Iowa Unified Pair Helps Design 2022 USA Games Logo and Artwork
Some of Iowa's very own, Coby Fineran and Carter Irlmeier of IKM-Manning, received the opportunity to attend a 3-day workshop to help design the 2022 USA Games logo and brand identity. The Unified Pair was among a short, hand-picked, list of individuals that got an all expenses paid trip to Orlando, Florida, to collaborate on what would eventually become the logo and branding for the next USA Games.

Keep an eye out for Coby and Carter's artwork as you see the logo and artwork for the 2022 USA Games!
17th Capitol Hill Day
Special Olympics athletes and advocates from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 12 for Special Olympics’ 17th “Capitol Hill Day.” There was over 250 delegates representing 44 states and the District of Columbia present.

Special Olympics athletes held over 300 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate. The meetings served to educate lawmakers about the need to end health care and education disparities and discrimination against roughly 1% of the US population with intellectual disabilities. The goals of Capitol Hill Day were to convey the high impact of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues.

Special Olympics Iowa was represented by athlete leader Adam Rininger. While in Washington, D.C. Rininger had meetings with Iowa Representatives Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer, Steve King and Dave Loebsack. He also met with Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. Rininger spoke about his experiences with Special Olympics and advocated for himself and the 14,000 Iowa athletes.   

Inclusion Day at the Iowa State Capitol is March 4, so mark your calendars and be sure to come be apart of the movement!
6 Will Represent Iowa at the 2019 Summer World Games
We are excited to be sending 6 individuals to the United Arab Emirates for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, Global Youth Leadership Summit and the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg®. Two athletes will be competing in Athletics, one Unified pair will be attending the Global Youth Summit, one Law Enforcement Officer will take part in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg® and Special Olympics Iowa staff member, Tanner Nissen will be a Subject Matter Expert with the SO Connect Team. Tanner will be the Subject Matter Expert for the Handball competition.

World Game Athletes
Brandon Baier
Hometown: Atlantic, Iowa
How long have you been involved in Special Olympics? 18 years
How did you get involved in Special Olympics?
A teacher asked me and I said yes.
What will you be competing in at the World Games?
100 Meter dash; shot put; 4x100 Meter Relay
What are you most looking forward to?
making new friends
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I will have a great time with my teammates at World Games and cheer them on.

Abbi Stastny
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
How long have you been involved in Special Olympics? 7 years
What made you want to get involved in Special Olympics?
I wanted to meet new people and to be active.
What will you be competing in at the World Games?
200 Meter Dash; Shot Put; 4x100 Meter Relay
What are you most looking forward to?
sight seeing and riding a camel
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I did not think I would come this far with Special Olympics.

Abbi and Brandon will leave March 5 for New Jersey where they will meet the rest of Special Olympics USA, before boarding their flight to the United Arab Emirates. Special Olympics USA will arrive at their host town on March 8. Heading to a host town is something that was started in 2003, so that athletes could have an opportunity to experience the rich traditions of the culture and people of the World Games hosting country. 

Divisioning and preliminary competitions will take place March 12 and 13, with the Opening Ceremony happening on March 14. Final competitions and official 2019 Summer World Games events will take place March 14 through 21, with the Closing Ceremony being on March 21.   

Global Youth Leadership Summit Attendees

Joy Daisy Rector
Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa
How long have you been involved with Special Olympics?
I started participating in Special Olympics when I was 4 years old. I started out doing Play Days. Then after I turned 8, I started competing. I have been a competitor in Equestrian, Bowling, Swimming and Track.
What made you want to get involved in Special Olympics?
My mom and dad put me in horseback riding lessons when I was in 2 nd grade and I loved it SO MUCH!! My instructor told us we could compete in Special Olympics as Equestrians and I really wanted to do that.
Can you explain what you will be doing while you attend the Global Youth Leadership Summit?
We will be going to some workshops to learn about inclusion for our school, and showing the other students our project plan, and sharing ideas on how to make sure everybody is accepted for who they are.
What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to making new friends and traveling without my parents! My mom showed me on a globe that Abu Dhabi is almost halfway around the world from Iowa and that made me feel brave.
What do you hope to take away from your experience at the Global Youth Leadership Summit?
I hope to take away ideas for helping others understand that disabilities are not a bad thing and that EVERYONE needs friends. I want to figure out how to help people see the stuff a person CAN do instead of what they can’t do.

Evie Sly
Hometown: Des Moines Iowa
How long have you been involved with Special Olympics?
I have been involved with the Special Olympics since I was little because of my friend Shea Reeves.
What made you want to get involved in Special Olympics?
I grew up with a friend who was in the Special Olympics so I have been around it since I was little. I got involved because he was my friend and I wanted to support him and his passions. I want to be more involved because it makes me feel so happy to watch others participate in something they are passionate about and to feel proud of themselves.
Can you explain what you will be doing while you attend the Global Youth Leadership Summit?
We will be engaging with pairs from across the world and create a plan to bring inclusion into our communities. We will also share our project plans on starting more unified champion teams in our school systems.
What are you most looking forward to?
I am so excited to talk to people who have the same passion for inclusivity. I am also excited to be in a new country with my friend Joy and experience new cultures and traditions.
What do you hope to take away from your experience at the Global Youth Leadership Summit?
-I hope to learn how to get lots of people involved in a unified sports team.
-I hope to influence others and be a resource to them if they need help when activating their plan in their own home countries.
-I hope to make new connections and friendships and learn from others.
- I hope that when Joy and I return home we will be more educated and confident about speaking about our action plan and getting more involved.
Unified Pair, Joy and Evie, will be 1 of just 6 pairs representing Special Olympics North America at the 2019 Global Youth Leadership Summit. Youth leaders with and without intellectual disability will convene in Abu Dhabi, to represent the global Special Olympics movement and launch its next 50 years as a unified generation. There will be 52 Unified Pairs representing 42 delegations present.

Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg®
Team Member

Mike Hamm
Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa
How long have you been involved in the Special Olympics Torch Run? 25 years
What Special Olympics events are you involved in?
Torch Runs, Polar Plunges, Tip a Cops, medaling athletes at Summer Games and attending the International Torch Run conference
When it comes to participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg®, what are you most looking forward to?
Being with my Special Olympics athlete, roommate from New Zealand and seeing all of the athletes and volunteers from all over the world.
What made you want to get involved with Special Olympics Torch Run?
My wife was a Special Education teacher, so we were around intellectually disabled and physically disabled children. Jeanette came to Sioux City, all those years ago, looking for officers to do a Torch Run from Sioux City to Council Bluffs the week of the Summer Games. It just made sense to do it. Getting to know the athletes, their families, and the staff at Special Olympics Iowa makes it easy to keep going.
Mike Hamm, retired Sgt from Sioux City Police Department, along with other Law Enforcement Officers and Special Olympics athletes from across the globe, will come together to create the Final Leg Team. This team will serve as the true Guardians of the Flame™ and promote the message of inclusion, acceptance and ability throughout the United Arab Emirates. This team will stop in 10 different towns throughout the 10 days leading up to the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.

Muscatine Athletes Compete in
Try Melon Triathlon
This year marked the first time in 15 years that a Special Olympics team has competed in the Try Melon Triathlon. The Triathlon took place January 29, 2019, at the Muscatine Community YMCA. Those who competed and took home first in the Men's Team division were Corey Leonhard, Travis Moss and Nathan Paulsen.

The Try Melon Triathlon is an indoor triathlon that has been going on for 24 years. It is a race combining 800 meters of swimming, 5 miles of biking (on a stationary bike on resistance level 10) and 2.5 miles of running (34 laps on the YMCA track). 

Congratulations to Corey, Travis and Nathan! 
14 Days & Counting Until
Mid-Winter Tournament
Registration forms are in, practices are in full-swing and winter is coming to an end, that can only mean one thing...Mid-Winter Tournament IS ALMOST HERE! We are excited to share that the final preparation is underway and Iowa City is ready to welcome the 1,000+ athletes that will visit their city for the Mid-Winter Tournament.

Date : March 15-16, 2019
Location : Iowa City
University of Iowa Field House - Basketball Tournament & Gymnastics
Iowa City High School: Basketball Skills
Iowa City West High School: Cheerleading & Dance
Pro-Fit Gym: Powerlifting
Marriott Hotel: Opening Ceremonies, Banquet & Dance

Healthy Athletes Screenings:
Special Smiles: 1:00 - 6:00pm (Marriott Hotel)
Health Promotions: 4:00 - 8:00pm (Marriott Hotel)
Healthy Hearing: 9:00am - 1:00pm (Iowa City West High School)

Are you interested in volunteering at Mid-Winter Tournament? SIGN UP HERE

Need more information? Check out the website
Sponsor Spotlight: Sammons Financial Group
Sammons Financial Group has been a statewide partner since 2010 and a supporter of Special Olympics for much longer. They are great supporters of the Bocce competition at Summer Games, Young Athletes Play Days and State Softball.

Financial support is only a fraction of the support Sammons Financial Group gives to Special Olympics Iowa and our athletes. Employees deeply care about every Special Olympics athlete, which is on full display every time their employees are seen coaching, volunteering at statewide competitions or participating in fundraising events.

"We always say that we get more out of these events than maybe even the participants. We just really enjoy it."
- Neil Berns, Vice President of Corporate Development

Thank you Sammons Financial Group for your unwavering support of Special Olympics Iowa.
Fundraising Central

The Torch Run Supporter T-Shirts
are Now on Sale!

Each year, law enforcement officers throughout the state sell supporter t-shirts to raise money for Special Olympics Iowa and show their support for the Torch Run. Buy your t-shirt today!

Upcoming Polar Plunge® Dates
Polar Plunge® participants need to raise a minimum of $75. If jumping into freezing cold water isn't your thing, you can still participate by raising $75 as a "chicken." Immediately following the ceremonial plunge there is a post-party for all participants.

Date : Saturday, March 23
Location : Lake Manawa

Date : Saturday, March 30
Location : West Overlook Beach, Coralville Lake

Date : Saturday, March 30
Location : Pleasant Creek - Palo

Date : Saturday, April 13
Location : George Wyth Beach

April 11 will be the Texas Roadhouse Tip a Cop® fundraiser, mark your calendars!
Applications for Athlete Leadership
Conference are Available
The Athlete Leadership Conference is a two-day event that gives athletes the opportunity to participate in programming, form opinions, join in group discussion and learn techniques for gathering input regarding Special Olympics.  The ultimate goal of the conference is to give our athletes the tools needed to have a voice in our programs and develop the skills needed to serve on boards or committees.

There are no costs for the Athlete Leadership Conference. Special Olympics Iowa will provide hotel accommodations and meals for participants and coaches who require overnight accommodations.

Date: Friday and Saturday, November 8 and 9
Location: Baymont Inn & Suites Des Moines Airport (6221 Willow Creek Ave. Des Moines)

Karaoke Night at Jeannie's Bottle
Jeannie's Bottle

 Athletes are invited to Jeannie's Bottle for a karaoke night on Tuesday, March 12 from 4-7 p.m.

Date: Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Location: 3839 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines, Iowa
Coaches Corner
Coaches' Guide Available Online!
The 2018-2019 SOIA Coaches' Guide is now available on our website !

Becoming a coach and coaching re-certification is now easier than ever!
Check out our new "Become a Coach" page:
You can now become certified/re-certified ONLINE

Registration Forms Available Online
Registration forms for Challenge Days and Young Athlete Play Days are now available online! Go to the Participation Forms page on our website to view registration forms for all SOIA events.

Share Your Story!
Do you know someone with a great story to share? We're always looking to share our athletes' stories in the newsletter. Please email Karen Whitman at with your story ideas.
Event Calendar

Visit our online calendar for event updates!

2- Des Moines Challenge Day
3- Northeast Area Spring Games
4- Inclusion Day at the Hill
5- NAIA National Basketball Special Olympics Clinic - Sioux City
9- Tyr Pro Swim Series Clinic
15 - 16 State Mid-Winter Tournament
21- Dubuque Young Athletes Play Day
21- North Area Regional Swimming
23- Council Bluffs Polar Plunge®
26- West Des Moines Young Athletes Play Day
30- Cedar Falls Challenge Day
30- East Central Area Swimming
30- Iowa City Polar Plunge®
30- Cedar Rapids Polar Plunge®

4- Cedar Rapids Young Athletes Play Day
5- Ames Greek Plunge
6- East Central Area Spring Games
9- Southwest Area Spring Games (Track & Field)
11- North Area Spring Games
13- Central Area Spring Games
13- Central Area Swimming
13- East Area Spring Games
13- Northwest Area Spring Games
13- South Central Area Spring Games
13- Southeast Area Track and Field
13- Cedar Falls/Waterloo Polar Plunge®
16- West Central Area Spring Games
16- West Central Area Swimming
18- North Central Spring Games
18- Ankeny Young Athletes Play Day
23- Des Moines Young Athlete Play Day
23- Youth Games
26- River Hills Young Athletes Pay Day
26- Drake Relays: Special Olympics 4x100 Relay Heat

1 & 2- Crappie Tournament
2- Drake Unified Sports Day
23-25 State Summer Games