Thanks to the efforts of local supporters and the creative minds of two former law enforcement officers, Merrill and the newly renovated Jay Stadium will soon play host to a big day for Wisconsin Special Olympics.
On Saturday May 13, Jay Stadium will not only host the Special Olympics Region 2 Track and Field competition, but the 17th annual “Be Strong” fundraiser as well.
As fundraiser coordinators Bob Roeske and Colleen Handrick explain, this is the first year the fundraiser has been held in conjunction with the competition.
“We have been doing this event for special olympics for the last 17 years, “ Handrick said.
“Our thoughts in combining our events with the track and field meet, was to have our participants see first-hand where the funds we raise are being invested.”
While the “Be Strong” fundraiser has been active for 17 years, Merrill has been home to the Region 2 competition for well over 30 years.
While the event has come to be quite familiar with Jay Stadium, this year’s competitors and organizers alike are excited to enjoy what the newly renovated stadium has to offer.
“Our athletes will be pretty excited to compete in such a gorgeous new stadium!” adds Jordan Becker- Director of Development for Special Olympics Wisconsin.
“This year will be nicer for us in terms of our events, due to how the new Jay Stadium is laid out. When we took our walk-through, we were just amazed by how awesome the new stadium is! We are pretty excited,” she adds with a grin.
The multi-tiered “Be Strong” fundraiser will consist of a 5k Run/Walk, in conjunction with several power-lifting events and ‘Rebel Ride’ motorcycle ride.
The ride will kick things off on the 13th, departing Kurt N’ Jo’s Bar in Marathon City at 10:30 AM with registration to begin at 8 AM. The ride will proceed on a 70-mile trek; making various stops in both Marathon and Lincoln counties; including a stop at the Track and Field competition.
Riders will be asked to make a minimum $25 pledge per driver and passenger.
“We felt it was important for the ride to make a stop at the meet to give riders an opportunity to cheer on the athletes they are riding in support of,” Handrick adds.
The “Be Strong” power-lifting event will then follow with registration to open at 11 AM and a 12:15 start time at Jay Stadium.
The event will consist of various competitions in various divisions including; Bench Press, Dead Lift,Strongman/Strongwoman as well as a semi pull; consisting of 5 and 10 person teams. Registration fees will be $25 for 1 event; $30 for 2 events; $35 for 3 events; $40 for 4 events; $45 for 5 events or 6 events for $50. Division winners will receive medals as the events are completed.
The 5K Run/Walk will be the final fundraiser event of the day, with registration opening at 2 PM and a 3 PM start time. The event will proceed from Jay Stadium to Church Mutual Insurance Company; progressing on both paved and unpaved trails around the CMI complex, before returning to Jay Stadium. Registration fee for the Run/Walk will be $25 per participant.
The grand finale will come Saturday night with food, live music from ‘Rick N’ Dick’ and a raffle at Kurt N’ Jo’s in Marathon City from 8-11 PM.
All registration fees include a T-shirt, lunch and supper. All proceeds from the event helps subsidize training, travel and other costs needed to support Special Olympics athletes.
To date, the fundraiser has raised over $200,000.
As Handrick explains, the concept of a fund raiser was inspired when she and Roeske-both former Police Officers with the Village of Rothschild- attended a Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Nashville, TN in 1999.
“Bob and I have been involved with the torch run for Special Olympics for many years. We got the idea from a torch run conference we attended in Nashville, where we had the opportunity to participate as Team Wisconsin; where we pulled a 737 jet as a fundraiser for the Tennessee Special Olympics. On the bus ride back I said to Bob “We should do something like this, put together a fundraiser,” she adds with a chuckle.
“I liked the idea, I thought it was great” Roeske adds.
“So we started brain storming, we knew we had some great resources in the Village of Rothschild and we started reaching out to those resources. We started getting things organized and held our first event, which was a semi-pull, in May of 2000. We had teams of 10 pull an 80,000 pound semi, it was a lot of fun!” Handrick said.
“Now we have grown to include a full day of events which we are now able to offer to raise funds. It’s been a great experience. We are very fortunate to have great supporters in the not only the village and the village board but also the Rothschild Police and Fire Departments.”
In closing, the Be Strong Fundraiser team would like to encourage the Merrill community to come and support the athletes on May 13.
“Come on out and join us! We have several fun events planned. Or if you would like to come out for the meet, that would be great too,” Becker adds.
“Our athletes would really appreciate the support. Like any other sport, the more people who turn out to support them, the better of an experience it is for them and the harder they compete.”
Those interested in volunteering with Wisconsin Special Olympics or interested in learning more about the events planned for May 13, are asked to contact Jordan Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 848-0550 or Colleen Handrick at (715) 302-3435.