2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics being in Muscatine. This Monday evening, February 17th, was the annual Special Olympics vs Muscatine Fire and Police Departments basketball game. I was so thankful and humbled to serve as referee for this game for the sixth year in a row.
Did you know that there are over 130 athletes that participate in Special Olympics here in Muscatine? I have to tell you how fortunate our community is to have this program and the impact it’s had on those involved.
It starts at the top with stellar leadership by Executive Director Jason Miller. Sure, his beard may need a trim (kidding) but that man is someone I have the utmost respect for. Jason has dedicated himself to improving the lives of others. The athletes adore Jason and all the coaches who volunteer their time.
Creating opportunities for those with disabilities should happen more in Muscatine. I will also continue to be an advocate for educating our youth to be respectful of folks with disabilities.
Many of you know my brother in-law, Nolan Mills. You may also know that my wife, Kasey, works full-time with Nolan. She made the decision to forego utilizing her special education teaching degree to ensure her brother is well cared for.
But, here’s what’s troubling to me, when Kasey tells me that young people stare and make comments about Nolan. We need to do a better job of modeling good behavior, so that this trend doesn’t continue.
I was taught at an early age by my late aunt Maureen to not see differences in people. My cousin Michelle (Maureen’s daughter) has special needs, but she was never allowed to feel different. They did such a good job instilling confidence in her and were vocal about how we should treat her with the same respect as everyone else. So, for all of my 36 years, I’ve tried to do my best to champion the cause for those whose voices aren’t often heard.
I encourage you to support our local Special Olympics organization by attending their events, like the upcoming District Swim Meet taking place on Saturday, February 29th, starting at 10:00 am inside Muscatine High School. If you’re unable to attend, maybe consider volunteering? Or, even better, should you find yourself with an abundance of money, perhaps make a donation to Special Olympics! You could help ensure that program continues to be able to change the lives of everyone involved.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t close this by also recognizing my friend Dick Vetter, who was recently inducted into the Special Olympics of Iowa Hall of Fame. Dick was one of the original athletes that helped launch Special Olympics in Muscatine back in 1970!
I’ve told Jason Miller that he can pencil me in as referee for as long as the basketball game continues. I’m so thankful to all of our Special Olympic athletes for how well they represent Muscatine on the local, regional, state, national, and yes, even international level. I am even more thankful that the majority of the athletes are my friends. Congratulations to Special Olympics of Muscatine and here’s to 50 more years!