Special Olympics at BHS

Bettendorf High School is very well known for its successful athletic programs, particularly in football; however, there is another program that
many students are unaware of: the Special Olympics.

Eight students from the special education program at Bettendorf High School participate in various Olympic events year-round, under the advisement of special education teacher Mrs. Hartwig and with the help of many volunteers.

Mrs. Hartwig has been involved with Special Olympics for about 18 years. When she began teaching at a previous school district, the students there had already been participating in the Special Olympics.

"I quickly got caught up in the excitement of this competition right along with them," she said. "I couldnít let them down, so I trained to become their ëcoachí in all of their different events."

The Special Olympics competitors attend several events with Mrs. Hartwig each year. They begin with bowling and basketball in the fall. During Winter, they continue to participate in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and/or downhill skiing in January at Sundown in Dubuque. In February, students compete in a district basketball tournament, and then a state tournament in March. Competitions for swimming and volleyball are also held in March. Track and Field districts are held in April, along with training for cycling and soccer. The year is wrapped up with the state summer games held in Ames at the end of May.

In order for the events to be accomplished, many things are needed, including transportation, volunteers, and monetary support. Student athletes, such as Michael Wisong, Todd Bullock, Amber Deere, Jeff Reed, and Lisa Takemoto, earn money by delivering the Leader paper route.

The Bettendorf Boosters Club has just this year established the Special Olympics as a school sport, along with football, basketball, and other sports. Special Olympics athletes have received funding for their program, and jackets with their names on them. Bettendorf Community Schools is also
very supportive of the program, allowing the Olympic athletes, Mrs.
Hartwig, and the volunteers to travel to events via Bettendorf vans, so that they may travel on their own schedule. Many local businesses donate food and money to help the program fulfill the
needs of all students.

"Attending different events helps to broaden their interests and encourages them to try a sport that they may not have ever tried before. They make new friends by attending Special Olympic events and they look forward to seeing those new friends at the next event," Mrs. Hartwig explained. "Students learn to enjoy fun events that they can benefit from even after graduation. Participating in Special Olympics is a highlight of their lives.They fel so good about themselves when they compete he event they are participating in. The happiness they feel is openly dsplayed when the medals are placed around their necks," Mrs. Hartwig said.

After proudly showing his two medals for snowshoeing, Michael Wisong
said, "Special Olympics are cool. I have fun."

Although these students have disabilities, it is obvious that they are
making significant achievements, and the results have life-long benefits.

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