elite Athletes of the Year. We introduced our new INCLUSION theme, which was built from the words that our athletes felt were important to them.

I’m extremely proud of the fact that we are greatly increasing our athlete awareness opportunities. We’ve gotten great media coverage for our athletes—they’ve been appearing on TV, on Casey’s cups, in the Register, and on social media. It gives our friends confidence, it educates others, and instills pride in our athletes and their families, while at the same time showing the world that they deserve and have earned the recognition shown them.

We’ve grown a lot in the last year as a Special Olympics Family; I have truly enjoyed getting to know more of you, interacting with you, and spending time understanding what we need to do to continue to move our mission forward.

For each of those things, I thank you. However, we still have lots of growing to do, and obviously; we need and want to continue to keep hearing from you. We need to hear what we are doing right, and what we need to improve. I welcome your emails and calls; you are key to helping move SOIA forward. Please know that we will continue to try our best to create new opportunities and experiences for our athlete friends, and that we will continue to try to offer them chances to excel, and to become who they really want to be, and truly are—a kind and loving group of people who play key roles in our communities and in our state.

It can be accomplished if we truly believe in what we do and work together to do so. I am privileged to be in this role, and thank you for allowing me to do so. I’m excited about our future!

Gary D. Harms
President and CEO