Special Olympics comes to Ames


Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Brent Strauch, right, senior in civil engineering, marks lines for the Special Olympics skills competition on Wednesday at the Maple-Willow-Larch Field. Special Olympics athletes participating in the soccer event will be tested in dribbling and shooting contests.

James Heggen

Special Olympics Iowa will be holding its state competition Thursday through Saturday in Ames.

Pam Wagner, vice president of games and competition for Special Olympics Iowa, has been involved with Special Olympics for 26 years.

In her position, Wagner, along with a 25-person committee made up of Ames residents, are in charge of planning every aspect of the games, such as events and housing. 

However, the Special Olympics also gets tremendous help from volunteers. There will be 2,800 athletes at this year’s games, according to Special Olympics Iowa. Wagner said there will be about 1,500 volunteers.

As with the Ames and ISU communities, she said the volunteers do everything they can in order to ensure a great experience for the athletes. She said they seek out the best and latest technology for the events and treat it like a Big 12 meet. 

“Our athletes have the best and that’s because of the wonderful volunteers,” she said. 

The games have been held in Ames for the past 25 years, Wagner said. She said the Ames and ISU communities “go out of their way” to ensure the event goes well.

“It is so tremendous,” Wagner said of the relationship between the Special Olympics Iowa and the Ames and ISU communities.

She said every college president has been very supportive of the event, since it has been held in Ames, and that even university employees can take time off to help with the games. 

“They just support everything we do,” Wagner said.

Wagner also talked about the importance of the Special Olympics to its athletes and parents. For example, it gives an opportunity for these athletes and these families to travel in this manner, which many times they otherwise don’t have the opportunity to do. 

“Special Olympics is a very important part of our athletes’ and their parents’ lives,” she said. 

Jay Lettow is the executive director of the Arc of Story County and is in charge of sports in the Ames Story County.

Arc of Story County is an organization that serves those with intellectual and development disabilities in Story County.

Lettow, an ISU alumnus, said he got involved in coaching while still a student at the beginning of the last decade. 

He was a part of the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi, whose philanthropy event works with people with intellectual and development disabilities. 

Lettow said once he worked with the charity, he wanted to do more things like it.

“I knew immediately I wanted to get more involved,” he said. 

He began with coaching softball, basketball and track, which was the first time he had coached anything, he said.

He said he enjoyed working with all the athletes because he found many common interests and developed a number of friendships with them. 

“It’s that friendship that brings you back,” he said. 

Opening Ceremonies

Competition begins Thursday and opening ceremonies will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Hilton Coliseum.