Special Olympics takes the court with first responders

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Two years after their last game against the Muscatine Fire Department, Muscatine Special Olympics basketball took the court again for their annual exhibition game. This year, the Special Olympics athletes faced off against members of both the Muscatine Fire Department and the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office, leading to one of their most exciting games yet.

A tradition for over 20 years, Special Olympics athletes always look forward to their game with Muscatine’s first responders. Though the event went on hold for two years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone eagerly returned to it March 31.

This year, 14 Special Olympics athletes went head to head with 12 representatives from the Muscatine Fire Department and six from the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office, including the Muscatine County Sheriff himself, Quinn Riess. Though both teams gave it their all, Special Olympics prevailed, beating the first responders 48-36.

Along with wracking up an impressive score, Special Olympics athletes had several other game highlights. Shawn Ashbaugh scored his first in game basket while going up against the first responders. Eric St. Clair put up a lockdown defense, making it difficult for the first responders to make any baskets at all. Nick Mills brought some friendly yet stiff competition to Riess and came out the better for it by scoring 14 points. Reflecting back on the game, Nathan Paxston, a firefighter and member of the Association of Fire Fighters Local 608 who helped organize the game, observed, “their shooting last night was some of the best I’ve ever seen; they’ve really been working on their fundamentals.”

After a successful return to play, Tim Atkins, a volunteer with Muscatine Special Olympics who helped organize the game, felt grateful athletes could resume playing with first responders and have an opportunity to display their talents to the wider community. He shared: “This match-up is a great opportunity for us to have a lot of fun with our friends in the fire department, and it was great the sheriff department was able to join in this year. It also allows us to showcase the ability of our athletes to the community in an enjoyable family event.”

Paxston felt delighted that the firefighters and members of the Sheriff’s Office could come together to provide some good competition for some of Muscatine’s best and most dedicated athletes. “The basketball game is a great time and we always enjoy letting them show how much better than us they are,” he said.

The first Special Olympics basketball game against first responders since longtime Special Olympics Muscatine Director Jason Miller took a state level position, Muscatine Community Y Executive Director expressed his gratitude to Atkins for working to fill his shoes by ensuring that practices and special events continue while they search for a new director. “Tim Atkins is a wonderful volunteer for Special Olympics,” Olson stated: “He coordinated this basketball game and has been keeping our Special Olympics program afloat while we look to hire a full-time program director for Special Olympics Muscatine. We appreciate him and all the time he devotes to these awesome athletes!”

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