Saturday, April 11, Graceland University hosted the South Central Iowa Special Olympics spring games for the fifth year in a row. Over 200 athletes came to compete in aquatics, running, jumping and throwing. Graceland also had a large presence at the event with over 200 volunteers from the football team, men and women’s basketball teams, men and women’s volleyball teams, men’s soccer team, wrestling, golf, cheer, Gadets, and the athletic training program, which included many members of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
One volunteer, Jesse Godfrey from the Graceland Football team had this to say about the events, “In my opinion this event is one of the most important at Graceland. This has been my third year and all three years I have been an announcer (two years on the field and this year in the box), and it has been a humbling experience for me. These athletes are amazing, and still remember me every time they see me. Last year they took a picture of Anthony Abreu, an athlete named Brenda and myself and put it into the 2015 GU calendar, and everyone I show it to realizes what kind of community we have here at GU. This event is a way for us to give back to the community and the state by volunteering our time, by not only hosting these athletes but getting a chance to get to know them. I love this event and look forward to it every year when it comes around.”
Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) is a nonprofit organization that works with approximately 12,000 athletes, children and adults alike, with intellectual disabilities from all 99 counties of the state. The program provides sports training and competition in 23 Olympic-type sports and put on more than 80 regional competitions and eight statewide championships each year. Their goal is that through training and competitions, children and adults with intellectual disabilities are provided an opportunity to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and share gifts, skills and friendship with family, other athletes and the community.
It seems clear that this organization not only has a positive impact on the athletes that participate in the sporting events, but it also has an impact, perhaps an even bigger one, on the volunteers who get the pleasure of working with these dedicated and inspiring athletes. That is definitely the case at Graceland.
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