The Ottumwa Courier

August 10, 2013

VB Co. student named Athlete of Year

By RUSTY EBERT Van Buren County Register
Ottumwa Courier

---- — BENTONSPORT — A new school year will soon begin around the state, including at Harmony High School. Several students will be making their way up and down the hallways, entering the classrooms and trying out new activities.

If this year brings out the courage in students to try out new activities this year at Harmony, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Not after this past year and the inspriation of one student that showed plenty of courage and was rewarded for it.

Jinni Hanson, of Bentonsport, finished the 2012-13 school year at Harmony by being awarded the Special Olympics Iowa (SOIA) 2013 Outstanding Athlete of the Year. The presentation took place May 23 during the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Summer Games held at Iowa State University in Ames.

Becky Stanford has been Jinni’s one on one associate for 12 years.

“She’s a sweet, bubbly person, very enthusiastic and eager to please. When she understands what you want, she does it,” Stanford said.

Harmony has total inclusion. Stanford says that has only made the story even better.

“The other kids did a wonderful job of including Jinni in many activities (this past school year),” Stanford said. “They would ask her to sit with them at lunch, for example and they were great with her in sports.”

“Jinni has amazing parents, they will do anything for her. Because of them, she’s a responsible person.”

Stanford said that she has enjoyed working with Jinni through school.

“I’ve had a good time and it’s been a pleasure,” Stanford said.

Stanford is a special education associate at Harmony and the Special Olympics coach.

Hanson is graduate of Harmony High School and has been involved with Special Olympics for 11 years.

Hansen’s nomination form said she is always a positive presence with her Special Olympics team, and she is known as the one who is always smiling and giving that extra bit of effort.

She participated on the high school track team for two years and was also a four-year varsity letter winner in basketball where she scored in almost every game she played. Hanson led all classes in Iowa in field goal percentage by making 71 percent of her shots and scored 44 points for Harmony last season.

Jinni lettered for four years in basketball and also is involved in bowling, golfing, snowshoe racing, basketball skills, challenger softball and bicycling. From seventh through 10th grade, she competed in track and field at Harmony.

During the Special Olympics, Hanson has competed in the 800 meters and 400 meters on the track while also tossing the shot put and turbo javelin. Her positive attitude and inclusion by participating in these sports have helped raise awareness in Southeast Iowa for people of all abilities.

Jinni volunteers at H&K Pony Express, according to Stanford.

“Jim Kite is very much to be commended for giving her (Jinni) this opportunity,” Stanford said.

SOIA, a statewide nonprofit organization, provides high-quality training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in all 99 counties of Iowa.

SOIA offers 23 Olympic-style sports to nearly 11,000 athletes and Unified Sports partners year-round. Since 1968, Special Olympics has provided an inclusive culture that stresses athletic excellence, rewards determination, emphasizes health, and celebrates personal achievement.