View More

Bookmark and Share

Quilters share in the excitement of Special Olympics

July 21, 2010


Sheila Green, president of the Lincoln Quilters Guild, stands in front of a 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games quilt. This quilt will go into the permanent collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln.

Photo: Kathryn Spader, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The quilt drew the eye with its playful red sashing and yellow border as a crowd gathered to watch it being donated to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum on Tuesday.

The quilt’s red and yellow fabrics incorporated the colors of the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

The Lincoln Quilters Guild made a total of five quilts: three to be raffled, one to be displayed in the Nebraska Special Olympics office and one to be given to the IQSC.

The LQG provided funds to buy fabric for these quilts, the total cost being approximately $430.

The quilt blocks were sent to every state Special Olympics office, which distributed the blocks to athletes who decorated them. Each quilt was carefully laid out to best show off the color of each block.

Some blocks were inspirational. New Mexico chose to use the Special Olympics slogan, “Let me win, but if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Others were more whimsical, like Florida’s, which depicted an athlete skiing down a mountain slope.

Yet other states took a more literal approach. Illinois drew its route to Lincoln and the distance the delegation had to travel to come to the games, and Nebraska wrote the names of every athlete on its softball team.

No matter what a state chose to draw, the common theme for everyone was the sense of excitement and how happy the athletes were to be part of the Special Olympics and to be able to compete in the games.

While some athletes had quite a distance to travel, the LQG had quite a short time to put together each quilt.

“We wanted them ready to be bound by our quilt show [May 21-23],” said Sheila Green, president of the LQG and docent for the IQSC.

Quilters attending the show could sew on sections of the binding, making it possible for many more people to be part of the Special Olympics.

In the weeks preceding the games, the LQG looked for different businesses in which they could display the quilts in order to generate interest. This week, all the quilts are on display at the IQSC.

Chuck Cooper, president and CEO of Nebraska Special Olympics, presented the quilt to the IQSC.

“It’s a gorgeous remembrance of the games,” he said.

“It’s been a lot of work for a lot of people, and we’re happy to display the result,” said Maureen Ose, communications coordinator for the IQSC, as she received it.

The raffle for the remaining three quilts will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. at Special Olympics Town in downtown Lincoln. However, all the tickets were sold as of Tuesday evening. Green explained that was due to the raffle permit, which capped at $5,000. All proceeds will go to the Special Olympics.

The key element throughout the project was the enthusiasm about the Special Olympics and the dedication and energy of everyone who had a part in making the quilts, Green said.

“It was a pleasure to share their enthusiasm.”

Story: Kathryn Spader, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The quilt square designed by athletes from Illinois depicted the route from Illinois to Lincoln.

Photo: Kathryn Spader, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Florida’s quilt square took a whimsical approach.

Photo: Kathryn Spader, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The Special Olympics Athletes Oath is written on the block designed by athletes from New Mexico.

Photo: Kathryn Spader, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tags: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

The games are a family affair for the Wattersons

Nick Watterson

Missouri power lifter Nick Watterson receives another gold medal on Monday at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Photo and Story by: Corinne Burger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Go for the Gold” yelled 26 year old Missourian athlete Nick Watterson as he accepted his third gold medal in power lifting at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games on Monday.

Nick has been involved in Special Olympics for almost 10 years, participating in basketball, bowling, softball, swimming and his favorite, power lifting. After eight years of competing, Nick achieved his goal of gold this week declaring, “The hard work pays off.”

The Special Olympics have become a family affair for the Wattersons from Springfield, Mo. Nick’s father, David, is involved in the organization as Nick’s day-to-day power lifting coach and the youngest Watterson children, Noel and Michael, have competed in the Special Olympics Unified Sports program for softball, bowling and basketball.

In addition, Nick’s brother Jonathan is currently the coach for the Missouri basketball team at the USA National Games in Lincoln. Jonathan attributes his involvement as a coach to his brother, saying, “Nick is my personal motivational speaker. He’s a daily inspiration to me.”

Not only has the organization had an impact on the Wattersons individually, but their time spent working together also has had a huge impact on their relationships with each other. “The experience has really brought us so much closer as a family,” says Nick’s mother, Cindy Watterson.

The whole family feels blessed to be able to come together and experience the games and see the athletes compete, they said. Knowing how hard his own son works to be able to compete, David commends all the athletes at the USA National Games. “It’s total hard work and dedication. All these athletes should be honored for what they’ve done just to get here. Special Olympics opens up a whole new world to special kids with the same heart and aspirations of being a champion.”


Jonathan, Michael, and Noel Watterson cheer on their brother as their mother, Cindy, captures the moment on film.


Front: Noel Watterson, Cindy Watterson, coach Eddie Blaylock of St. Louis. Back: Jonathan Watterson, Nick Watterson, Michael Watterson and David Watterson.

Tags: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Volleyball competition helps twins learn and grow


Stephanie and Samantha Castleberry are never low on high-fives at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Photo and story by: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Special Olympians are special people, people like Samantha and Stephanie Castleberry.

The twins, 19, traveled from Fountain, S.C., to play volleyball at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. Both girls were born with Down syndrome.

Brian Maddux started coaching them in roller skating five years ago and has been their coach ever since. He describes the girls as close-knit, loving and friendly. Watching them play, you will know there is something extraordinary.

Playing off the Olympics’ motto, Maddux described the twins’ attitude: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me pop it over the net.”

The girls are part of a unified team, which includes Special Olympics athletes and other athletes. Maddux said that, during Tuesday’s game, one of the unified players had the opportunity to hit the ball over the net but instead set it up for Samantha. After Samantha smacked the ball over the net, he said, the smile on her face was priceless.

It is rare that a set of twins were born with Down syndrome, but in addition, both girls are fluent in sign language. Samantha and Stephanie’s parents are deaf. Maddox said the twins’ ability to understand the complex nature of sign language is nothing less than amazing.

On Tuesday, the girls’ grandmother, Dorothy Kriesel, and father, Dan Kriesel, surprised them by showing up to watch their game.

Participating in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games allows the twins to interact in a different competitive setting.

Maddox said, “Most of us live in this little box of our experience, and to be exposed to something outside of that — I believe we call that growth.”


Stephanie Castleberry dances with her coach, Brian Maddox, before the volleyball all star game.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Stephanie and Samantha stand with their coach and teacher Brian Maddox.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Samantha and Stephanie pictured with their grandmother, Dorothy Kriesel, and father, Dan Kriesel.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tags: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Athletes trade pins and make friends

July 20, 2010


Minnesota women’s basketball players are proud of the pins they collect from fellow athletes.
Photo: Brittany Guindon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Volunteer Pam Pedersen shows off the bracelet given to her by a Louisiana basketball athlete.
Photo: Brittany Guindon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Pins adorn many of the hats and GEICO ID lanyards of the athletes, coaches and volunteers participating in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. It remains a Special Olympics tradition to collect and trade pins between teams. Participants say it is a fun way to meet each other and make new friends.

Many of the Wisconsin athletes wear hats for their pins, while others use bags or the lanyards around their necks. No matter where the pins are attached, each athlete seems to have plenty.

The officials have 2010 Special Olympics event pins to trade with the athletes, and the teams have pins to represent their states. Each player on the Minnesota women’s basketball team, for example, had 19 pins to give out, and some players have already run out.

None of the volunteers started out with pins, yet several sport them. Volunteer Pam Pedersen said that many of the athletes stop to chat with her, so she’ll ask for a pin.

“I’m trying to catch them from coaches though. I feel bad getting them from athletes because I have nothing to trade them for,” Pedersen said.

To go with her pins, an athlete from Louisiana gave Pedersen a bracelet (photo above). The exchange of pins is one way athletes from all over the nation and volunteers from Nebraska are getting to know each other.

Story: Sierra Frauen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tags: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Special Olympics partners with KFRX to find a “Super Fan”


Street Team member Matt Harvey records a video of cheering fans during a soccer match.

Photo and story by Micah Rhodes, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Fans were in “full-support” mode during the first day of competition on the soccer field sidelines at Abbott Sports Complex. Crowds of parents, siblings, friends and other spectators waved yellow, orange and red pom-poms and flapped hand clappers in encouragement for the 295 athletes participating in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games’ soccer events.

“This is like the World Cup,” one Special Olympics athlete proclaimed after a soccer match. “But better,” he added with a beaming smile.

Matt Harvey and Holly Milburn, both University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, distributed boxes of pom-poms and noisemakers to anyone with a free hand and challenged the fans to be louder than the person seated next to them.

“Who is the biggest fan in the stands today?” Harvey yelled, his fingers gripping a video recorder. “Let’s hear your best cheering voices.”

Harvey and Milburn belong to the “Street Team,” a group created and put in motion by the USA National Games. Their main focus remains volunteer recruitment and education. The team helped with the volunteer recruitment in February, March and April by attending elementary and high school lunches and talking with students to better inform them about the games. As the push to enlist volunteers gradually slowed, the focus shifted more to educating local youth about Special Olympics and people with intellectual disabilities. The Street Team attended elementary school and youth events to talk to and interact with students.

Milburn said, “Basically, what we’ve done is encourage the city of Lincoln to volunteer, as well as work to instill the core values of Special Olympics in everyone.”

So why the pom-poms, hand clappers and video recorders?

A Lincoln radio station, 106.3 KFRX, is searching for “Super Fans” at different venues throughout the games. The Street Team, Harvey and Milburn included, is leading the hunt. They motivate the fans in the stands, using flip cameras to document cheers and screams—the crazier the better.

KFRX for almost two years stood as a proud partner to the Games, according to Sarah Leeth, vice president marketing and communications. However, the search for a super fan started only about two weeks ago.

“We’ve been talking and wanting to promote this idea for a long time, but it never really became a reality until recently,” Leeth said. “We are thrilled to have KFRX as a partner to help endorse the games. With their energy and enthusiasm, it is a perfect fit for us to have them get our ‘Be a Fan’ message out to the public.”

Leeth and the games work with Matt McKay of KFRX, and several live radio broadcasts are planned for the week. The station is also helping to promote the Youth Rally Closing Ceremony that will take place on Friday from 7-9 p.m.

At the end of the week, the Games and KFRX plan to only recognize a scant few as super fans. But anyone can be a super fan in the eyes and hearts of competing Special Olympics athletes.

“Someone who goes above and beyond to let the athletes know they are supported 100 percent, and then some,” Milburn said when asked to describe a super fan. “They [the athletes] feed from the crowd’s energy, so the fans are more important than they might think.”

Harvey said, “My idea of a super fan is the person who can add excitement to the games by cheering on the athletes. It is important that their cheering bring out the most sought after prize of the week—the athlete’s smile.”

“Whether that fan is dressed up for their state, wearing the colors of the Games or simply cheering for an athlete that needs some support, the super fan can be any number of people. If you get the athlete to smile, you win in my book. But adding a little flare to your cheering never hurts.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Facilities, friendly people help Lincoln win host-site bid

July 19, 2010


Photo by Sierra Frauen at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Article by Chelsey Criner at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Preparations for the 2010 Special Olympics National Games began in 2007. Many states put in bids to host the USA National Games; Lincoln, Neb., bested them all, edging out New York and Omaha, among other bidders.

In 2007, Charles Cooper, president and CEO of the USA National Games, asked both Omaha and Lincoln to bid for the games. After an initial review of the two cities, Omaha was seen as unsuitable because of the venues and the distance that needed to be traveled to each one. Lincoln became the sole Nebraska bid.

The next step was persuading the National Bid Committee to have the games in Lincoln.
The Nebraska Special Olympics presented Lincoln to the National Bid Committee. This bid included details about the facilities, how Lincoln would raise enough money to host the games, and whether they could form a Games Organization Committee to help support the games.

“The National Bid Committee visited Nebraska three times,” Cooper said. “They went around, looked at facilities, they met with the mayor, they met with the Chamber of Commerce.” Cooper said the committee wanted a clear look at the community make up and support for the games.

Robert Gobrecht, managing director of Special Olympics North America, said Lincoln was chosen because of the “quality of facilities in Lincoln, the proximity of the facilities to each other, the strong tradition of men and women’s sports already found in Nebraska, and the support of the government.”

“And people are darn nice in Nebraska.”

Tags: , ,

Bookmark and Share

« Newer Posts