Many of us have heard of the Special Olympics, but how many of us really know about it? I, for one, knew absolutely nothing, so I was beyond excited to interview Connie Doughan, Gladbrook-Reinbeck Special Olympics coach, to find out more! Doughan started by telling me some history about the Special Olympics. "They were started in 1963, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a summer day camp for children and adults who were mentally challenged at her home in Maryland. The program provides year round sport training and athletic competitions in a variety of olympic-type sports for children and adults." Children as young as six years old may participate. Doughan continued by sharing the mission statement. "The Special Olympics gives them an opportunity to develop physical fitness, experience joy and courage and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships."
Although the Special Olympics are hosted throughout the year, Gladbrook-Reinbeck chooses to compete in three events; these consist of bowling in the fall, basketball in the winter and track in the spring. Our team at G-R also partners with a team in Cedar Falls, and all the kids compete on a team together. To get ready for the event, Doughan takes the students to Cedar Falls once a week to train with their other teammates at the UNI-Dome.
This fall, our Gladbrook-Reinbeck team didn't participate in the bowling event. However, we did have two participants this winter in basketball. Allen Heise and Kara Ackley participated in districts, and Kara received a blue ribbon. Therefore, she will be traveling to state in Iowa City on March 15th and 16th.
This past Sunday was the districts track and field that was held at the UNI-Dome.
Those who participated, included: Allen Heise, Ryan Thran, Kara Ackley, Kourtnie Kern and Jennifer Lassuy. The students who received blue ribbons move on to state that will be held on the Iowa State Campus in Ames. The State event will take place on May 23rd, 24th, and 25th.
After Sunday's competition, here are the results for Gladbrook-Reinbeck: Kara Ackley-softball throw (red ribbon) and standing long jump (blue ribbon). Allen Heise-50m dash (red ribbon), shot-put (blue ribbon), and 400m relay (blue ribbon). Jennifer Lassuy-50m Dash (blue ribbon) and standing long jump (blue ribbon). Ryan Thran-standing long jump (blue ribbon), 200m dash (blue ribbon), and 400m relay (blue ribbon).
It was very special to have the Knights of Columbus be present at Sunday's event. I found it very interesting to hear that they actually have a fire cauldron that a child gets chosen to light before the games begin-just like the real deal! Doughan reports that there were 300 athletes, 375 volunteers and 16 teams from the North East Iowa district present. At the state level, everyone gathers together from the 14 divided districts. That's a lot of athletes!
I asked Doughan why she thinks Special Olympics are so important for kids to participate in, and after pondering for some time, she summarized her answer in one, brilliant sentence, "It gives them an opportunity to be physically active, meet new friends, and participate in something that perhaps they never have tried before." Before closing the interview, Doughan finished by including the Special Olympics oath that everyone recites before the games begin. It is: "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." Doughan says it best, "Being courageous and doing your best is what really matters, not winning."