OSHKOSH, Wis. – Nearly 800 basketball and swimming athletes representing 81 local programs from across the state converged on the campus of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Friday through Sunday, April 14-16, for the inaugural Special Olympics Wisconsin Spring Games. The Spring Games featured 3v3 Basketball, Basketball Skills, Team Basketball, and multiple Swimming events throughout the three-day slate of competition.
An Opening Ceremony at the Kolf Center welcomed all athletes, coaches, family, and fans Friday, emceed by Team Basketball athlete Mat Amschler (Rice Lake) and Youth Activation Committee member Gabby Rise (Brookfield). The tandem welcomed several special guests to the program, including UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt, area Knights of Columbus, and members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Wisconsin. The Lourdes Academy band pepped up the kickoff through lively musical accompaniment—a hit with everyone in attendance!
Complementing the Spring Games sports competitions were a series of health-focused activities, resulting in a whopping 606 free health screenings throughout the three-day slate. Performance Station—foundational education about fitness and strength—kicked off Friday night followed by four different Healthy Athletes disciplines Saturday. Special Smiles® provided by Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation offered free oral health screenings and education. HEAR Wisconsin’s Mobile Audiology Clinic (MAC) was on site, providing free hearing screenings as part of Healthy Hearing®. Professional fitness volunteers assessed athletes’ flexibility, strength, and balance and provide free fitness kits as part of FUNFitness®. And Opening Eyes® offered free vision evaluations for athletes potentially needing prescription glasses and competition lenses.
Longtime Opening Eyes® Clinical Director Dr. Kellye Knueppel was also honored during the Opening Ceremony as the 2023 recipient of the Golisano Global Health Award, the highest honor for health partners and individuals who fulfill the goals, values, and mission of Special Olympics’ global health program—all made possible by the Golisano Foundation.
More than 60 Athlete Leaders registered to attend the Athlete Leader Reunion Saturday evening at Spring Games, sharing a meal and playing a rousing game of OUR TEAM Jeopardy! The group of current and former trained Athlete Leaders shared stories and networked as leaders of the Special Olympics mission. And the overall knowledge of our Wisconsin sports teams was truly impressive!
Finally, a dance capped off Saturday night, with hundreds of athletes grooving to the tunes of Elite Music Service. Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures, it was a great evening to gather as athletes connected with both competitors and friends from all across the state.
A total of 275 day-of volunteers complemented the hundreds of games management staff, officials, coaches, and families who made the busy weekend one for the memory books. The event was sponsored by Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Wisconsin; Knights of Columbus; Kriete Truck Centers; Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association; Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation; Dunkin’; Jersey Mike’s; and OUR TEAM partners Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Admirals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Milwaukee Bucks.
With the completion of the Spring Games brings the summer sport season. Culminating at the 2023 Summer Games, statewide athletes in Athletics (Track & Field), Cornhole, Powerlifting, Soccer, and Tennis will converge on the campus of UW-Whitewater June 8-10.