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VSU Special Olympians pose for a photo during the Benefit Ride.

The Vinton Shellsburg United Special Olympics team held its 5th annual Benefit Ride on August 16th. Nearly 115 riders took part in the event that covered 120 miles of Benton County countryside. The ride started in Vinton at the Ron Da Voo with stops in Traer, Keystone, Walford, Shellsburg, Urbana, and finished with two stops back in Vinton at Mickey’s Bar and the final stop at the American Legion Hall.

At the Legion hall, riders participated in a “best bike contest”, dollar raffle, and a live auction of donated items by local auctioneer Phil Barkdoll. A painting by local artist Paul Roster entitled “One Man’s Junk…” brought $700. “We can’t thank Phil Barkdoll enough,” event co-chair Kris Kramer said. “He’s donated his time every year we’ve put this on, and he does an awesome job for us!” “And Paul Roster’s painting was amazing!” A 40” flat screen tv donated by Michael and Dowd was auctioned off for $400. Richard Malmgren’s name was drawn as the winner of the 2013 Harley Davidson 883 Sportster. Richard wasn’t at the event, but his sister Amy, who sold him the ticket was. “That guy is so lucky,” she said. “I had to twist his arm to buy a ticket, and then he won it!”

Each rider paid an entry fee for the ride and received a free admission to the Turner Hall BBQ Roundup, which was one of the stops along the route. They also were treated to a taco bar at the American Legion hall, and Koop’s Automotive Sales and Service sponsored the classic rock band WAGG from 8pm to midnight.

“Overall, we’re thrilled with the fundraiser,” event co-chair Brian Larkin said. “We raised over $5,000, and with the awareness we received because of the event, we’ve had eight new families contact us who want to join our team!” The money raised will go to purchase adaptive equipment so the athletes can better participate in Special Olympics events. “We have a need for three new bowling ramps right away,” Larkin said. “Those cost anywhere from $400 to $600 each.” The ramps are used to assist athletes with low muscle tone or who use a wheelchair. “Also, some of our younger athletes are severely disabled, and we will need to get some more equipment for them as well,” he said. “That money will go a long way in helping these athletes for years to come.” Head Coach Tammy Zimmerman said. “We just can’t thank all those people enough who donated items, bought raffle tickets, or rode along with us. It was an awesome day for our athletes in so many ways.”

Vinton Shellsburg United Special Olympics serves athletes with special abilities from Vinton-Shellsburg, Benton Community, and Center Point Urbana school districts. Any child aged 8 to 21 years old that has an Individualized Education Plan is eligible to compete in Special Olympics. If you would like more information about Vinton Shellsburg United Special Olympics, please contact Head Coach Tammy Zimmerman at 319-551-2227.

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