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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
We 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.
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.
By Stephanie Kocer
On Friday, April 27, eight Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) teams from across the state will compete at the 2018 Drake Relays at Drake Stadium on Drake University’s campus in Des Moines. The teams will run a 4×100 relay race. The Special Olympics teams will include:
Scott County Adult Females
Arc of Story County Females
Cedar Rapids Park and Rec Cheetahs
Clinton County Special Olympics
Des Moines Roosevelt Roughriders
This will be the first time in the history of the Drake Relays that Special Olympics teams will compete.
“For decades, the Drake Relays has helped launch athletes to unrivaled athletic success. Each year, many of the world’s best athletes begin their season on the Blue Oval and end their season on a medal podium. We’re honored to partner with the Special Olympics Iowa to provide these tremendous and inspiring athletes the same opportunity to race on the Blue Oval as they prepare to advance and represent the state of Iowa at the Special Olympics USA Games,” says Blake Boldon, Director of the Drake Relays. …
By Emma Finn
The fourth annual Special Olympics USA Games will be held this summer in Seattle, Washington. The USA Games take place every four years with previous locations being: Ames, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska and Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The event will offer 14 different sports with the help of 10,000 volunteers recruited. It is expected that over 70,000 spectators will attend. The USA games give athletes from all over the country the opportunity to participate, meet other athletes, and showcase their talents
Twenty-two year old Mitchell Betsworth of Sioux City will be helping represent Iowa in the 2018 Special Olympic USA Games. He is one of 4,000 athletes participating in July. Mitchell’s event is the powerlifting competition. The lifts that he performs are the bench press, deadlift and he also squats. Mitchell trains 4 days a week, usually 45 minutes to an hour per session with his coach and father, Troy Betsworth. Mitchell’s favorite lift to preform is the deadlift.
Mitchell got his start with powerlifting back in high school when a teacher aide recommended he try powerlifting. He originally began his Special Olympics career as a basketball skills competitor back when he was in junior high.
Mitchell is no stranger to USA Games. He competed back in the 2014 USA Olympic Games held in New Jersey. Other Special Olympic sports he participates in are: swimming, softball, soccer, golf and bowling. …
On Monday, December 4, Special Olympics Iowa athletes got an opportunity to play during the halftime festivities of Iowa State University’s Men’s Basketball game against Northern Illinois.
Athletes from Johnston team “The Johnston Outlaws” scrimmaged each other on the full court in Hilton Coliseum, while they were cheered on by an excited student section. The scrimmage game was even announced by the ISU game announcers.
The Johnston Outlaws began playing together as a Special Olympic basketball team in 1996. Over the years the delegation has grown to form two teams. They have gone to state competitions 18 times and have come home with 10 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze metals between the two teams. The team is coached by Jeff Simpson and assistant coaches Natalie Ginty, Courtney Fritz and Chris Ayers.
“My favorite part of playing in Hilton Coliseum was the atmosphere and having some of the students I met from Greek Week be there to watch us. They were all very excited for both teams and everyone cheered us on when we made a shot,” said SOIA athlete Tyler Leech. “It was like they were fans of us and even though we played against each other it was as if everyone was on the same side. It really means a lot since I never did anything like this before.” …
Voya Financial, Inc. announced on Friday, December 7 that it will donate $10,000 to Special Olympics Iowa as a result of the success of its Invest in Something SpecialTM effort – a week-long social media campaign designed to share the goals and dreams of Special Olympics athletes on social media, and to raise money for local Programs.
“Every day at Special Olympics Iowa, we work to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are recognized, accepted and valued as members of our communities,” said John Kliegl, President and CEO of Special Olympics Iowa. “We are grateful to Voya for supporting this important work and for helping to raise awareness of the strength and determination that Special Olympics athletes bring to our community.”
During the Invest in Something Special campaign, Special Olympics athletes from across the country were encouraged to share their goals beyond sport on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Voya pledged to donate $1 for every like, share and comment on athletes’ #InvestInSomethingSpecial stories, up to $500,000. The response to the campaign was overwhelming, resulting in more than 940,000 people participating on social media and an amplified donation of $520,000 from Voya, which will be shared among the 52 U.S. Special Olympics Programs, including Special Olympics Iowa.
“The personal stories of these Special Olympics athletes touched people around the world, as we saw from the overwhelming response on social media,” said Chairman and CEO Rodney O. Martin, Jr. “Nearly 21 million families in the U.S. have at least one member with a disability – and through our donation to Special Olympics, as well as other initiatives like Voya Cares, we’re working to raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by these Americans, and how we can create a more supportive and inclusive environment for them, as well as their caregivers.” …
Wendy has been a supporter of Special Olympics for 23 years. She has served as a volunteer and coach in the areas of bowling, basketball, skiing, swimming, track/field, cheerleading, cycling, Challenge Days and golf. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, where she studied special education. She also has a master’s degree in deaf education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Before coming to SOIA, Olinger worked as a severe and profound special education teacher in Marshalltown, Iowa for 13 years. Olinger has also worked at various day camps and respite camps for individuals with disabilities across the state of Iowa.
As Director of Athlete Initiatives, Olinger will be responsible for Special Programs like Play Days, Challenge Days and Healthy Athletes. She will also be working closely with SOIA Global Messengers, helping them write speeches and be leaders in the community. …