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Meet the Team Representing Iowa at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games

Special Olympics Iowa is pleased to announce the team that will be representing Iowa at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games next year in Orlando! In a little less than one year – June 5-12, 2022 – more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean will travel to Orlando to compete before more than 125,000 fans, spectators, and volunteers.

Among those over 5,500 athletes and coaches will be Team Special Olympics Iowa:

Athletics Bowling
Head Coach: Rob Wagner Head Coach: Julie Pence
Assistant Coach: Brenda Haefner Assistant Coach: Chad Pence
Assistant Coach: Angela Wright Nicole Skelley
Tomi DeGrado Shelly Snyder
Abbi Stastny Tyler Leech
Amber Sir Patrick Gulbranson
Alexandra Fountain Jody Sheriff
Abigail Cvrk Kristy Sheriff
Charity Hodson Tasha Conklin
Brandon Baier Kevin Conklin
Collins Clingman
John Flannery Cheerleading
Patrick Smith Head Coach: Kylene Simpson
Jonathan Blankenship Assistant Coach: Davina Valdez
Nathan Paulsen Assistant Coach: Cody Simpson
Assistant Coach: Micah Banks
Bocce Brandon Redmond-Phillips
Head Coach: Molly Vander Linden Leon Nguyen
Assistant Coach: Laurie Fallon Jazzmin Johnson
Kim Lively Dustin Burke
Matthew Johnson Emily Mulder
Sue Davis Trasister Carter
Cari Davis Daniel Custis
Gracy Elsenbast Ian Kastner
Emma Harle Teddy Velman
Emma Marlow
Erin Peterson Equestrian
Head Coach: Kim Stine
Flag Football  Abbie Kliegl
Head Coach: Tim Atkin
Assistant Coach: Bruce Barnett Powerlifting 
Assistant Coach: Corey Leonhard Head Coach: Troy Betsworth
Eric St. Clair Assistant Coach: Rob Baldus
Chris Ashbaugh Amanda Bride
Matthew Trujillo Jessica Copple
Jay Small Mitchell Betsworth
Kevin Brockert Isaac Baldus
Angela Collins Joshua Davis
Adie Strong Kevin Ahrendsen
Danielle Mally
Brad Small Swimming
Travis Moss Head Coach: Mark Robinson
Assistant Coach: Michelle Bussanmas
Golf Christina Rasmussen
Head Coach: Keith Pease Kaitlin Colwell
Jesse Pease Desiree Peterson
Jason Pease Emily White
Brian Rolek Patrick Cunningham
Jill Southworth Keen Harvey
Adam Rininger
Intercollegiate Unified Basketball Preston Stevens
Head Coach: Tommy Schorer
Assistant Coach: Adam Walsh Tennis 
Austin Climer Head Coach: Sydney Dommer
Dallas Dircks Angela Dohrn
Dylan Soppe Alexandria Brooks
Elliot Lee Billy Habermann
Hayli Schumacher Nathan Williams
Cali Schmitz
Jaison Marks Youth Leadership Experience
Jenah McCarty Mentor: Lisa Klien
Maddie Schulte Jacob Whack
Training Tarlue
Head of Delegation: Jason Miller
Assistant Head of Delegation: Rhonda Schwarzkopf Additional Staff: Kevin Kemp

The USA Games will kick off on June 5, 2022, with the Opening Ceremony in Exploria Stadium.  The games will showcase 19 Olympic-style team and individual sports, including athletics (track & field), basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, equestrian, flag football, golf, gymnastics, open water swimming, powerlifting, soccer, softball, stand up paddleboard, surfing, swimming, tennis, triathlon, and volleyball.

The USA Games will be hosted at various venues across Orlando, with the main location being ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. Other sporting facilities across Orlando include Boardwalk Bowl Entertainment Center, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Lake Minneola Waterfront Park, Lucky’s Lake, Orange County National Gold Center, Osceola Heritage Park, Rosen Aquatic Center, and USTA National Campus.

To learn more about the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games visit www.2022USAGames.org. Follow the organization on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Rhonda Schwarzkopf is Retiring After 22 Years

Special Olympics Iowa Director of Sports and Advanced Competitions Rhonda Schwarzkopf is retiring on March 5 after 22 years with Special Olympics Iowa.

Rhonda first joined Special Olympics Iowa in 1998 as an Office Manager. She went on to be Director of Field Services, Director of Training and Outreach, and the Director of Sports and Advanced Competitions. Though Rhonda’s responsibilities changed over the years, one thing never did, her desire to always provide more opportunities to the athletes. She was instrumental in implementing the current tennis competition layout at the Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games and expanded the Opening Ceremonies at state-level competitions allowing more athletes to be included.

“I speak for everyone when I say we have been very fortunate to have Rhonda on staff for the last 22 years. Rhonda’s wealth of knowledge and dedication to the athletes and Unified partners will be missed,” said John Kliegl, Special Olympics Iowa President and CEO.

As Rhonda prepares to move into the next chapter of her life, she is reminded of all of the great experiences she has had over the years. Being Head of Delegation for Team Iowa at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games and honoring key volunteers while celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics rank among her favorite experiences.

“I have been so blessed to be surrounded by people who graciously donate their time and talents,” shared Rhonda. “Thank you to the athletes, Unified partners, coaches and volunteers who have helped make the last 22 years so enjoyable. It has been very rewarding watching the athletes learn sport-skills and then apply those skills to the year-round events they compete in.”

This isn’t goodbye, just see you later, as Rhonda plans to attend future Special Olympics Iowa events as a volunteer or spectator and cheer on the athletes and Unified partners. She is especially excited for when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted because it will be a time to celebrate.

“We look forward to seeing Rhonda and Dan’s smiling faces as volunteers for years to come,” said John.

The Special Olympics Iowa family thanks Rhonda for her years of service and commitment to the mission.

Congratulate Rhonda via e-mail at rschwarzkopf.10@gmail.com.

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Special Olympics Health Messenger – Lisa Spencer

The only way to end exclusion is to have people who face these challenges daily help create the solution. People with intellectual disabilities are guiding us toward solutions in our health work. The Special Olympics Health Messenger program was born out of this notion of participation. In order to create more effective public health programs, improve health systems, and engage communities to support the health of people with intellectual disabilities, people with intellectual disabilities must have leadership roles in the health system.

Special Olympics Health Messengers are athletes who are trained to serve as health and wellness leaders, educators, advocates, and role models within their Special Olympics communities, as well as their community at large. They are leading their teams, families, friends, and communities to pursue healthy lifestyles, and are advocating for healthcare providers and governments to adopt inclusive policies around health, wellness services, education, and resources for people with intellectual disabilities.

Since the pandemic began, Special Olympics North America has completed three virtual Health Messenger trainings. Special Olympics Iowa’s very own Lisa Spencer was chosen to be a member of the third cohort of virtual Health Messenger trainees. Read more about Lisa’s story below:

Two years ago, Lisa Spencer had things she wanted to do, like feeling good while showing horses, but her weight would get in the way. Lisa knew something had to change, so she began going to the gym and focusing on nutrition and water intake. Since Lisa started her weight loss journey, she has lost over 140 pounds and gained a passion for health.

Lisa’s newfound passion for health and fitness led her to apply and become a Special Olympics Health Messenger. She hopes to use her weight loss journey to inspire others. Lisa’s goal as a Health Messenger is to help fellow athletes and her community lead a healthy and happy lifestyle. She has already begun working towards her goal by speaking with different groups about her health journey and what goes into leading a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Lisa wants everyone to remember: “It’s never too late to start living a healthy life.”

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Sioux City Unified Pair Wins Midwest Regional Special Olympics Unified Golf Tournament

Sudden death playoff ends with Sioux City Unified pair winning first-ever Regional Special Olympics Unified Golf Tournament at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club in Albert Lea, Minnesota on July 14.

Jesse Pease, Sioux City Knight’s athlete, and brother, Jason Pease went into the final hole of play having led the whole tournament.  During the play of the final hole, the Pease brothers found themselves trailing for the first time.  The pair was able to save par putting them into a sudden death match against a Minnesota pair.  The match ended with the Pease brothers making par and winning the match, and ultimately the tournament.

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Keith Pease, father of Jesse and Jason, shared, “This was truly an outstanding event; we found it rewarding to witness the respect athletes had for each other’s abilities and accomplishments.”

The two day Special Olympics Unified match play tournament featured more than 10 Unified pairs from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.  A Unified pair combines individuals with and without intellectual disabilities to compete on the same team allowing both the athlete and partner to grow on and off the competition field.  Unified sports promote inclusion and friendship for all.

 

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First Ever Special Olympics Iowa Youth Summit Brought Together Students From Across Iowa

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This past week Special Olympics Iowa held the first annual Youth Summit which brought together students from across the state to discuss inclusion and develop action plans that they can take back to their local communities.  The summit had 65 attendees ranging from 7th graders to juniors in high school.  The schools that sent students to the summit were East High School, Goodrell Middle School, Hoover High School, IKM-Manning Schools, North Scott Junior High, Robert Blue Middle School, Roosevelt High School, Spencer High School, Urbandale High School, Wayne Community High School and Harlan Community Schools.

The event tackled the topics of motivating and empowering others, accountability, leadership and Unified sports.  Participants also participated in a Hy-Vee KidsFit workshop and capped the day off with a pool party.

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“It was wonderful seeing so many youth leaders come together to share ideas and stories about the Unified Generation and to learn more about how the simple concept of inclusion can change the culture of an entire school,” shared Bryan Coffey, Special Olympics Iowa Director of Unified Programs.

All participants were students at Unified Champions Schools, schools that bring together students with and without intellectual disabilities through education, sports and youth leadership to provide them with the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to create and sustain school communities that promote acceptance and respect.

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Casey’s General Stores Holds Special Olympics Promotion During the Month of June

64486916_10156028329886046_3417392008686206976_nWe have teamed up with Casey’s General Store and Coca-Cola for the month of June!  When you stop by your local Casey’s store during the month of June, you will be able to “round up” for Special Olympics Iowa. This means that you will have the opportunity to round up your total as a donation to Special Olympics Iowa. 10 cents will also be donated when individuals buy a pizza slice and a 20 oz. Coca-Cola drink for $4.

 

Casey’s General Store and Coca-Cola have been longtime supporters of Special Olympics Iowa and the Inclusion Revolution. Their generosity and support helps us to provide sports training and athletic competition to over 16,000 Special Olympics Iowa athletes and Unified partners.

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Iowa Unified Basketball Team Competes in NIRSA Championships

By: Lexxi O’Brien

The University of Iowa took a Unified team to the NIRSA basketball championships in Wichita, Kansas. The team went face-to-face with competitors across the nation including Louisville, Eastern Washington University and Oregon. Iowa ended up 1-2 at the end of the tournament. The University of Iowa was one of 12 teams in the nation to be selected to participate in the Unified Division.

The team practiced for the duration of 6 weeks, during and following the University’s regular Unified basketball intramural season. To prepare for the tournament, The University of Iowa played an exhibition game against St. Ambrose University’s Unified intramural championship team! Unified intramurals at Iowa started with flag football in 2017 and has since progressed to add volleyball and basketball. Ongoing support from the recreational services department and our Unified partners makes this program at Iowa thrive.IMG_5857 edited

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2018 Tailgate for Teammates

Join us on October 6th for our Annual Tailgate for Teammates fundraiser.

Nothing brings fans together like a good old-fashioned tailgate! Tailgate for Teammates will offer a sense of camaraderie, inclusion and pride among athletes and their supporters. Guests will indulge in upscale tailgate cuisine, take part in fun and festive sports-themed activities, bid for prizes in an auction, and cheer for athletes competing in upcoming Special Olympics Iowa events.

Event DetailsT4T_logo

Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018
Location: West Des Moines Sheraton
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Tickets: Click here to purchase tickets

SAVE THE DATE! (pdf)

Auction Donation Form

For more information on sponsoring the event or to purchase tickets, contact:
Stuart Steffy, Individual Giving Officer
515-986-5520

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USA Games: Team Iowa to earn 27 Gold, 20 Silver, and 8 Bronze

The Fourth Annual USA Games took place On July 1-6, 2018 in Seattle. More than 4,000 Special Olympics athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, all in search of a gold. Team Iowa was among those and included: 10 Coaches, 29 Athletes, 4 Unified Partners, and 3 Athlete Leadership Experience members.

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There were 14 Olympic-type sports offered at the USA Games. Out of those 14, Team Iowa competed in: athletics (track and field), flag football, powerlifting, swimming, tennis, unified bocce, and unified bowling.

Overall, Team Iowa had a final medal count of 27 gold, 20 silver, and 8 bronze. Among those medals included powerlifter Mitchell Betsworth (pictured above), who earned 3 Golds and 1 Silver. Mitchell says he, “loved competing and meeting all the athletes from around the country. It was great to make a lot of new friends not only from Iowa, but nationwide.” Mitchell’s father, Troy, who is also his coach made the trip to Seattle as well. “What I remember most about coaching Mitchell and Brad Small were the nerves. I was so nervous that I got down on one knee and thoguht I was giving Mitchell my last words of encouragement, and realized I was firing up a lifter from New Hampshire instead of my son!” “The coaches are constantly cheering for all of the lifters to do their best, so it was fitting” Betsworth commented.

Making Team Iowa proud, Athlete Brandon Baier with the Griswold Tigers as the only athlete at the USA Games to qualify for both the High Performance 100 M Dash and the High Performance Shot put. While in Seattle, two Team Iowa members received recognition for being in the Top 10 in their category of the Steps Challenge (offered by the National office). There were 2,580 indviduals registered in the Challenge. Congrats to Brandon Baier, with the Griswold Tigers, for placing seventh. Another congrats to Ron Schmidt with Sioux City West Middle School for making the Unified Sports partner Top 10.

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Iowa Coach Receives Inspiring Coach of the Year Award from Brooks Running

By Stephanie Kocer

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SOIA coach Nicole Vetter accepts her Inspiring Coach of the Year award from Brooks Running)

As Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) athletes prepare to head to Seattle for the 2018 USA Games July 1-6 at the University of Washington campus, coach Nicole Vetter of Council Bluffs is just returning from Seattle, where she was honored by Brooks Running with the Inspiring Coach of the Year award.

Vetter has been a teacher and coach for 22 years in Council Bluffs. She started her career as a special education teacher before transitioning into teaching physical education and coaching the Thomas Jefferson High School track team. Now she feels like she gets the best of both worlds. “I love getting to know that population of students,” says Vetter. “I get to help both Special Olympic athletes and high school students, which is the best of both worlds.”

In honor of the 2018 USA Games, Brooks Running, which is headquartered in Seattle, selected two track & field coaches from across the nation and awarded them with the Inspiring Coach of the Year award. The winner receives a trophy, a $10,000 grant for Brooks performance running gear, and $2,500 to their team’s athletic department for team expenses.

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