Articles in Athletes

2018 Ankeny Young Athletes Play Day

By Emma Finn


On April 12 Sammons Financial Group will help host the 4th annual Young Athletes Play Day at Ankeny Centennial High School in Ankeny. Young Athletes Play Days are designed to provide activities and socialization opportunities for children with and without intellectual disabilities between the ages of two and seven.

Play Days give children who are too young to participate in formal Special Olympics events an opportunity to compete and engage in Olympic activities. It is an event that helps promote inclusion and acceptance at a young age.

Sammons Financial Group has been a Statewide Partner with Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) for 10 years. This year, 50 volunteers from Sammons are scheduled to help out at the event. They do everything from helping put lunches together to handing out awards to participants.

“We have a lot of repeat offenders, once they volunteer at this event they become hooked,” says Mary Buscher, a Human Resources Manager for Sammons and a long-time SOIA volunteer.

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Meet Team Iowa: Sioux City Unified Bowling Team

By Emma Finn


A Unified Bowling team from Sioux City West Middle School will be representing Iowa in the USA Special Olympic Games held in Seattle, Washington July 1-6. The team is made up of four players: Ron Schmidt, Estrella Tejeda, Ann Newton and JJ Reeg-Beckner.

Although Bowling does not belong to the Olympic sports, it is among the most popular sports in Special Olympics. It is a particularly beneficial sport to people with intellectual disabilities, regardless of their age or sports abilities, since it ensures physical exercise and at the same time participation and social integration.

The team is extremely excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity. They will be the only bowling team representing Iowa at USA Games, and it will be the first year these athletes have been on a team together.

Ron Schmidt, a Unified Partner on the team described how when practicing they all learn from one another. He explained  how he teaches the athletes things while he also learns new things from them. He also commented on the team’s good sportsmanship.

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Loras College Wins NCAA Special Olympics Spotlight Poll

By Stephanie Kocer


Loras College’s Student-Athletic Advisory Committee has received the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll. The poll’s purpose is to, “enhance the lives of Division III student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes through a mutual learning experience; provide a platform for recognition of Special Olympics athletes and Division III student-athletes within their communities; and raise awareness of Special Olympics, its programs and services,” says the NCAA partnership website.

The partnership is a way to encourage Loras students to participate in existing Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) events, while also creating their own events to help serve Special Olympics athletes. On October 20, 2017, Loras student-athletes volunteered at and hosted the Dubuque area Challenge Day at the Athletic & Wellness Center on campus. Following the event, Loras was entered into a voting poll on with two other schools, winning the vote by 78 percent. The college won $500 to go towards future SOIA events, which they plan to use on March 22 for the first-ever Dubuque area Young Athletes Play Day.

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Special Olympics Iowa Delegates Made Case of Impact and Need for Critical Funding on Capitol Hill

Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day 2018

Special Olympics athletes, Program leaders, Unified partners, and family members from all 50 states and the District of Columbia converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 13 for Special Olympics’ annual “Capitol Hill Day.” This was the first time in the 16-year history of Capitol Hill Day in which all 50 states were represented, honoring the organization’s 50th Anniversary.

Special Olympics athletes held more than 250 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, challenging and inviting their elected officials to partner with them to achieve the goals of expanding Special Olympics Unified Sports and Unified Champion Schools programming, and to end health care disparities and discrimination against the 15 million persons with intellectual disabilities in America by supporting inclusive health initiatives.IMG_3937

Special Olympics athletes, serving as self-advocates, educated lawmakers and their staff about the significant consequences that arise from the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They described how that impacts their lives in the areas of sports, health care and education. The goals of Capitol Hill Day were to effectively convey the high impact and cost-effectiveness of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues, to educate lawmakers and to secure continued support from legislators.

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Meet Athlete Kim Lively

By Emma Finn

Meet Kim Lively from Ames, Iowa!  Kim has been participating in Special Olympics for many years. The events that she competes in are track, bowling and softball. Her favorite event to participate in is bocce.Kim 1

Kim got involved in Special Olympics through her mom and friends who already participated in events when she was a little girl. Over the years Kim has racked up a number of gold medals. However, her biggest accomplishment through Special Olympics is being named the 2015-16 Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year.

KimLivelyOne of Kim’s favorite memories with SOIA is playing bocce with her friends Mikey, Lizzy and Katie through the Unified Sports program. When Kim is not practicing in Special Olympics she is working at Walmart, spending time with friends and family, or cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones.

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Meet Team Iowa: Billy Habermann

By Emma Finn

Billy Habermann of Sioux City will be representing Iowa this summer at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington July 1-6. He will be participating in tennis, coached by his mother and father, Kathy and William.Billy 5

Billy did not start his Special Olympics career as a tennis player. He got the idea to start participating in the event by watching his brother who is a tennis player. Billy not only participates in tennis but has also participated in bowling, basketball, softball, track and golf.

Billy got his start with Special Olympics when he was in middle school. One of his teachers got a group of students together and he has been competing ever since. Billy is one of the original five members of the Sioux City Knights delegation that was started five years ago. Over time the Knights have become so popular that they now have around 100 members representing them.

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2018 Spread the Word to End the Word Day


By Emma Finn 

In today’s society the R-word is used by many. The R-word, “retard,” is slang for mental retardation. It is the word that doctors first used to describe individuals with an intellectual impairment. This word is becoming a problem in today’s world by the way it is being used. It has become a trend to be used in place of stupid or idiot. Instead of being used as a medical term it is used to put down another person. The R-word is turning into something that is offensive and derogatory to a group of individuals. The R-word has become a non-inclusive word that affects so many people all over the world.

It’s just the way I talk, I did not mean it like that, or it is just an expression are not excuses that justify the use of this word. “Individual with an intellectual disability” is the way correct to describe a person with a medical impairment. Spread the Word to End the Word is a campaign to help raise awareness about the hurtfulness of the R-word. It is a way for individuals to do their part in creating an inclusive society.

Special Olympics and the Best Buddies partner with the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign in efforts of ending prejudice towards those with intellectual disabilities. Anyone and everyone is able to take this pledge by going to Here people can take the pledge, read stories about how words affect our society, and help spread awareness. To date, more than 700,000 people have taken the online pledge while millions have signed petitions, banners and taken oaths around the world to stop hurtful language and banish prejudices.

On Thursday, February 15, Special Olympics Iowa and Best Buddies of Iowa will gather at the Iowa State Capitol to encourage lawmakers to participate in the campaign and sign the pledge. Athletes and Best Buddies members will also be meeting with Governor Reynolds that day to sign a proclamation in support of the group’s efforts.

Spread the Word to End the Word will also be implemented in schools across the state of Iowa in an effort to aid the campaign’s cause. On March 7, 40 schools will have banners for students to sign to take the pledge. Students will also be participating in school-wide activities that will teach students the hurtfulness of the word and how it can be prevented.

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Basketball Skills Competitions

By Bree Jacoba 

SOIA’s Basketball Skills competitions help teach athletes basic skills of the game, while preparing them to compete at the state level.MWT 163

For basketball skills, individuals compete in three events: Target Pass, 10 Meter Dribble and Spot Shot.

In the target pass event, a square is marked both on the wall and on the floor. The athlete must stand within the square marked on the floor and try to get the ball to hit inside the ball on the wall. In the 10-meter event, the athlete begins from behind the start line and between the cones and starts moving and dribbling when the official signals. They must cross the finish line between the cones and must pick up the basketball to stop the clock. If the athlete loses control of the ball, the clock will continue to run until the ball is recovered. In the spot shot event, there are six spots that are marked on the floor around a basketball hoop and the athlete has two attempts from each of the six spots to make a basket.

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SOIA Charity of Choice at Des Moines Home and Garden Show February 8-11

Special Olympics Iowa is the charity of choice at this year’s Des Moines Home and Garden Show February 8-11 at the Iowa Events Center in Downtown Des Moines. There are several ways the show plans to give back to SOIA.


SOIA athletes will be on hand to help throughout the event. An athlete will also get to decorate one of the mailboxes in the show’s annual “You Got Mail” display. Local celebrities and tastemakers will also take a plain old mailbox and turn it into a masterpiece. There will be a silent auction, so attendees could walk away with a one-of-a-kind mailbox. All proceeds will go towards SOIA.


On Media will be doing a promotion at the show on Friday for “Hero Day.” They plan to bring in The Justice Corps of Iowa (Super Heroes). Attendees can purchase a photo opp with them, with all proceeds from the photos going to Special Olympics.


If you buy tickets for the Home and Garden show and use the promo code OLYMPICS, $1 of your ticket price will be donated to SOIA.


Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets.
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SOIA to Celebrate 50th Anniversary in 2018



The spark that became today’s Special Olympics movement ignited at the first 1968 International Summer Games in Chicago, Ill., USA. Special Olympics Iowa was represented by Iowa athletes at those first games and in 2018 SOIA will also be celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary!

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. For our year-long anniversary, we are celebrating 50 years of joy, courage and empowerment. Starting in January 2018, you’ll see the 50th Anniversary logo at SOIA events and on our website. We’ll also be making some exciting announcements about upcoming fun in honor of the 50th Anniversary.

In July, it was announced that Chicago will host the Special Olympics movement’s 50th Anniversary global celebration events July 17 – 22, 2018. Mary Davis, Special Olympics International CEO, and Justice Anne Burke, who founded Special Olympics Chicago, announced the news along with other organizers of the upcoming events.

Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Illinois and Special Children’s Charities have united to host nearly a week of exciting events to celebrate the past 50 years of Special Olympics and to launch the movement into the future.

“The 50th Anniversary will be a pivotal moment for Special Olympics, as we aim to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and as the leaders of inclusion through sport,” shared Mary Davis. “We have spent the past 50 years breaking down barriers for our athletes and creating opportunities through sport, but we still have much more work to do. For our 50th Anniversary, we are inviting all to join us as we shape a more accepting and inclusive future.”

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