RBHS hosts Special Olympics, competes in United Challenge


Ji-Ho Lee

Whether they run, throw, volunteer or cheer, students participate and assist with the annual United Challenge, headed by the Bruins United club. This afternoon at 4 p.m. at Battle High School, students with disabilities are paired with volunteers from the RBHS community to compete in athletic events against Hickman and Battle, Bruins United president junior Olivia Spaedy, said.
In many ways, Spaedy said, the event is similar to Special Olympics, which raises the question of why two are not merged into one.
RBHS plays a part in both the United Challenge and Special Olympics. For the former, the school offers personnel, whether they be athletes or assistants, while for the latter, RBHS simply offers its facilities.
“The Special Olympics is a separate entity with funding that does not come from CPS but rather from local, national and state funding sources, including donations,” Linda Quinley, Chief Operations Officer of Columbia Public Schools (CPS), said.  “They do request to use a few of our facilities for various events during competition and for the local team practices.  We support that for them fully.  When they host actual competitions, they charge a fee at the gate and run concessions with the proceeds and profits being retained by the organization.”
Although Special Olympics has taken place at RBHS during the past four years, the school has not been related to Special Olympics in any other manner. RBHS did, however, sponsor a track and field team several years ago, said Diane Brimer, Regional Program Director of Special Olympics Missouri.
“[Track and field] was the only sport that [CPS] sponsored,” Brimer said. “I cannot say exactly why they don’t sponsor a team.  I’ve heard the rumors, but that’s all I have.”
Quinley said the reason for the split between Special Olympics and RBHS was for economic purposes.
“Columbia Public Schools received a donation many years ago to be used for the purpose of providing a coach and other needs  for a team as long as funds would allow.  The funds were used up a few years ago and therefore the CPS sponsorship ended,” Quinley said.  “The district was not the sponsor of the event but, rather, added to the event during the time period the donated funds were in place to support the work.”
While the history and relationship between RBHS and Special Olympics may be a long and complicated one, both the events, Special Olympics and the United Challenge, are intended to be beneficial and positive.
“The purpose of United Challenge is to create an activity where everyone can come together from all over Columbia,” Spaedy said. “Every community can interact in an environment that is exciting and fun.”