Interest sought in starting local Special Olympics team

Posted December 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

Katie Shaull, who works for The Arc of East Central Iowa, is reaching out to the communities of Jones County for a special project: To establish a Jones County Special Olympics team!

According it its website, The Arc of East Central Iowa focuses on service, advocacy, inclusion, family and community. The Arc serves eight counties in the surrounding area. Their goals are to “improve the quality of life for individuals and families affected by epilepsy, autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, ADHD, brain injuries, etc.” The Arc “believes in building better lives for people with disabilities and their families.”

Incorporating a Special Olympics team is one way to answer that service call. Shaull said the initial idea came her way in September after several community suggestions. Shaull will be acting as head coach of the team, facilitating events, organizing practices, fundraising, helping individuals sign up, etc.

“I’ll be doing the general organization,” she said.

There will be coaches assisting as well with one-on-one practices, going to the games and more.

In covering the Jones County area for her role with The Arc, Shaull said she helps coordinate services.

“As part of my job, I am working on creating a more positive program in the Jones County area for groups, activities, services in general for individuals with disabilities,” explained Shaull of her goal for Special Olympics right here in Jones County. “I’ve noticed there was a real hunger for additional opportunities for individuals in what they wanted to do and accomplish. I saw this as an opportunity to bring something positive to the Jones County Community.

“I have heard from many families, saying how wonderful it is to bring something else to the community that people can participate in,” Shaull added.

In getting the word out about the Jones County team, Shaull said she had a touching story she couldn’t help but share with others…

“One thing that really spoke to me was when a 14-year-old girl approached me saying she wants to volunteer. I think that act of kindness from this young lady to step up and want to help says something about the Jones County community.”

Things are just in the preliminary stages now. There are five athletes signed up for the program now, but Shaull said, “We hope to have increasing numbers as this program gets underway.”

Once the New Year rolls in, Shaull said the plan is to start practices and competitions then.

In educating people about what Special Olympics has to offer, Shaull offered: “This is an organization that strives to bring something to not only the individual’s life, but the community.”

Participants can be on the team at no cost. Special Olympics teaches positive sportsmanship techniques, not only for the athletes, but the coaches as well.

“It’s a great team effort!” exclaimed Shaull.

Potential athletes do not have to try out to be on the Special Olympics team. All they have to do is fill out a form and have a physician sign a release saying they are capable of competing.

In funding the program, Shaull explained there is some money the state gives towards Special Olympics for start-up costs.

“The main things that are needed right now are donations and help with fundraising,” said Shaull. These funds would help the team sustain itself down the road. “We need donations to help provide the free opportunity to the individuals.”

Shaull said fundraising assistance could be in the form of local businesses putting donation jars near their front offices/cash registers so people can donate when they stop in. You can also help host a fundraising event.

With what this program could provide to individuals who take part in the Special Olympics team, Shaull said the possibilities are endless.

“I would love to see this team thrive and have more people want to be on the team and succeed!”

For more information about the Jones County team, contact Katie Shaull The Arc of East Central Iowa at 319-365-0487 ext. 1001 or by e-mail at kshaull@arceci.org. To donate towards team efforts, or any other inquiries, contact Sharon Grams at 319-450-2014 or by e-mail at gramssharon@gmail.com.

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