MUSCATINE, Iowa—After learning the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors intended to cut the $30,000 in annual funding it provides, Special Olympics Muscatine and supporters appeared at the March 2 board meeting. Special Olympics Muscatine Director Jason Miller, Special Olympics Muscatine athlete Adam Rininger, his mother Tracy, and Muscatine Community Y Executive Director Bret Olson all advocated for the value of the program and urged the Board to reconsider cutting funds.
Miller emphasized that Special Olympics Muscatine provides an opportunity for residents with intellectual disabilities unmatched by other organizations. “Their mental and physical wellness is Special Olympics, and there is no other program like this in our community,” he stressed.
Miller also contended that while Special Olympics costs the county money upfront, it saves them money in many areas: “If our athletes are healthier, they’re not tapping into public health resources. If our athletes are employed, they’re contributing to society and their employers. If our athletes teach tolerance and understanding, then violence and discrimination go down,” he outlined.
After Miller detailed the benefits of Special Olympics, local athlete Rininger and his mother attested to the positive impact the organization has had on his life. Rininger started Special Olympics at the age of 12, when he had few friends. After taking time to acclimate to softball skills, basketball skills, and track and field, Rininger truly found his niche. Over the past eight years, he has made many friends, participates in six different sports, and hopes to explore winter sports this year. Along with growing as an athlete, Rininger participates in the Global Messenger program, which has taught him public speaking skills. An accomplished speaker, Rininger has spoken at the opening ceremonies of the Iowa State Summer Games twice and has even visited Washington D.C. to talk to Iowa’s members of Congress about the value of Special Olympics.
While speaking to the Board, Rininger emphasized what Special Olympics means for him and how it would hurt him if it went unfunded. “I like to play all of these sports because I like to be with my friends,” he said. “If I couldn’t do Special Olympics anymore, it would make me sad.”
Before Special Olympics Muscatine concluded their presentation, Olson emphasized its uniqueness. Currently, the Muscatine Community Y oversees Special Olympics Muscatine, something no other YMCA does across the country. By partnering, the Muscatine Community Y removes overhead expenses for Special Olympics and allots them part of the $210,000 that they fundraise each year. This advantageous situation came about at the request of the county in 2003 when they wished to stop running the program and offered the Muscatine Community Y $35,000 annually to oversee it. Through this three-way collaboration, Special Olympics Muscatine has grown significantly over the years, providing athletes many more opportunities than ever before.
If the Board no longer provides funding, Olson fears that even redoubled fundraising efforts by the Muscatine Community Y and Special Olympics will not provide enough. “I’m afraid that if funding goes away, those opportunities become limited,” he stated.
By the time Special Olympics Muscatine finished speaking, the Board showed signs of working to continue their funding. Supervisor Doug Holliday expressed interest in making a motion to amend the budget when possible, and Supervisor Jeff Sorensen appeared willing to allow it.