April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month.  Here, at Special Olympics Idaho, volunteers serve as the backbone of our organization.  With a small professional staff of just six, we could not fulfill our mission without the dedicated volunteers who serve our program statewide!  Without volunteers like you, Special Olympics would not be the global movement it is today.  Thanks to you and more than 700,000 Special Olympics volunteers world-wide, we are able to continue to fulfill the Special Olympics mission to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  Volunteering for Special Olympics creates lifelong friendships, and rewards of immeasurable value.  But most importantly, it gives you the greatest opportunity of all–to embrace diversity, compassion and acceptance by your presence alone.

We appreciate your hard work, patience and dedication, and hope that you will continue your volunteer efforts through the countless opportunities Special Olympics Idaho has to offer on a local and state level.

I close with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Everybody can be great.  Because anybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve … you only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.”

Posted in Special Olympics Idaho, volunteering | 1 Comment

Three Idaho Athletes Will Compete in South Korea

Special Olympics Idaho is proud to announce that Brandon Staley, Andrea Mousseau, and Jerry Smith will represent Idaho and the Unites States at the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. All three athletes will compete as members of Team USA in the upcoming World Winter Games.

Andrea will compete in Alpine Skiing, Jerry will compete in Nordic Skiing, and Brandon will compete in Snowboarding. Congratulations and good luck!


Special Olympics Idaho Athletes and Global Messnegers Jack Hansen and Sara Mavencamp drew names from the pool of gold medalists.


From left to right: Laurie LaFollette, Sara Mavencamp, Jack Hansen, and Matt Caropino hold up a team USA banner after the athlete selection.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

They say a photo is worth a thousand words…

Trenna, a student from Idaho Falls, and 2nd year member of the Youth Activation Council for Project Unify Idaho, took these amazing photos at the State Floor Hockey Tournament on March 3rd. I think they do a beautiful job summing up Special Olympics and the wonderful athletes. Enjoy!




























Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Special Olympics Smiles and Hearing at State Winter Floor Hockey

On March 3rd, 2012 Special Olympics Idaho held the State Winter Floor Hockey games at the Boise State University Rec Center.  Along with Floor Hockey teams from across the state Healthy Athletes Special Smiles, and Healthy Hearing were also in attendance to screen Idaho’s athletes.

Special Smiles checking for cavities

AJ and Healthy Hearing Clinical Director Jenn Holst

Doctoral Candidates and professors from ISU’s Audiology program in both Pocatello and Meridian, made up the Healthy Hearing crew.  The students and professors were checking athletes’ ears for wax buildup and if their hearing had been impaired by any other factors.

Healthy Hearing impressed athlete AJ so much that she volunteered her time to make sure everybody got their ears checked.  She made sure to get all her teammates into the screening to not only make sure they could hear but to make new friends with the Healthy Hearing crew.

“The Healthy Hearing crew enjoys being involved with Special Olympics and provides an opportunity for people to have their hearing checked.  Some people with disabilities may not have access to some of these tests on their own.  It is also a great time for the students in ISU’s Audiology Doctorate program to volunteer and get some practical experience at the same time.”   ~ Jenn Holst Au.D Healthy Hearing State Clinical Director

Healthy Hearing screening

State Clinical  Director in Healthy Hearing Jenn Holst got to go through the screening as well.  AJ noticed that Jenn did not have a wristband saying she had been through the screening so she led Jenn to get screened.  As it turns out both Jenn and AJ had no problems with their ears whatsoever.

Special Smiles brought out a crew of Dentists, Hygienists, and friends to help screen athletes.  They had dolls that would help demonstrate proper brushing techniques, the crew checked for cavities, plaque buildup, and anything that may have caused a problem, and athletes received a free gift bag for at the end of the screening and a custom fit mouth guard for those who were participating in Floor Hockey.

“A lot of the kids don’t get to see a dentist, so we offer them dental screenings enter them in the system, teach them how to brush and floss, give them a gift bag and mouth guard.”
~ Amy Haugen RDH Special Smiles State Co-Clinical Director

Posted in Special Olympics Idaho | 1 Comment

Freezin’ for a Reason Gets a New Meaning

On February 18, community members around the Treasure Valley gathered to jump into freezing cold water to raise funds for Special Olympics Idaho in the annual Penguin Plunge event. More than 100 “plungers” jumped into a located in the Sportsman’s Warehouse parking lot in Meridian, ID. This is an event we look forward to all year and we are so grateful to all the plungers, volunteers, sponsors and donors! Below are some of my favorite photos from the Plunge, more can be found on our Flickr account. Enjoy!Image


“Power Plungers” jumped into the water every hour, on the hour, for 30 hours!  A HUGE thanks to Terisa Howell, Ada County Sheriffs Office, Donny Ankenmand, Walmart, Cory Mikaels, radio personality at KQFC, Lance Sellers Boise Fire Department and Mike Myers, Meridian Fire Department!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Healthy Hearing and Special Smiles coming to State Floor Hockey!

“Whatever you do, don’t get disappointed.” – Jack Hansen

Don’t let this dry dry winter get you down!  Come out to the State Floor Hockey March 3rd, where Healthy Athletes will be doing a screening at the Boise State Rec Center!
(1515 University Drive)

Healthy Hearing and Special Smiles will be screening athletes from 9:00am to 2:00pm.  For those who are competing in Floor Hockey Special Smiles wants to fit YOU with a mouth guard to protect those great smiles!

Did You Know? The ear continues to hear sounds, even while you sleep.

Not competing in Floor Hockey, but you’re an athlete?  Want to be healthy AND cheer on your teammates?  Come visit us, we’ll be happy to screen you as well, then stick around and root on your teammates!

Here are just a handful of reasons why you should come to this screening:

  1. It’s completely free
  2. Get tips on how to keep those pearly whites nice and clean
  3. Check those ears to make sure your hearing is at peak performance, just what you need to help improve your game.
  4. Cheer on Floor Hockey teams
  5. Go through both screenings for a great Healthy Athlete Giveaway
  6. Support Healthy Athletes and Special Olympics Idaho!
Not sure about parking at BSU?  We have the entire Lincoln Garage (all spots but those designated by a sign), the entrance is off of Belmont Street.  

Who Knew! No two people have the same fingerprints and the same is true for tongues and teeth.

Posted in Special Olympics Idaho | Leave a comment

ZUMBAthon Boise!


Today started out cold and dreary only to be brought to life by the spice and passion of Boise’s first Special Olympics Idaho ZUMBAthon!

But what is ZUMBA?
It’s an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™” –

Getting into the groove

This was a fundraiser for Health Athletes.  Our Healthy Athlete program helps our athletes stay fit by offering a variety of services from health screenings to nutrition information.  We partnered up with the amazing Inner de-va of Meridian.  Sylvia O. Champion brought out her wonderful crew of Divas to lead us in ZUMBA.

It was so exciting to see all the energy and passion in the people who came out to support us.  This was not only open to adults but kids as well!  Inner de-va brought out their Zumbatomic group (kid exclusive ages 4-12) they not only participated fully in the workout but they lead the group too.

Zumbatomic group

This was an excellent way to stay in shape and support a good cause.  A big thank you to all who came out in support of Special Olympics Idaho and Inner de va!

Did you miss our ZUMBAthon?  Don’t worry!  There are two more on January 28, 2012!

Nampa, Idaho at the Nampa Rec Center (131 Constitution Way Nampa, ID 83686) from 10:00 am – 11:30 am.  The cost of attending this event is $10.

Northern Idaho, at the Eagles Lodge Ballroom (209 E Sherman Ave, Coeur D Alene, ID.) from 1:00 pm -4:00 pm.  The cost for this event is $10.

Find out more about Zumba at their official website!

Check out Inner Diva’s website at 
They offer Zumba Fitness ™, Zumba Toning ™, Burlesque, Pole Production, Flirty Girl Fitness, and Jam-o-licious.

To learn more about Healthy Athletes check out the International website:

ZUMBA® and ZUMBAthon are copyright © 2012 Zumba Fitness, LLC

Posted in Special Olympics Idaho | Leave a comment

“Oh the Possibilities!”

Members from the Youth Activation Council met in December 2011. Below are some of their responses to their personal experience. Enjoy!



I had an amazing time at the Youth Activation Summit. I also got to meet some wonderful people and got to play bocce ball. I am so glad I got to participate in this wonderful experience. I loved how everyone there, were all looking for acceptance and spreading the word to end the word. When I first started YAC I didn’t really know that many people in our council, I feel I got to know them better, also I realized how great of people they are. I liked learning more about Special Olympics, and how it came to be. Another thing I liked about the YAS was the strength finder assessment. The strength finder, showed that the strengths on my paper really described me. All the activities were very helpful, and I learned more about other people’s strengths. Also about my own and how to use them for project unify. Also the public speaker helped me with talking in front of people, because I tend to be little shy. Another activity I really liked was the 3 words activity, it was very creative, and looked really cool at the end. When we played bocce ball that was a lot of fun, it was different from how I learned how to play it, I liked this way to play it. I got to meet new people during playing this game. Another thing I liked was talking about what we going to do at our schools. Jennifer, Sierra, and I came up with an idea for Rocky Mountain, I can’t wait to see it happen. Also I like signing the spread the word to end the word poster, to continue not use the r word. In conclusion it was definitely a memorable experience that I loved going to. I am so glad I get to be part of something so great.

—Julie English, Rocky Mountain


During the YAC Summit I had a great time. I met so many new people, and got to know the people in our YAC group better, and I learned that they are great people. I also loved playing bocce ball, I had played before but it was fun playing with new people and making new friends. Also I liked learning my strengths for the strength finder, I got to learn how I apply my strengths to my everyday life. Another thing that I liked is learning what other peoples strengths were and how some were like mine and how some were different. I liked how we all came together to spread the word and to learn about acceptance. Everyone there was so accepting and nice and we all got along. I also got great ideas for what Julie, Sierra, and I are going to do to unify Rocky Mountain High school, I can’t wait to get started on some of the ideas we came up with. Another thing about the weekend that I enjoyed was signing the spread the word to end the word poster, and learning the history and about Special Olympics. All the activities were very helpful. Overall I had a great weekend, YAS is a great experience and I am so glad I went.

—Jennifer English, Rocky Mountain




Over the weekend I had the privilege of attending a retreat event for Project Unify. Project Unify is a program from the Special Olympics to empower youth from local middle, junior high, and senior high schools to promote inclusion and awareness. AMAZING program.

One of my very favorite programs that Project Unify is helping to push is the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. It’s teaching people about eliminating the use of the R-word (retard or retarded) and replacing it with “Respect.” (PS- If you use this word, please stop. It’s unnecessary. And can often be hurtful.)

Here’s the thing. It’s still a fairly new program. And yet, there are a large handful of kids all across our state (and around the country) who are helping to educate other kids their age. And it’s working.

Kids are learning that being different means nothing more than variety. People are people and are valued for who they are, not the traits that they might possess. Walking around with blinders on may help us get through the day faster, but we will be unaware of a world of beauty and awesomeness and amazing people. There are little miracles happening all around us and if we don’t look around to see them, we might miss something that could change our lives.

I challenge you to look around today and tomorrow and include just one person that you might not normally include. Maybe one person that you normally don’t even see. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That is what this group of kids is doing. They are making a difference. They are learning and growing and changing and helping other people to see what they see. It’s inspiring. And I see endless possibilities for making a difference.

 – Nichole Stull, Village



This weekend was amazing! I went to the YAC summit and had so much fun! I learned so much about myself and the other people I will be working alongside. I met so many awesome people. Everyone was so nice and easy to talk to! We were able to put our ideas together and come up with some pretty amazing events to hold at our schools! One I’m particularly excited about is the rivalry basketball game; Rocky vs. Meridian. We plan on hosting a Special Olympics night for all our kids in the special education department and set up a booth to get people involved more!  I loved working on the Strengths Finder test! I’m really into psychology and sociology so learning about ways people work together and seeing the other strengths people have was really cool for me! It helped me gain a lot of insight about myself and how to work with people who will bring out my strengths and also challenge me too. Bocce ball was awesome! It brought out a lot of competition in people. I think it will become a popular Olympic sport! I was really happy to have been able to hear what the professional speaker had to say. I learned a lot on how to give speeches and talk in front of others, which is huge for me because I hate with a passion speaking in front of others. Her tips made me feel more comfortable. The best thing for me was learning about campaigns and events that worked for others and what didn’t. I was really happy to receive so many resources to use. All the ideas swirling around in my head made me really excited to start changing our school and getting people involved in something I really care about.

—Sierra Pontius, Rocky Mountain




This past weekend was my very first Youth Activation Council Summit. It was very neat to see all of the YAC members not just from Boise. I made a lot of new friends when I was there.

My favorite part of the summit was when we talked about how to become a better speaker.  I was told not to be nervous when talking in front of a group. We had a guest speaker who helped us with this idea.  I learned how to have good posture when speaking and to just relax. After the guest speaker I really think I could do an assembly for my school and tell them about Special Olympics.

The night that we had the Bocce Ball challenge was so much fun. I hope that Bocce Ball can become a sport for next fall. If it was to become a sport I would sign up to play the sport for the fall.

The summit was a blast to go to. I learned so much about how to start it in my school. I hope that I can go next year to the Summit.

 – Courtney Lynch, Centennial


For more information on how to become a part of YAC, please email Shanna, at Be a Fan!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

State Winter Games Cancellations and Changes

Dear Special Olympics Idaho Family,
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but unfortunately Special Olympics Idaho is being impacted by the lack of snow as are many other organizations, businesses, and individuals in Idaho. Due to the lack of snow throughout the state of Idaho and the lack of snow forecasted for the remainder of the winter season Special Olympics Idaho is canceling State Competition for snow sports (This includes Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, and Alpine Skiing).
Unfortunately, due to the lack of snow athletes statewide will not have the proper conditions for training as required by Section 7.05 of the General Special Olympics Rules, which states that “Accredited Programs should offer athletes who are preparing for competitions at other levels within Special Olympics, such as for National Games, U.S. Program Games or Sub-Program Games (e.g. local, area, community), the same training and competition opportunities as are offered by that Accredited Program to athletes who participate in Regional, U.S. Multi-State and/or World Games.” There is also a strong possibility that our venue for state competition will lack the adequate snowfall to host a quality competition.
Special Olympics Idaho will attempt to make arrangements for a State Floor Hockey Competition to be hosted in the Boise area on March 3rd 2012. More information on this will follow as we assess the availability of venues and lodging.
Area Competition will still be held for all sports (Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, and Floor hockey) for those teams that can meet the minimum 4 weeks of required of practice. Your Area Director will contact you with more information concerning and changes to Area Games.
2012 is a qualifying year for the 2013 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Since Winter State Competition will not be held this year, we have received approval from Special Olympics Team USA to use 2011 State Games results as a qualifier for the 2013 games. As a result any athlete that received a gold medal at the 2011 State Winter Games will be eligible to apply for a spot on Team USA for the 2013 Games. This process will be discussed in further detail as we get closer to the 2013 games.
Matt Caropino
Sports & Training manager
Special Olympics idaho
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2011 Youth Activation Summit

“We, as youth, have the ability to bring about radical change. We have the creativity, the passion, and the resources- If we set our minds to something (like inclusion for people of all abilities) it WILL happen.” -Special Olympics Idaho Youth Activation Council member, Kara Fleming.

 Youth leadership, inclusive sports and school wide unification were on the agenda for the 2011 Youth Activation Summit (YAS) for Special Olympics Idaho.  Nearly 70 youth, educators and liaisons gathered in Boise for 2 fun filled days of Project UNIFY. The youth that attended the summit are part of the Youth Activation Council, a group of young people with and without intellectual disabilities who have committed to the UNIFY vision:  Promote school communities where all young people are agents of change–fostering acceptance, respect, dignity and advocacy with and for people with intellectual disabilities and, therefore, anyone who is perceived as being different. 

There were 18 schools represented during the event, from Southwest and Eastern Idaho.  The summit started with an overview of Special Olympics including the mission, history, and vision of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.  There was discussion around the social justice component of the movement and how Special Olympics uses sports as the vehicle to foster equality and inclusion in the community and around the world.  The students were empowered to present this information to their schools and peers with help from two special guest speakers. Reci Schmellick, a professional in the world of coaching public speaking, spoke to the YAS about the power of a message. Groups focused on power words they would use to describe Project UNIFY then combined them into one power sentence.  Some of the examples students came up with were, “Passion for the experience makes lasting memories”, and “See you at the finish line!”  Reci brought along her daughter and 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games medalist, Lauren Schmellick, to present about her world games experience in Athens.

Since sports is the platform in which Special Olympics promotes social justice, it was only fitting that there would be an inclusive sport activity at the summit. One of the youth leaders, Molly McConnell from Boise High School, introduced the sport of Bocce Ball to the group. There was information on the rules of the game and then a Bocce Ball tournament that evening.  At the end of the summit two schools took home their very own Bocce Ball kits as prizes!

All of the YAS participants completed a Gallup Clifton Strength Finder or Strength Explorer inventory which looked at areas of natural strength. This information then enabled the attendees to share those strengths with each other and look at how they could employ those gifts and skills through Project UNIFY.  There was discussion around filling up each other’s “buckets” and how we have the power to build people up or dip out of their buckets with our words and actions.  Each participant had their own physical bucket that was left out during the YAS so people could drop words of encouragement or friendship throughout the event. Needless to say, everyone went home with a full bucket in more ways than one.

Another highlight of the summit was discussion of the Spread the Word campaign and how we have the power to use words that are not hurtful or degrading.  Students put this into action by getting into groups of 3 and creating their own 3 word video. This video is now hosted on Youtube, Special Olympics Idaho’s and Project UNIFY Idaho’s Facebook pages.

The summit was based around educating, motivating and activating students around the Project UNIFY vision and ended with schools creating their own YACtion Plans to take back for the remainder of the school year. Eunice Kennedy Shriver best described the importance of empowering not only individuals with intellectual disabilities, but youth as agents of change; “As we ask for the best in them, hope is reborn in us.”

For information on ways to get involved, please contact Shanna at or 208.724.1717. Be a Fan!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment