This year Iowa Wesleyan University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) was selected for the Network Choice Award after a very competitive voting process (read more here). The group was selected for their support of community athletes by hosting the Southeast Iowa Special Olympics and other service activities.
“SAAC is effectively bringing this community and Iowa Wesleyan closer together by hosting Special Olympics and getting the word out there while fundraising and talking with community members to encourage their help and participation,” said Sam Shepard, the current AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Iowa Wesleyan, who nominated the group for the award.
While all Division III schools have advisory councils with the purpose of giving student-athletes a voice in the institution and conference, BJ Wagy, asssistant athletic director and the staff adviser for SAAC, says that her student athletes stand out. On top of the expectations and demands that athletes face with athletics and education, the IWU athletes choose to take on the role of supporting other athletes in their school and the community. In addition to attending all home IWU games, these student-athletes also host the Southeast Iowa Special Olympics spring games annually. This event is held in April each year, and the SAAC spend most of year planning for it.
The eleven-county event requires substantial planning and coordination and SAAC has not backed down from the challenge. Everything from finding sponsors and volunteers to writing scripts for the day is handled by the student-athletes under the guidance of Wagy.
At this year’s event, 182 Special Olympic athletes competed and 75 coaches mentored, while 180 volunteers (many of whom were Iowa Wesleyan students and employees) supported their efforts. In total, 1,139 hours of service were contributed during the event. The impact on Special Olympians, the volunteers and the Mt. Pleasant community is very special and truly coordinated entirely by the student.
“I love to see the students supporting and encouraging [the Special Olympic participants] to compete and work towards their goals,” said Wagy. “It’s been a fantastic event.”