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Local adult Special Olympics program in need of funding
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

March 19. 2014 11:52AM
A self-supporting program for a group of special adult athletes in Brandon is in need of some financial support.

Program leaders for Brandon Valley’s adult Special Olympics program say their expenses aren’t matching up with revenues.

“We’re self-supporting,” explained Dave Lien, president of Brandon Groove, the name of the local adult Special Olympics program. The adult program, Lien said, is not subsidized by the school district. Athletes can compete at that level until they’re 21 years of age.

The seven athletes currently in the program are all in their mid-30s, Bonnie Lien informs.

And all of them want to be part of a competing team, which is reason the Liens and other parents of the athletes work to keep the program afloat.

“All of them love sports and just want to continue on,” Dave said.

Adds Bonnie: “These are high-functioning kids and aren’t any different than we are. They just want to be part of the community.”

According to the Liens, the program’s funding shortage stems from the change in venue for two of the three state events the Brandon Groove competes in. Bowling is held in Sioux Falls, basketball is played in Pierre, and the softball tournament has moved to Rapid City. The Brandon athletes used to compete in track and field, but Bonnie says as the members got older, they lost interest.

“None of them wanted to run anymore,” she said.

Because of the extended travel to Pierre and Rapid City and the move to unified (incorporating non-Special Olympic athletes onto the team roster), the group’s revenues aren’t meeting their added expenses. They estimate the trip to Rapid City at $5,000, and say at least $12,000 is needed annually to completely fund the program.

Until this year, the organization conducted one main fundraiser each year: manning the concession stand at the regional Special Olympics games in Brandon. One year they made $900, Dave said. “Pretty soon, it dropped down to $700, then it dropped to $500, and one year it got down to just zero. After we paid our expenses, we didn’t have anything left,” he said.

The weather is blamed for the dwindling profit from concession sales.

“The meet is always here,” Bonnie said. “And we always have the concession stand, but the last three years the weather has been bad, and so has our fundraiser.”
This year’s regional meet in Brandon is May 3.

For the first time this year, the adult program will also take in 25 percent of the funds raised from the Polar Plunge held earlier this winter. Son Erik, who took the plunge, raised $1,800 alone.

“I was too chicken to jump,” Dave says, “So I just got a t-shirt (for his $100 pledge).”
They’ve also received a Sioux Valley Energy Round-up grant in the past and a donation from the Knights of Columbus – Splitrock Chapter.

But they’ll gladly accept any other financial help from community organizations and members. Those donations can be mailed to the group’s treasurer, Mary Jane Entwistle, at 408 N. Needles, Brandon, SD 57005.

“We’ve been fortunate to have enough money so far,” Dave says. “We’ve just been going budget by budget and have been fortunate that everything has worked out. But this Rapid City deal kind of threw a hammer into it.”

The Liens got into the Special Olympics programs because of their son, Erik. Dave and parent Curt Blackburn, along with additional parental support, have coached the adult athletes for at least 15 years. Bonnie said Erik helps to keep the retired couple young and active.

“He’s a kid that doesn’t sit still and is so sports-minded,” she said. “If you go to any of the games, he’s there. And it’s the Storm, Skyforce, Stampede, too – he doesn’t miss out on any of them.”
Donations for the Brandon Groove, the local adult Special Olympics team, may be sent to Treasurer Mary Jane Entwistle, 408 N. Needles, Brandon, SD 57005.

Brandon Valley's adult Special Olympians are pictured at the 2013 state tournament. Members of the team are, from left, row one: Alex McDonald, Tim Blackburn and Eric Lien; row two: Coach Curt Blackburn, Chad Hanten, Eric Mayer, Shawn Rabenberg, Ted Entwistle and Coach Dave Lien. The team competed in this year's state hoops tournament over the weeked in Pierre. Submitted photo

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