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Working with Parks & Recreation

Penny Williams with Patrick, a Southeast Area athlete

My name is Penny Williams with the Southeast Area Special Olympics.  I wanted to share with you a valuable partnership we have developed with our local parks and recreation department (Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Dept).

Scott Williams (who is now my husband) and I were both Special Olympics volunteers in college at Southeast Missouri State University.  We were actually on the planning team for the annual Spring Games.  We were both Recreation Majors and loved the mission of Special Olympics and how much it meant to the athletes that participated.  After Scott and I graduated college we went our separate ways.  Scott went to work for the City of Cape Girardeau and I went to work for DNR-State Parks.  Approximately five years later, I come back to Cape Girardeau and Scott was still working for the CGPD and they had a position open.  I applied and got the position.

For years, Scott and I developed and grew many sports leagues in the department.  Having also continued assisting with the local Special Olympics Games, Scott and I worked to develop a plan.  We knew from a Parks and Recreation Department standard that our therapeutic recreation was somewhat limited, so we devised plan – or now we call it a partnership – with an outstanding program that already had a great foundation and a mission statement that complemented ours. We presented our idea to the Executive Director of Special Olympics and to the Director of the Parks and Recreation Dept.  We formed a partnership where for one year they were going to  let us be responsible for the Special Olympics program.  That has been over 15 years ago and the partnership continues to grow.  Well you may ask, “What are the benefits to both organizations?”  I will tell you that they are numerous so for the sake of time I will highlight the main ones.

Scott Williams heads to first base as a member of the Southeast Storm softball team

For Special Olympics, we have provided quality facilities at a relatively low price.  The Parks and Recreation Dept. have access to all types of sports officials and a quality staff that usually are very willing to volunteer for GMTs, etc.  The Parks and Recreation Dept. is also a great resource for Unified Partners that may play in other organized leagues.

Parks and Recreation departments specialize in organizing leagues and tournaments and can make the life of an Area Director much easier.

On the flip side, how has Special Olympics benefitted the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Dept.? We now feel like we truly serve every portion of the population.  We run great events and now EVERYONE can enjoy it.  Special Olympics has greatly improved economic impact in the city especially in the fall, with us hosting State Outdoor Championships (to become State Fall Games this year).   This community really appreciates what Special Olympics is all about!  The City of Cape is proud to host State and Regional competitions from all organizations, but there is not another event that makes this city smile and feel good like Special Olympics does.

We encourage coaches all the time to contact their local parks and recreation department and see if there is some way that they may be willing to help their team or their area with one of the items I mentioned earlier.  We took a chance, and we have touched so many people in the last 15 years.  If it doesn’t work out the first time you ask, don’t give up.   I definitely can attest that our partnership has given us as much as we have received on both ends.

Scott and Penny Williams, left, at the Cape Girardeau Polar Plunge

Penny and Scott Williams are the Area Directors for Southeast Area and also both work for Cape Girardeau Parks & Recreation Department. You can reach them at