AJ Zevenbergen, Ricky Ackatz, and Joey Wakeen have a great time and want to say thanks for coming! Submitted photo
AJ Zevenbergen, Ricky Ackatz, and Joey Wakeen have a great time and want to say thanks for coming! Submitted photo

Submitted by Roxi Wakeen, Special Olympics

BALDWIN, WI – Even though it was freezing cold outside, our community of volunteers, athletes, coaches, parents, fans, and a whole host of local businesses came together for the Seventh Annual heartwarming Special Olympics Basketball Tournament.  

“When people say, it takes a village, I smile because I feel so excited when I realize that it takes MANY communities coming together to get the most out of an event. When I get home at the end of the tournament, I realize my heart is full because of the energy that so many put into the Special Olympics Basketball Tournament,” says Roxi Wakeen the original founder of the event.

“I am so fortunate that many of the original workers from my colleagues and students to parents and friends and businesses have continued to be active members of the tournament. What amazes me the most is the number of people who offer suggestions and their ability to put them into action.  Our tournament has grown from eight teams the first year to twenty-eight teams this year!”

To say it’s the best around is an understatement--we have teams from all over the state join us!

The teams and spectators that came from all over were such as: Barron County, Chequamegon, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire Schools, Eau Claire Adults, LaCrosse, Menomonie Red Cedar, Polk County, River Valley. There were approximately 450 in attendance for the one-day tournament in Baldwin on Sunday, January 27, 2019. Hosted by Baldwin-Woodville Schools.

With the unpredictable January weather, we have tried to create an event where we can use the two buildings at our school.  This means that we have divided into two tournaments in reality. If it weren’t for the staff at each building, we could never begin to offer such a program.  Each year volunteers step forward to become leaders of the venue.

Thank you for Jennifer Nickowski who organizes the teams, the referees, the scorekeepers, and timers.  Without her initial input, the tournament wouldn’t happen. Thank you to the administration, especially Eric Russell, Jason Sell, and JR Dachel who have been with the program since its inception.  They have given of their time and talents to make each year and even better event. Thank you for sharing the load with the other organizers who have added their expertise. In the beginning Duane Jourdeans, his family, and his ball teams were critical additions to the operation of each of the gyms.  They are seven-year participants in the event. Eric Hamon and Jennifer Nickowski (and family, Krzysztof, Ela, and Jacek) have also made it a family event and have consistently worked to make the programs we offer about community leadership and sponsorship.

Kelli Larson, Jim and Mary Rumpel, Kelsey and Jeff Brewer, Kari and Ben Campbell (Alanna and Benson), Brenda Bergquist, Angie, Fred, and Ben Schmoker, Matt, Jen, Mara and Emma Schommer, Chris Pribble, Becky Morrissey (and family), Jackie, Cooper, and Collin Bensen, Dan Keefer, Rachel Bishop, Darren Peterson, Paulette Anderson, Lynn, Jon and Hanna Zevenbergen, Gina, Hannah, Brooke Evenson, Steph, Sarah, Hunter, and Evan Claussen (and extended family) Gary Evenson, Debbie and Gabby Henry, Lexie and Brooke Klatt, Jason Nilssen and family have been here since the beginning in their support of the program.  It is hard to believe that they have given so much to support our Special Olympians!

Tim Larson, Anna Gough (and family), Mary Staiger, Charlie Leikness, Grace Johnson, Logan Kimberly (his athletes and National Honor Society members), Zac Campbell (and his athletes)l, Kathy and Mark Manninen (and family), Brent Paulson, Jeremy and Susan Werner (and family), Jackie Palmer, Mark and Lyn Larson, Emily McNamara, the Baldwin-Woodville Cheerleaders (Jenny Davis, coach) may be some relatively new recruits to our game, but they have come through with amazing support and have brought family and friends!

It is always the possibility that someone’s name has been left out, but know that you have made a difference in our program.

The local businesses, foundations, and corporate sponsors who have also helped with making our program a success should also be commended.  The Baldwin-Woodville Area Community Foundation, Nilssen’s Foods, and Jon and Lynn Zevenbergen, have been with us since the beginning. We have been fortunate to add St. Croix Electric Cooperative, Strikers Lanes, Kwik Trip, Baldwin McDonalds, Ken Dykhouse, Parkside Restaurant, WESTconsin Credit Union, The Anderson Foundation, The Hammond Police Department, Stillpoints, Crestview Family Dental, The Community Church, The St. Croix and Bruesewitz Printing to our benefactors.  Without such community cooperation we could not keep adding to our services.

Finally, this year we added informational tables from The St. Croix County Community on Transition to offer information for our families and friends about services that are available in our areas.  Thank you to the local newspapers that share our stories. We feel lucky to get the word out about education and application for our guests. Thanks for being partners in our event.