History

Senior Olympics began in 1983 in the city of Middleton. A group of older adults decided to hold a two day event in June of 1984 for local residents. Activities included track, golf, softball, basketball free throw, jarts and even a balloon toss.  As the program grew, the need to expand became clear. In 1988, the Middleton Senior Center Director attended the National Senior Olympics Conference in Saint Louis Missouri. With the knowledge and ideas brought back from the conference, Middleton Senior Olympics became Dane County Senior Olympic Games.

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Madison School and Community Recreation (MSCR), a department of the Madison School District, played an instrumental role in the expansion efforts. Prior to 1989, an advisory/steering committee was responsible for setting up and conducting the Games. After the 1988 Games, it was decided to form a Board of Directors representing the areas of expertise needed to guide the additional workload. In 1988, the elected (and selected) first Board of Directors choose Chad Thom/ MSCR as their President. Also in 1989, Jill Kranz, Director of the Middleton Senior Center, was presented the State of Wisconsin Assembly Citation for emotional and leadership support to the Senior Games since 1986, and for her role in expansion of the Games from Middleton to all of Dane County.

In 1990, the Senior Games expanded from one city to nine sites and participation increased 500 percent. Two days of games had become a week long event. New sites included Belleville, De Forest, Madison, Monroe, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Oregon and Verona.

In 1992, Dane County Senior Olympic Games were held in conjunction with the Adult Day Care Centers Senior Olympic Day, adding 200 to 300 new participants. McFarland and Fitchburg communities were also added to the Dane County Senior Olympic Games list of participating sites.

In 1993, twenty-six separate events were offered. Over the years, events were added or deleted as interests changed. An Executive Director was hired for the first time in 1995 to help with the year-round planning process.

In 1997, the age limit for participation was lowered from 55+ to 50+.

In 1999, Dane County Senior Olympic Games became Wisconsin Senior Games to encourage and increase participation from outside Dane County. There was no residency requirement and out- of- state individuals and teams were eligible to compete as was the case in previous years. This still holds true today.

In 2008, the Senior Games celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

In 2009, online registration for the Wisconsin Senior Games became available to participants. Travis Bashaw , Athens to Atlantis, remains responsible for providing this service to this day. Travis was also responsible for setting-up our second attempt at a web site. Also in 2009, the registration book for the Wisconsin Senior Games took on a new and exciting look made possible by the graphical designer talents of Fernando Hernandez.

New events added to the Wisconsin Senior Games since 2008 include Bocce Ball, Wii Bowling, Pickleball, and Co-Ed Volleyball.

In 2012, fifty separate events were offered.

In 2013, Wisconsin Senior Games celebrated the 30th consecutive year the Senior Games have been offered
since their inception in 1983 in Middleton.

Compiled by John C. Schultz

Former Board member, Wisconsin Senior Games