Forget marathons; Special Olympian has his sights set on a 200-mile race

Posted October 16, 2017

For Special Olympics athlete Isaiah Kasay, who is ultimately aspiring to one day compete in a 200-mile race that winds from Winona to Minneapolis, 5K runs are nothing but training and practice.

His goal of competing in a race of this length, which makes marathon runs seem short and sweet, comes across as highly ambitious and, perhaps, far-off for a seventh-grade cross country runner. However, to Isaiah it is just one more challenge out of many that he has already conquered.

“My biggest fear when he started cross country was we’d get stuck in the middle of a course and not know which way to go,” said Amanda Kasay, the athlete’s mother, who described numerous challenges she and her son have overcome as a result of Isaiah being a Special Olympics athlete.

“For Isaiah, we deal with autism. That’s his spectrum,” Kasay said. “There are just life things that we have to deal with every day. For cross country, when the gun goes off, we stall because that noise is very distracting.”

Despite the difficult distractions that Isaiah has to contend with as a Special Olympics athlete, his supportive family is the reason why he continually seeks to progress and improve.

“They cheer me on,” Isaiah said, “and tell me to keep going and not stop.”

Support from his mother and sister was especially helpful at a recent 5K event, Run With The Cops, that Isaiah competed in to help raise money for Special Olympics Wisconsin. This event gave people the opportunity to legally outrun local law enforcement officers as a way of gaining funds to help competitors like Isaiah pursue their athletic goals.

“The money that’s raised is directly benefiting all of the athletes that are here tonight,” said Karen Kraus, the director of special events for Special Olympics Wisconsin. “All totaled, we have 1,000 athletes in this area,” which covers the entire northwest portion of Wisconsin, including all of Pierce and St. Croix counties. “So this money is paying for facility rental fees, equipment, everything associated with putting on a sports competition for our athletes.”

The majority of law enforcement officers that participated in the 3.1 mile event were officers from either the River Falls Police Department or UWRF Police Department. However, there were multiple officers present from surrounding communities such as Hudson, Ellsworth, Hammond and Somerset, each officer representing his/her own department.

“They were all invited,” Kraus said. “River Falls takes the lead on planning the event since they’re the host city, and then they put the call out to other departments all around the area.”

The call that the RFPD put out was one that nearby police departments were very receptive to, given the quantity of communities that were represented.

“It’s completely volunteer on their part to do this,” said Dave Laatsch, a former agency manager for Special Olympics. “We can come out and appreciate the effort that the police officers do for raising money for the organization.”

Perhaps the greatest form of appreciation that was shown toward the officers who participated in the event came from a local gas station.

“Kwik Trip is a sponsor,” said Nancy Johnson, a Special Olympics bowling coach. “Kwik Trip sells donuts, and officers eat donuts, so we have a donut eating contest here.”

In addition to Kwik Trip, the event had multiple sponsors, all of which helped to raise money for an upcoming bowling competition.

“We actually have our regional bowling tournament coming up, end of October, and that we need to pay for,” Kraus said, “and facility fees have gone up. We need two entire bowling alleys in Eau Claire, and we have to pay for facility rental, we have to pay for volunteer background checks, we pay for volunteer T-shirts, insurance, all of those things that go into putting on that large of a tournament.”