Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
March 7, 1997

Iowa Special Olympics wants your help

by Linda Charles
A few hours' effort brings a multitude of rewards to those who volunteer for the Iowa Special Olympics Summer Games, say those who have given their time to the international program.

Volunteers are needed again this year for the May 22-24 games, to be held at Iowa State through 2005. This year, the '50s theme, "Let the Good Times Roll," will be reflected at the Olympic Festival and opening ceremonies.

During the 13 years Iowa State has hosted the Special Olympics, thousands of university employees have given their time to make the games a success. People like Vern Hawkins, enrollment services adviser in admissions, volunteer year after year.

Five years ago, Hawkins' son had qualified for the Boys State Track Meet, which was to be held the same day as the Special Olympics.

"I asked him how he felt about my missing the state meet to fulfill my obligation to the Special Olympics," Hawkins said. "Without hesitation, he said, 'Dad, you've got to do the Special Olympics. You always do the Special Olympics.'"

So Hawkins worked at the Special Olympics, and his son won his race.

"I feel like my son and I both won that day," Hawkins said. "It's a day among many at the Special Olympics that I will always treasure."

Founded in 1968, the Iowa Special Olympics' provides sports training and athletic competition to mentally handicapped athletes of all ages. Volunteers provide a variety of services, such as fielding softballs, congratulating participants and escorting them to award areas.

Volunteers also are needed at the Olympics Festival, which offers entertainment, sports clinics and craft making.

More than 3,500 athletes will participate in this year's three-day event and more than 1,200 volunteers will be needed, said Lana Voga, customer relations specialist with printing services and Special Olympics university games chair.

"As a volunteer, you are an integral part of the success of these games and your efforts truly are appreciated by each and every participant, as well as their families and coaches," she said.

Hawkins felt that appreciation one year when he was working at the softball throw. A particularly shy competitor was reluctant to enter the throwing ring despite much coaxing from the volunteers.

Finally, Hawkins put his arm around the competitor's shoulder and told him he could throw the ball anywhere he wanted into the field.

"For the first time that day, he looked up, first at the field and then at me," Hawkins said. "'That whole field?' he asked. 'That whole field,' I assured him.

"His subsequent throw left everyone speechless, and even though he was proud of his accomplishment, I must confess -- with more than a little embarrassment -- that I couldn't have been more proud if I had won an athletic competition."

Volunteers need no special training and will receive instructions in their volunteer confirmation letter, Voga said. There are more than 20 types of positions to choose from and volunteers may work either a half or full day.

Volunteer applications are available from Anita Dreischmeier, Ames Convention & Visitors Bureau, 213 S. Duff Ave., 232- 4032.

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