Muscatine Special Olympics (MSO) knows they can never start getting young athletes interested too soon. At their annual Play Day on November 7th at the Muscatine Community Y, the MSO welcomed students in preschool and elementary school and introduced them to all the opportunities the team has to offer.
Statewide, Special Olympics teams began holding Play Days in the early 2000s. “The Play day is just a fun sports day for the kids,” stated Jason Miller, MSO Director. “We set up eleven stations that mimic the Special Olympics sports we do so they can preview what they can do when they turn eight and can fully participate.” Local volunteers set up a variety of equipment provided by the Iowa Special Olympics office to provide an engaging early look at sports to many youth.
Each year, MSO invites schools throughout the region to bring their special education and inclusive classes to try different activities. Through games such as ramp bowling, tee-ball, ribbon dancing, and soccer, forty children from Muscatine and Louisa-Muscatine, of all abilities, got to check out what the MSO has to offer. Since the MSO hosts unified events, where community members pair with MSO athletes, Miller loved that many kids gained exposure to Special Olympics.
Overall, everyone who attended the Play Day enjoyed themselves. For the kids, Miller saw them have fun, “getting out of the classroom and into a different setting and having a day of sports fun.” In particular, he thought they enjoyed ribbon dancing and ramp bowling the most.
For the eighty volunteers and parent chaperones, bonding with the kids proved fun. Hannah Aguilar, who came with her daughter Maelee shared, “I am so grateful that they allowed me to be with her. There’s so much going on! . . . My sister has done Special Olympics and it’s a great program. . .. They have something for everyone.”
Finally, for organizers like Miller, “seeing the kids every year and the volunteers and the kids have a day to have fun,” makes the event all worth it.
After their morning of fun, each student who participated in the Play Day received a miniature gold medal that looks just like the ones Special Olympics athletes earn. Each child also got a sack lunch to fill them back up after some high energy fun.
Each year, Miller hopes that the Play Day helps more people see the benefits of Special Olympics and helps get more athletes involved in local programs. If you would like more information about registering an athlete eight or older, Miller encourages you to call him at the Muscatine Community Y at (563) 263-9996 or visit their website https://muscatine.recliquecore.com/specialolympics/.