Several hundred Special Olympians and their families received a special night at Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport, thanks to Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
For the 20th year, Thrivent sponsored Thrivent Night at the Ballpark to celebrate Special Olympics.
The Special Olympians and their families got to eat free before the River Bandits' baseball game against the Cedar Rapids Kernels, with Hy-Vee serving dinner.
“We have four chapters of Special Olympians out here,” said Colin Mildred, Thrivent’s leader of Thrivent Night at the Ballpark. He added that for the past six years, Thrivent also has teamed with the River Bend Foodbank to help draw attention to hunger in the Quad-Cities.
Julie Landwehr had 63 of her Special Olympians who came in from Abilities Plus in Kewanee.
“This is a great event,” Landwehr said. “They look forward to it all year long.”
Performing before the game was Pleasant Valley High School’s Shining Stars Dance Team.
“We’re performing to ‘Live While We’re Young,’ by the group One Direction,” said Anna Fletcher, 16, a junior at Pleasant Valley High School. “We’ve been practicing for about four weeks.”
“We’ve been doing this event for so many years,” said Harold Craw, general manager of the Quad-City River Bandits.
Craw said the team is always working to enhance the ball park experience for everyone who attends.
On tap for the night was the debut of a zip-line for people to ride.
“We’re really trying to bring everything down here,” said River Bandits Executive Director Stefani Brown.
From the Ferris wheel to the carousel to the zip-line, she said, the team is making going to the ballpark a family experience.
“There’s something for everyone,” Brown said.
At the zip-line, Noah Hanson, 13, of Moline was one of the first to try it. Standing on the tower, he took one breath and off he went.
“It was really scary to stand up there and look down,” Hanson said. “But once I took off, it was fun.”
Alexa Ellis, 13, of Hampton also found the ride just a little scary at first. But, she said, “It was fun.”
The Special Olympians then were part of a parade around the ballpark as the Shining Stars performed.
“It’s all about making it a night for the Olympians and their families to remember,” Mildred said.