Special Olympics come to Iowa State

Emily Arthur

An estimated 3,500 athletes visited Ames last weekend bringing competition for Special Olympics Iowa.

The athletes traveled from all over Iowa to participate in the three day event which featured an opening and closing ceremonies, athletic and skill competitions, and a dance for all those involved.

The theme for the event was “Celebrating our Hidden Treasures” and was given more exposure when Ames Mayor Ted Tedesco declared it “Special Olympics Week” in Ames.

Iowa State hosted the event which ran from May 24- May 26.

Competition began Thursday in a variety of events including cycling, roller skating, tennis, soccer, bocce ball, golf and a racewalk.

Medals were given to the first, second and third place finishers in each event with ribbons being given to all participants.

Thursday night was highlighted by the opening ceremonies.

The ceremonies were originally scheduled to be held at Jack Trice Stadium but were moved to Lied Recreation Center after poor weather pushed everyone indoors.

Interim President Richard Seagrave was one of the many individuals to speak. He stressed how important it was for Iowa State to hold these games and how important the games are.

“Iowa State becomes a warmer, friendlier place when Special Olympics are in town,” he said.

ISU women’s soccer player Lindsey Lees, former men’s basketball player Paul Shirley, ISU Vice President of Student Affairs Thomas Hill and head women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly all made contributions to the event.

Shirley said it was something he’d never forget.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “It was nice to see people enjoy themselves as all the people there were doing.”

Shirley said that he got a chance to interact with some of the athletes after the event and it was an enjoyable experience.

“It was really an uplifting experience,” he said. “I enjoyed myself. There were so many happy faces and smiles which was great to see.”

Also announced at the opening ceremonies was the Outstanding Family of the Year for Special Olympics Iowa.

The award went to Bill and Karen Bergan of Ames.

Bill Bergan is a former ISU track coach and is still recognized as one of the top coaches ever in track and field in the United States.

The Bergans have been “almost” foster parents for Special Olympic athlete, Mark Kitchen for a number of years and continue to be key contributors to the Iowa Special Olympics.

Competition kicked off on Friday with aquatics, developmental events and track and field. The day ended with a dance at Hilton Coliseum for the athletes.

Competition ended on Saturday with the rest of the track and field events taking place in the morning before ending the Olympics with the closing ceremonies.

Overall, all those involved said the event was a success and that Special Olympics was to thank.

“It seems like a good program to me,” Shirley said. “Just watching all the happy people makes it worthwhile.”