Diocesan sponsored clinic nurtures basketball skills of Special Olympic
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
March 13, 2008
The sound of basketballs bouncing on the court echoed through the Tyson
Events Center the morning of March 11. Rachel Halsted, a Special Olympics Iowa
athlete, passed the basketball back and forth with an NAIA basketball player
during the Special Olympics Iowa Basketball Clinic.
Halsted is an eighth grader at West Middle School in Sioux City. Although she
is in a wheelchair, she was able to pass and shoot the ball during the event.
Her favorite part was catching the ball.
"I like basketball games," she said.
Throughout the morning, Halsted said she made new friends with the college
The Diocese of Sioux City and Briar Cliff University sponsored the Special
Olympics Iowa Basketball Clinic once again this year in Sioux City.
The college women's teams participating in the 16th Annual Division II
Women's Basketball Championship kicked off the tournament by helping with the
clinic and interacting with the Special Olympics athletes.
This is the ninth year that Special Olympics Iowa has participated in the
clinic. There were more than 130 Special Olympics athletes from the Siouxland
area and NAIA participants including hundreds of players and coaches.
Father Dennis Meinen, a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City, was on hand to
watch the athletes interact and play basketball together.
"In Matthew's Gospel, after the beatitudes, Jesus tells us that we are
to be a light to the world," said the priest. "I think that is
appropriate for events such as this because the diocese is supposed to be a
light to the world, the Special Olympics athletes. As a result we are always
surprised because they are a light to us in turn. They show us a way to be
energized and not give up."
He pointed out that when he attends he always leaves inspired. He hopes that
the Special Olympics athletes will leave an imprint on the college athletes and
During the clinic, the special athletes participated in shooting, passing and
dribbling stations as well as a scrimmage against the college athletes at the
end of each session.
"It is a chance for them to work with collegiate athletes. This is
something they wouldn't get to do on a regular basis," said Joe Fernau,
director of training and outreach for Special Olympics Iowa. "It is a
chance for them to come out and work with the college athletes, have fun and
have a new experience."
He added that this is a unique event for the college athletes because they
get to experience people with disabilities in a setting other than in the
This event is a highlight of the tournament not only for the Special Olympics
athletes but also for the NAIA players and coaches. Some of the college athletes
have participated in the past but for some this was their first experience.
Miranda Boekhout, a senior at Northwestern College in Orange City, said this
was the third year she has participated. As a special education major, this was
a familiar setting for her. She has previously helped with Special Olympics
bowling, track and basketball.
"It brings a whole new dimension to the national tournament," she
said. "It takes away some of the pressure and you know you get to have fun.
It is a good way for us to give back to the community."
Since this was the third time she has been at the tournament, she remembers
many of the faces and they remember her.
"It is amazing how they remember you and remember different things from
coming to your games," said Boekhout.
The Special Olympics athletes are given a pass to go back to the Tyson Events
Center during the tournament for a game.