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March 10, 2006

Special Olympics National Games

Volunteer pair spreads out the work, shares the fun

by Samantha Beres

When Deb Power was asked to volunteer as a golf commissioner for the Special Olympics National Games, she decided she wanted a co-commissioner. For the senior lecturer in health and human performance, there was no lag in recruiting one. Her husband Mark Power, University professor in the finance department, fit the bill.

Mark and Deb Power

Faculty members and spouses Mark and Deb Power will offer their time and expertise as commissioners at a golf venue during the Special Olympics National Games in Ames this July. An estimated 8,000 volunteers are needed to fill sports and non-sports positions during the run of the Games (see story below). Photo by Bob Elbert.

Golf is one of 12 sports at the Games, which will draw 3,000 athletes to compete this summer from July 1 to 8. Of the 8,000 volunteers who will be recruited, only a handful are sports commissioners. Each serves as an operations manager and oversees a whole sporting event. They put in a lot of hours. And they need a high level of knowledge and experience in that particular sport.

The Powers don't just play golf well, or know a lot about it. They live it. The two were married on the 16th hole at Veenker Golf Course. They've been golfing for more than 20 years and often compete in tournaments -- Deb is a multiple winner of the Ames Golf and Country Club Women's Championship.

As part of her day job, Deb oversees interns, some of whom have chosen to intern with the National Games office. She and Mark will work with P.J. Boatwright golf interns, students who want to pursue careers in golf administration, at the Games.

"They lend instant credibility to the sport," said games chairperson Elaine Hieber who recruited the Powers. "And they made the commitment to volunteer as a family," she added.

That includes Jenna, 12, and Connor, 9, also golfers. The Powers often can be found out at Ames Golf and Country Club golfing as a family -- that is, when they aren't at a kid-related activity or competing in tournaments.

When Mark and Deb were co-commissioners for the Special Olympics Golf National Invitational Tournament (NIT) last fall, Jenna and Connor helped with the putting contest and acted as escorts.

"They thoroughly enjoyed themselves," Deb said. "It was great exposure for them to interact with the athletes and families. It was a great experience for all of us."

"The nice thing for us is there will be a lot of people who participated in NIT who will participate in the National Games," Mark said. "Some of the same golfing athletes will return. That will be a lot of fun, too," he said.

Golfers who take part in the Special Olympics qualify to compete. They are self-sufficient and have a good understanding of the rules and the purpose of the game. But as Mark points out, for golfers there's something else.

"It's a game of integrity, and integrity is probably the most important thing. The integrity of the game is such that you have to earn the score," he said.

The Powers were impressed with the quality of the golf at the NIT. At individual tournaments at Ames' Coldwater Golf Links, the winners on both men's and women's sides broke 80 for 18 holes. Winners of the alternate shot scored 41.

"That's wonderful golf," Mark said.

While watching the athletes is certainly one of the highlights of the Special Olympics, there are other perks.

"I think my favorite part would be the interaction with everyone involved," Deb said. "There's a lot of work leading up to it. When we first started, it was hard to get your arms around everything that needs to be done. Having been through it, we're probably both comfortable with all of that."

The husband-wife team will oversee the golf events at Ames Golf and Country Club. There also will be golfing events at Coldwater. Former Cyclone women's golf coach Julie Manning is the commissioner there.

Volunteers needed

No sports knowledge necessary. There are both sports-related and non-sports related duties for volunteers. Families and children are welcome. Children under the age of 14 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Click here to register as a volunteer. Or call 4-3407.