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The Versailles Republican

January 22, 2015 • Headlines

South Ripley School Board President Tim Taylor presents Rodney Hite with a plaque for being named Indiana Middle School Principal of the Year. Pictured right is South Ripley Superintendent Rob Moorhead.
Above left, Scott Barnhorst, newly elected chairman of the Ripley County Local Emergency Planning Committee and Batesville Fire Chief Todd Schutte present John Ryle with a certificate recognizing him as a honorary LEPC member.
Tom Tepe Autocenter
Tom Tepe Autocenter
Friendship State BankKing's Daughters' HealthWhitewater Motor Company Inc.
Four Seasons Stove ShoppeRipley Publishing Company, Inc.

Special Olympics gives all chance to shine

Mary Mattingly

Most parents look for something for their child to excel at and many start with sports. These parents might spend a small fortune on lessons, the right school, the extras that may give them that competitive edge. Moreover, parents like the idea of the life lessons learned on the playing field, lessons of being a team player, and how to win or how to lose gracefully to name a few. Parents of children with handicaps or disabilities are no different. They too want their child to find success, to feel good about themselves, to learn those valuable life lessons through experience. Special Olympics, a worldwide program, provides that avenue for these children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The concept is to see the potential, not the limitations, of these people.

Alex Kieffer

Pictured left, Alex Kieffer, 13, participates in Special Olympics.

Founded in 1969, Special Olympics Indiana provides a variety of opportunities and has grown to include 11,000 athletes, 10,000 volunteers and 14 full-time staff. The Ripley-Ohio-Dearborn chapter has 207 children and adults, 89 of those from Ripley County, and provides year round sports training and athletic competition in alpine skiing, aquatics, bowling, basketball, bocce, corn toss, flag football, golf, equestrian, track and field, powerlifting, softball, snowshoeing and snowboarding. The local chapter was formed in 2005.

Alex Kieffer, 13, has benefited greatly from the southeastern Indiana Special Olympics program. Not just for finding something he enjoys and is good at, but it has helped him socially. Alex is autistic. His dad Vince says, “When Alex first started he was unsociable, hardly talked to anyone, but since he’s been with Special Olympics he’s met kids his own age, opened up a lot, and he is more sociable there, and also at school,” he said. The sports program offers a chance for an athlete to experience joy, demonstrate courage and develop physical fitness. Anyone who has witnessed one of these competitions is often quite moved by the effort, and impressed with the skill level of these special athletes.

Jessica and Vince Kieffer are big supporters of the program. Vince coaches softball and basketball. “It’s great. I call them my kids,” he said. Having a child with special needs helps him understand when a player has a meltdown, or needs to walk it off, or take a deep breath. “I know different aspects of how to challenge them through having Alex.” Although he’s only been a coach for two years, he has 13 years of experience. “As a father I deal with this everyday. It doesn’t stop once I get off the court.”

Alex participates in bowling, snowboarding, softball and basketball. An 8th grader at South Ripley, he’s excelled at bowling, so much that he has joined the junior varsity team at the high school. “He’s really improved in bowling. And that’s a big accomplishment to be on the school team,” his dad proudly said. He’s scored a high of 148, but generally averages about 90. When he knocks all 10 pins down for a strike, he “flops his hand, and might twitch and smiles,” his dad said. “He’s teaching me. He told me the other day he got a Brooklyn strike” and explained it’s when a strike that hits the opposite side of the pocket from where it was thrown. But this sports program is so much more than successfully throwing strikes or spares. “On the court, Alex has no care in the world. It’s awesome. The other kids are the same. They can truly be themselves,” Vince said. He’s impressed with the respect today’s youth give to special needs kids. “It’s so much better than it was years ago. They will high-5 Alex, and say Hi to him. It means a lot to him.”

Alex also benefits from the physical activity. He gains weight as a result of his medications, so running around a softball field or down a court is good for him and not just socially. Academics, in particular reading, is challenging for Alex, but he does great with music and plays the drums in the school band.

2015 Polar Plunge Logo
Vince plans on participating in the February 21 Polar Plunge at Versailles State Park, which benefits the local Special Olympics. This is where individuals raise money by pledges, and jump into freezing waters. “It’s worth it,” Vince said, hoping to raise funds and awareness of the benefits of the program. He believes many kids with special needs would enjoy the program, and it’s a great bonding experience for families as well. “At first I thought it was just for Down’s Syndrome kids or adults,” he said, but learned otherwise, and children and adults with various disabilities are accepted.

According to the website, 170 million people, or three percent worldwide, have disabilities. It’s estimated in Ripley, Ohio and Dearborn counties, there are at least 2500 eligible for participation in the program. Intellectual disability knows no boundaries. It cuts across the lines of racial, ethnic, educational, social and economic backgrounds, and it can occur in any family. Beginning at age 8, anyone with an intellectual disability can participate in Special Olympics. It’s a year round training program. Special Olympics is a movement not about “them” but about “us.” As the website states, “ We are a movement that invites the world to think, feel and act differently about everything. We believe in creating more unified communities—places where each person regardless of ability or disability is accepted, respected and welcomed.”

Special Olympics activities
January 24: The two youth basketball teams will compete against Vanderburg County at the Tyson Activity Center, beginning at 11 a.m.

2015 Polar Plunge at Versailles State Park

February 21: The Polar Plunge at the Versailles State Park is one of 12 plunges around the state. It benefits the community of athletes of Special Olympics Indiana. There is also a 5K run and 3K walk that day. Last year there were 300 plungers at Versailles State Park.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Man arrested for child molesting (front page)
Getting help to pay utility bills (front page)
• Strangulation, battery charges filed in court (front page)
• South Ripley starts year with major purchases (front page)

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