MUSCATINE, Iowa—It came down to the wire, but the Muscatine Special Olympics basketball teams beat the Muscatine Fire and Police Departments 49-31 in their annual game Feb. 18. A tradition for over a quarter century, the game provides some friendly competition while bringing the community together.
Muscatine Special Olympics Director Jason Miller recalled the game came about as a way to help basketball players prepare for playoff games. “It all started when we were looking for additional competition opportunities to help prepare our athletes for state competition,” he said. “Practices help get our athletes ready, but it’s always good to get some actual competition in before we head off to state.”
Now, the event has grown into an annual affair people from across the community turn out for. This year, eighteen athletes from four of the Muscatine Special Olympics’ teams faced off against six firefighters and three police officers. Five children of firefighters also came out to participate in the event. For the sixth year running, the legendary Tony Tone served as a guest referee. Matt Schweizer, Director of Hy-Vee Second Avenue, refereed for his first time this year, continuing the tradition of always having a Hy-Vee manager serve as an official.
As in year’s past, Muscatine Special Olympics basketball players loved the opportunity to play in their home community and to put their skills to the test against Muscatine’s first responders. “This is a fun, extra event we do, like the Vetter Holiday Classic we put on in December,” elaborated Miller. “Most of our competitions are out of town for districts and state, so this gives our community a chance to see them in live action.”
In turn, the community loves the opportunity to watch and support Muscatine’s Special Olympics athletes. “The community support in Muscatine is unbelievable, and I truly believe that in turn, our community is benefitting from Special Olympics,” stated Miller: “By partnering with our YMCA, we are teaching values such as character, perseverance, openness and trust, listening, and acceptance of others. The big lesson here in our community is learning to respect the fact that everyone matters.”
Though Muscatine Special Olympics will not have any more home basketball games, Miller invites everyone to come out and support Muscatine Special Olympics’ swimmers at the district swim meet, which will take place Feb. 29 in the Carver Pool at Muscatine High School. Out of town, the Muscatine Special Olympics basketball and powerlifting athletes will also compete in the Mid-Winter Tournament March 14.