Washington Evening Journal
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Special Olympians descend on Fairfield for basketball skills contest
FAIRFIELD — The Cambridge Recreation Center in Fairfield hosted Special Olympians from across Southeast Iowa Saturday, who came to town for a basketball skills competition.
The Olympians competed in events that tested their shooting, dribbling and passing skills. Officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Fairfield Police Department attended the event to pass out awards, while Jefferson County Sheriff Bart Richmond announced the names of the winners as they posed for a picture.
Janel Orgovanyi, coach of the Fairfield Special Olympics team called the Flaming Marshmallows, said Special Olympics is not just for kids, and that competitors range in age from “8 to 100.” She said Saturday’s skills competition went very well, and appreciated the accommodations the rec center made. In fact, the rec center gave all the Special Olympians a free pass to the facility so they can practice whenever they want.
Fairfield had not hosted a Special Olympics event for 10 years, even though it is centrally located in the Southeast Iowa Region. Part of that has to do with Special Olympics events being suspended for the last couple of years, and another part is that Fairfield did not have a large enough facility to host it until the Cambridge SportsPlex was built in 2016. Now that it has hosted an event, Orgovanyi said she hopes Fairfield will host events more regularly, and is even planning to host this basketball skills competition next year.
“Next year, we’re going to make it bigger and better with breakfast and more athletes,” Orgovanyi said. “Right now we have about 75 athletes.”
The area’s Special Olympians often go to Ottumwa to compete in track and bowling. Other cities such as Burlington and Fort Madison frequently host events, too.
Southeast Iowa Hot Shots is another Special Olympics team based in Fairfield. It is coached by Rhonda Robinson and Becky Stanford, and its two members are Robinson’s son Ross and Jinni Hanson. Ross and Jinni are both 29 years old, and have been in Special Olympics ever since they were 8. Even though they attended different schools, the two got to know each other through Special Olympics, and went to prom together, too. Ross went to graduate from Fairfield High School, while Jinni graduated from Harmony High School.
Rhonda Robinson said Special Olympics gives individuals with special needs an opportunity to socialize and something to look forward to. She said it was heartening to see so many members of the community at Saturday’s event. Fairfield High School students on the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams volunteered their time to help the competitors go from one challenge to another, and to keep score.
“We really appreciate them giving up their Saturday morning to be here,” Robinson said.
Sydney Dommer, director of East Regional Field Services for Special Olympics Iowa, said events like the one held Saturday provide Special Olympians a chance to show off their skills and build friendships.
“I think it makes them feel good to be recognized, because this is a community for them,” Dommer said.
Dommer and Robinson mentioned that the competitions Special Olympians attend are more than just games. At the state events, the games double as a chance for the Olympians to meet with a medical professional, get their hearing or teeth checked, and receive other check-ups.
Dommer said Saturday’s event went great and that she loved having it in Fairfield, which she said is a welcoming community.
“I would love to come back,” Dommer said.