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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 29, 2006

Can't volunteer? Cheer!

by Erin Rosacker

Looking for an uplifting lunch break in July? Head out to the Special Olympics National Games, grab a bite from a nearby food vendor and cheer on the athlete, state or sport of choice. The price is right with free admission and a complimentary shuttle ride.

Attendees at the State 4-H Youth Conference
assemble pans of lasagna

Oodles of noodles
Helping ISU Dining assemble 425 pans of lasagna for a single meal at the Special Olympics National Games was one of several service projects the attendees at the State 4-H Youth Conference performed on campus June 28. Photo by Bob Elbert.

The sporting events are July 3-7 and the shuttle will run continuous loops among the venues from the Iowa State Center. Nearly every sport competes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with a few exceptions. Competition concludes early on July 4 (3 p.m.) in preparation for the holiday celebration and July 7 (2 p.m.) to ready for closing ceremonies. Hilton Coliseum will be home to "Festival Village," providing free entertainment, interactive activities and a variety of food stands from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 3-6.

Organizers rounded up more than 8,000 volunteers to assist with 12 sporting events at 16 different venues, in addition to Festival Village, Volunteer Village (Wallace-Wilson), Olympic Town (Memorial Union), Delegation Service Center (Memorial Union), information booths and all points between. Volunteers also will assist with the Healthy Athletes program July 2-7 and Sen. Tom Harkin's U.S. Congressional field hearing July 2.

"It's never too late to get involved, but what we're looking for now is the spectator component, to be that fan to cheer on the athletes," said J. Elaine Hieber, chairperson of the Games Organizing Committee. "We'd love for you to adopt a state, adopt a sport, and get out and really support."

Hieber estimates that more than 90 percent of the manpower involved in staging the Games consists of volunteers and at least 80 percent of the volunteers are first-timers to Special Olympics.

Preparations are in full swing as last-minute details -- like filling holes in the volunteer base, finalizing facility and equipment arrangements and putting the final touches on the opening ceremonies -- are getting crossed off the to-do list.

"Everything is really culminating now and we're trying to make sure we've got everything covered," Hieber said. "The many facets of it are all really falling into place."

It sounds much more impressive when you find out this is the first national games in Special Olympics history. The population of Ames will nearly double with the influx of Special Olympics athletes (3,000), coaches and officials (2,000), and families and spectators (40,000), not to mention volunteers that hail from around the country.

"We're pretty much creating the blueprint," Hieber said. "That's been part of the challenge. There's no pattern. There's nothing to truly say, 'here's how you do it.'"

Hieber, who spent 23 years in the athletics department, also is a volunteer. She has been an integral part of the three-year process of planning and organizing the event. What is the first thing she'll do when the games conclude?

"I'll probably take my shoes off and relax and take a vacation," she said.

Road, lot closures

Beach Road from Lincoln Way north to the south entrance to the General Services Building will be closed on Monday (July 3), Wednesday (5), Thursday (6) and Friday (7) from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4.

Parking lots affected all week include Lots 3, 7, 50A, 57, 59A, 60, 63 and 100 and all lots in the older section of the Richardson Court neighborhood. The lots will be used primarily for Special Olympics visitors, although 24-hour reserve permit holders in these lots will be allowed access. General staff and reserve permit holders will be asked to use other lots. Lot 3 will be closed at the Bissell Road end; use the Sheldon entrance.

Weathering the Games

Everyone is encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather and have sunscreen and umbrellas for protection against the elements. Any weather issues that impact the national games will be broadcast on KCCI-TV and KASI radio.