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Area Special Olympics Chapter Planned

By Charlotte Muenzenberger
UW-RF News Bureau

NOV. 18, 2004--Planning for the newest Special Olympics chapter in western Wisconsin kicked off in November with a meeting of students, staff and community members held by AmeriCorps representative Renee Cutsforth at UW-River Falls.

In conjunction with the UW-River Falls Upward Bound program, Cutsforth hopes to help local volunteers recognize the need for Special Olympics in the St. Croix Valley. As part of her job, Cutsforth is required to complete 1,700 hours of work with Special Olympics, and establishing a Supporting Special Olympics (SSO) organization on campus is a primary goal.

Wisconsin Special Olympics (WSO) is composed of seven areas that manage sports training and competition, volunteers and fundraising at the local level. AmeriCorps assists the Special Olympics program by providing trained individuals, such as Cutsforth, to help nonprofits accomplish more and make more effective use of volunteersWSO is also supported by a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction grant.

Through this partnership of WSO, AmeriCorps, UW-RF Upward Bound and UW-River Falls students, Pierce County will join the with other counties in WSO's area three, which includes Ashland, Barron Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Pepin, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer, Trempealeau, Washburn counties.

"The reason we want to have this on our campus is that we see this as vital to the St. Croix Valley," said Jill Moe, director of the UW-RF Upward Bound program.

UW-River Falls students will fill office positions of the organization and form committees in order to divide the work among as many people as possible. The committees include outreach, family services, volunteer/recognition, communications, fundraising, record-keeping and athletics.

A community member will oversee the organization as agency manager. The SSO is still looking for a community volunteer for the position.

The SSO is a partnership between UW-River Falls students and the community. The SSO helps to fosters mutual respect and celebrate individual by providing the competition and training needed in order to allow students of diverse abilities to compete side-by-side.

After the establishment of the SSO is complete and the athletes recruited, training will take place for the required eight to 10 weeks prior to the first River Falls area event. Cutsforth says that the first event could be a track-and-field or swimming event and it will will teach athletes how the program works and will prepare them for the regional event in Eau Claire.

Each event will be divided into divisions, which are determined by a skills assessment completed prior to the event. Divisions will be created based on ability, age and gender.

The SSO will recruit athletes ages 8 to 21, says Cutsforth. While the focus will be on school and college-age students, athletes younger than age 8 won't be left out through the establishment of a Kinder-Athletes program.

"We hope that the Kinder-Athletes program will introduce the children to the school system and at the same time help them interact with children of their own age without cognitive disorders," says Cutsforth. A one-day training event in the spring, Kinder-Athletes will resemble the one planned for the older youth, but instead will only introduce simple activities.

The Special Olympics event and Kinder-Athletes will integrate SSO with River Falls High School students in order to create Special Olympics awareness in the school. SSO members will work closely with River Falls High School students who are required to help out with the program as part of a community service class required for graduation.

Cutsforth encourages anyone who is interested in volunteering to attend the second of three informational meetings, which will be held on campus the week of Nov. 29.

For more information on SSO or volunteering for River Falls Special Olympics contact Renee Cutsforth at 715/425-3847 or e-mail:


Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:18 Central Daylight Time

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