Do you know someone who has done it all? We sure do! Our Area Director of the East region here in Iowa, Nancy Shannon, has done just about everything. She’s been coaching and volunteering with Special Olympics Iowa since 1978, has served on the Board of Directors, and has traveled with athletes to State, National and World Games.
Nancy, a native of Long Grove, Iowa, got involved with SOIA while she was working as a special education teacher. When she attended a class where Special Olympics athletes were training her curiosity was peaked, leading her to sign up to volunteer for a Special Olympics event. It wasn’t long before she was hooked and started coaching.
Today, Nancy serves as the Area Director for SOIA’s East region. Her job entails many duties, including organizing and running four or five events each year from things like bowling and track and field to golf tournaments and Challenge Days. “I have a really good group of coaches that work well together and really care about the athletes,” she says.
Over the years, she’s helped Iowa athletes make it to State, National and World Games as a coach and volunteer. Even when she has athletes at State Games, Nancy can be found running around helping organize and run activities. She was in attendance at the first ever National Games at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa in 2006 and has traveled across the globe to several World Games.
Nancy loves traveling for Special Olympics events. “You get to interact with people from other areas, states, and countries,” she says. “It’s fun being able to see how things are done in different places.”
Of course, Nancy’s work doesn’t come without a few obstacles. She once brought a group of athletes to a World Games to compete in team handball. The only problem was team handball is not a sport offered in Iowa. Nancy took it upon herself to gather a group of athletes interested in playing and taught them how in just six short months before the Games. And she didn’t even know how to play herself! “There was a lot of looking up handball videos online,” she says.
Once Nancy got involved in Special Olympics her family followed. Everyone from her mom to her siblings now volunteer with SOIA. “There’s somebody in my family at every event I do,” she says. Even her nephews got involved at a young age. Nancy’s nephew Christopher started helping out at SOIA events when he was just three and could run results back and forth at events. He still volunteers today at age 26. “The joke in our family is my one sister had to move to Germany to get way from Special Olympics,” says Nancy. “Now she volunteers for Special Olympics Germany!”
Nancy says she never has trouble finding volunteers for events or to help fundraise for SOIA. “I tell people to go to an event and see what goes on. Once you see what it’s like I don’t have trouble getting people involved.”
The way athletes try their best, work hard and how happy they are to participate in sports is what really makes Nancy and her volunteers stick around. “They’re thrilled to be there and want to do their best and have a chance to do what they have been practicing so hard for,” she says.
So what’s next for Nancy? Besides continuing her duties as an Area Director, she’ll be headed to Austria in 2017 to take an athlete to the World Games.
Thanks for everything you do for Special Olympics Iowa, Nancy!