CUBA CITY— A couple who joined the Cuba City community in the early 1970’s has made significant contributions locally, especially with the area’s Special Olympics participants.
Jan Davis started teaching at the Cuba City School District in 1972 and John T. Davis joined her in the Cuba City community a year later, after they were married. Jan was a special education teacher for 40 years and her belief that physical education can benefit the cognitively disabled led her on a mission to establish the Special Olympics program in Cuba City. John has joined her on this journey, assisting in many ways.
The couple also makes time to volunteer for church mission trips, assisting the local food pantry and serving with local organizations.
Before the couple moved to Cuba City, they assisted at special needs camps. Jan served a total of 15 years as a camp counselor and eventually took over as the camp director at Pine Lake United Methodist Camp in Westfield. John was by her side as a camp counselor.
Jan is currently the agency manager for Special Olympics in Cuba City.
“We offer a year-round program to not only the school-age, but to the adult population as well,” Jan said. “It’s one big family. We have people come from outside of Cuba City as well, depending on the sports we offer.”
Cuba City Special Olympics athletes can participate in basketball, volleyball, bowling and softball.
“We’ve had some very successful teams,” Jan said. “It takes a lot of work and you have to have tough love and have high expectations. The more you expect, the more you get.”
The Special Olympics athletes practice Wednesday nights in the Cuba City gymnasium and Tuesdays in the summer at Splinter Park.
“We appreciate having a place to practice in the community,” Jan said. “Usually the practices are a big event of the week. It’s their social time as well as their practice time.”
The Cuba City group was one of the first Special Olympics teams in Grant County. The athletes do have to travel quite a bit for events, which are typically held in larger cities throughout the state.
John said Jan was the first to receive the Coach of the Year award through the state’s Special Olympics.
“She worked hard with people through the state to keep the program going,” John said.
Jan has coached at three international events and John has been to one. Jan is also on the state agency management committee and a succession committee. They also hold fundraisers to support the purchases of uniforms and supplies the athletes need to compete.
“Jan and John have been so instrumental in the time spent with the special Olympians,” Cuba City Mayor Tom Gile said. “They were there to lead and care for those with special needs. They did it for the love of kids involved and never for any recognition. We are so lucky to have people like Jan and John in our community.”
They enjoy seeing the accomplishments of the athletes.
“We learn so much more from them,” Jan said. “Every day is a learning experience.”
The couple is also very active in the United Methodist Church. For the past two years the couple has been working at least twice a week at the Southwest Food Pantry in Hazel Green.
Jan serves on the church’s hospitality committee, which is actively involved in the parade, bake sale and wagon rides of the annual Christmas Glow event.
Jan also serves as the mission chair for the church and the couple oversees the Bridges program (providing snacks for students who may not have enough to eat over the weekend) and assists with other causes, including: Operation Christmas Packing; Feed My Starving Children; and worldwide mission trips to establish running water, churches, clinics and education in impoverished countries. The couple has been to Bolivia six times and Peru once to assist communities with various projects.
“With the help of friends and our church, we’ve been able to build two churches and supply the furnishings for six other churches,” John said. “We supplied two water programs, a new well for one and piping for 1.5 miles for another one to have running water.”
“People preferred the water over electricity,” Jan said. “We were ready to give them electricity, but they wanted running water.”
She said in 2015 they went to Peru to assist with the clinic. They took medical supplies with them.
“Our volunteering is to see the rewarding parts of what can happen,” John said.
Jan just took up reading once a week at Epione Pavilion.
“We enjoy people,” John said. “With Special Olympics, you’re involved with the unfortunate and I think through the church that is how it is. We had a pastor who came to Cuba city and was looking for someone to go to Bolivia with them.”
“It’s hard to explain a third world country to somebody,” Jan said. “It’s hard to explain what we’ve done, because people here who are very poor here are rich by standards of others. People don’t see that. They even find it hard to believe that in Cuba City there are people who are homeless or have very little to eat.”
“Once we made that firsJohn has also been actively involved in the Cuba City Lions Club since 1975. There he has served as the president and treasurer throughout the years and has earned the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award.
He served on the Cuba City Common Council for five years and has been involved with the Cuba City Planning Commission and Zoning Board for the last two years.
The couple sees the city’s industrial park as an asset to Cuba City and would like to see more small businesses in the city. They also would like to see improvements at the school to address the overcrowding at the elementary school. They are grateful for businesses such as Thompson’s IGA for being a local asset to keep families in the area. They hope to see a bike path that leads to Cole Acres and more housing to encourage growth.
“People need to move forward and look at the whole picture,” Jan said.
John spent the majority of his career as a manager at various businesses in the area and recently retired from his position as janitor at Cuba City Schools.
“We’ve been very fortunate to be healthy enough to do all of this,” Jan said.
Editor's Note: This column will be a special addition to the Tri-County Press on a monthly basis. Look for each installment near the end of the month. All volunteers are recomended for the article by Mayor Tom Gile. If you have ideas for future volunteers in the community to be recognized, contact Gile at 608-744-3203.t trip, we could see the need and we love being involved,” John said. “We are continually learning.”