Team Missouri helps athlete grow both on and off the field

One of the easiest ways to tell if a Special Olympics program is successful is in the growth of the athletes outside of the realm of competition.

One such success story is in Tere’e Trussell from Columbia, Mo.

Trussell, 22, has been involved with Special Olympics Missouri for more than six years, participating in softball, tennis, track, basketball and golf.Trussel, Tere

Central Area Program Director Diane Brimer said Trussell has really developed into a team leader – but it wasn’t too long ago when she thought Trussell wasn’t getting everything out of the program that she wanted.

“When I’d see her at competitions before, she just seemed down all the time,” Brimer said. “She seemed kind of disinterested in what was going on. She didn’t really talk to anyone that she didn’t already know well.”

However, Brimer said she noticed a change in Trussell following her nomination and selection in June 2013 to attend the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games as a part of Team Missouri.

“Just in those few short months since her selection, I couldn’t get over how her personality has really changed and she’s much more outgoing in meeting new people on the team and just enjoying herself,” Brimer said. “She was talking to people I never saw her talk to before.

“She just seemed to be enjoying life so much more.”

Despite being nominated for the team in tennis, Trussell also tried out for the golf team and will be competing in the Level 1 Individual Skills Competition in New Jersey.

Trussell, Ter'e (2)

Trussell practices her golf swing at a Team Missouri training in March 2014.

Trussell said she is “honored” to attend the 2014 USA Games as a part of Team Missouri.

“I’m most looking forward to meeting new people from other states!” Trussell said.

That’s a sentence that Brimer never thought she would hear from Trussell – and firmly believes that being selected for Team Missouri has changed her outlook on Special Olympics Missouri.

It has given her a sense of belonging and being a part of a team, which Trussell said is why SOMO is so important to her.

“I’m a part of a team and have met many new friends,” she said. “I also have lost weight and made better eating choices.”

Brittany Doscher has been actively involved in Trussell’s life as a part of the staff at her assisted living center; Doscher has seen her mature over the years as well.

“I feel like she’s more accountable and shows positive leadership skills,” Doscher said. “I feel that Tere’e has developed a sense of community with all of her teammates.

“Each person brings their own set of strengths and they all work together to bring out the best of each other.

Unified Sports(R) Offers Benefits to People of All Ability Levels

Arc Unified SportsThere’s a new trend happening in St. Louis that advocates for people with intellectual disabilities hope catches on. The focus is on Special Olympics Missouri’s Unified Sports® program, which pairs athletes both with and without intellectual disabilities on the athletic fields.

St. Louis Arc is one organization doing its part to make sure that the Unified Sports program grows in the city.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with Special Olympics because many of the Arc athletes on our basketball teams and bowling leagues have also participated with SOMO for years,” said Arc Coordinator Brianne Henrichs.

The St. Louis Arc is a non-profit United Way agency that provides support and services to more than 3,500 adults and children with intellectual disabilities and their families throughout the St. Louis Metro Area.

The groundwork for a great working relationship between SOMO and the Arc was already laid, but when Henrichs first saw a Unified Sports game she was so excited about the possibilities at the Arc that she wanted to get involved.

“Admittedly, it was mostly because of my desire to play!” she said.

Following a SOMO basketball tournament in 2012, Henrichs and Arc staff created their Unified soccer team and things have been fantastic ever since.

“In my opinion it has gone great and everyone seems to be having a wonderful time! Every league is Unified and anyone can play no matter their ability. I think it will grow as people continue to get the word out,” she said.

“Once people join, they are hooked and then they tell their family and friends about it. It’s easy to get hooked because it’s a blast! I would love to see this become a trend in St. Louis.”

The Arc has grown the program from only one team in basketball and soccer to three teams in both; they will be branching out to offer softball this summer.

For Brianne, the program is more about making friends than winning.

“The biggest takeaway that I have gotten from these teams is that recreation is a platform for community equality,” she said. “Each person reaps the same benefits from playing on this team no matter his or her ability…

“My friends that play on these teams have all been competitive athletes and many of them have told me that the ‘Arc United’ teams are the best teams that they have ever played on.

“It reminds me of why I fell in love with sports – it’s pure.”

Some might think that assimilating athletes without intellectual disabilities with SOMO athletes would be a difficult process in the beginning, but Henrichs said it’s been “simple.”

“I haven’t run into any struggles,” she said. “I have found that less is more and everyone is accepted for their differences. You don’t have to do much when you explain the rules, teach the basics and throw the ball out there and just play.

“The outcome is not to win, it’s to have fun…”

Henrichs said the best piece of advice she could give to other programs thinking about creating their own Unified Sports team is to just “do it” and the rest will fall into place.

“I find myself leaving my other recreational teams and only playing on our Unified teams,” she said.

“To say that it’s been a positive experience is an understatement.”

For more information on Unified Sports, visit http://www.somo.org/unifiedsports or email Gary Brimer at Brimer@somo.org

Gardner busts down stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities

One of the many great aspects about Special Olympics Missouri is how it breaks down stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities.

Nobody is more emblematic of just how well our athletes can smash through those stereotypes with hard work and persistence than Southeast Area athlete Logan Gardner.

‘Continued to fight’

Gardner, 20, was playing sports with younger athletes in Sikeston because of his size until he was 15. That was until his mother Melody heard about Special Olympics Missouri.

“In Logan’s earlier years, it was hard,” Melody said regarding what it’s been like raising a child with special needs. “Logan had to have someone with him at all times. Logan struggled in school and the local community.

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Logan Gardner poses for a photo with a law enforcement officer at a local tennis competition.

“But we continued to fight for him and let people know that Logan was a person as well and we weren’t going to sit back and let him be excluded. We continued to put him in sports and over time people have come to know him and accept him no matter what.”

Not only has SOMO taught Logan the meaning of sportsmanship and acceptance, but what is needed to excel in life disability or no.

 

Positivity is key

“Logan has grown and developed into a wonderful athlete that gives 110 percent,” Melody said. “He is a very positive person.”

The positivity is something others, including his coaches, have caught onto.

“He’s just one of the friendliest and happiest athletes we’ve got,” said bowling coach Peggy Berryhill. “He always wants to be around everybody. … He loves to joke around and always has a high-five for everybody no matter what’s going on.”

She said he’s always willing to listen to what you have to say even if he doesn’t always do what he’s told.

“He’s pretty hard-headed,” Berryhill, his coach of four years, said with a laugh. “He knows what he wants to do, but he’s very determined to stick with whatever is placed in front of him.”

Track and field coach Stan Smith said he would categorize Gardner as “squirrely.”

“He’s enthusiastic about doing things,” Smith said. “I’ve always found him friendly and willing to listen. He’s a lot of fun. … He’s real fun-loving – he jokes around with the guys.”

 

‘Willing to help’

Southeast Area Development Director Penny Williams said Gardner is one of the best multi-sport athletes in the area citing that he participates in basketball, bowling, softball, track and field and tennis.

“He is a team leader among all of his teammates. Logan is a very kind-hearted person who has given as much to the program as much as the program has given to him,” Williams said. “He is always willing to help in any way that he can. His kind attitude becomes reflected in everyone he comes in contact with.”

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Gardner poses for a photo while at a SOMO bowling competition.

One such way that Gardner shows his dedication in giving back to the program that serves him is by taking part in the annual Polar Plunge in Cape Girardeau as a part of the Sikeston Guns N Hose team.

When they first heard about the Plunge four years ago, Melody said they thought it was a great way “for Logan to show others that athletes can give back just as much as anyone.”

“So we rallied together and took the chance,” she said. “He loved it and this year was the only athlete in our local area to Plunge.”

Gardner said he Plunges because “it’s fun,” but has no shame in admitting it’s “cold, cold water.”

 

Dance machine

As much as Gardner loves competing in sports, especially his favorite sport bowling, there might be one thing he enjoys even more.

“He enjoys his sports,” Berryhill said, “but he has a good time at the dance; he loves to dance.”

Because, Gardner said, they allow him to “party all night long.”

Choosing Person-First Language

By: Jacob Conklin

When people ask, and inevitably they do, about how I became involved with Special Olympics and special education I give a canned response based on the audience. It never fails though that someone always asks if it is because of a family member; maybe I have a brother, niece, cousin or even a parent with special needs. When I explain that I do not have a family member with a disability I usually receive the same response from everyone, nodding and saying “oh, okay.” This is followed by them tilting their head slightly with a look of bewilderment. I have always been troubled by this response because I never know how to take it, but at this point I accept that it will happen and move on.

The truth is I am involved in special education because of Special Olympics but there is not one defining factor that set me on this course but there are many AH-HA moments that have propelled me deeper down the rabbit hole. Most people would comment that I am naturally compassionate or maintain superhero levels of patience (I do not by the way, as my students can willing attest), I would say that my natural curiosity and desire to know people was the trait that led me here. To be completely honest, I was the kid, teenager, young adult who stared, gaze fully locked on the person in the wheelchair. This was followed up by a prompt tap on the head and a “stop, you are being rude” by a parent, sibling, teacher or friend. This cycle of natural curiosity matched with an attention getting rap to the head combined with “it’s rude to stare” started a long and twisted association of recognizing people with disabilities as being rude a gesture on my part and thus wrong, punishable by a quick finger strike to my head. As I look back on this mutated association I realize this is probably a typical story for most people. We were young, innocent and curious about the world around us. Incessantly asking our parents questions, “why is the sky blue”, “where do babies come from”, “why does that person use a wheelchair”, “why does he talk funny”, and “why does she look different?” No question was asked with malice or malicious intent, just childlike curiosity.

Jumping ahead two decades I was still the onlooker with hidden curiosity. However, I was too afraid to talk to that person in a wheelchair or anyone who had a visible disability, ashamed to want to know his or her story. It was far better to ignore and be ignorant than be rude. As I found myself toying with the idea of making a second career in the field of special education I discovered a concept that would change the way I perceived my world and how I thought about people with disabilities.

People-first language is a form of linguistic prescriptivism in English, aiming to avoid perceived and subconscious dehumanization when discussing people with disabilities, as such forming an aspect of disability etiquette.

The basic idea is to impose a sentence structure that names the person-first and the condition second, for example “people with disabilities” rather than “disabled people”, in order to emphasize that “they are people first”. Because English syntax normally places adjectives before nouns, it becomes necessary to insert relative clauses, replacing, e.g., “asthmatic person” with “a person who has asthma.” – Wikipedia

A veil had been lifted and I suddenly found solace in the idea that I should see the person before any other condition. It took time to change my language but by forcing myself to change the words I used. I changed my way of thinking about and how I saw people with disabilities. The language eventually became automatic and I began to embrace the curiosity that had been long repressed. No longer was I bound to the chain of thoughts “a disability… I am rude… must ignore”. Person-first language was eye opening and yet so simple, if I consciously change my words it would (and did) lead to me thinking and seeing people before the condition.

“Nick is learning disabled” would be a common phrase in my world of education. It bears no malicious intent but it is a statement with a sense of absoluteness. Saying “Nick IS learning disabled” is saying he is the condition, he is the disability; however using person-first language we would state that “Nick has a learning disability.” The difference is very subtle and to many it may even seem trivial. It was this small change that clicked with me. No longer was I focused on the condition, I could see the person and recognize the condition as an attribute of their whole.

I am not here to tell you how to speak or to assume the role of word police but to simply weave a narrative of how person-first language has been a very useful tool in my life. Person-first language is not the same as being politically correct, person-first language is much (can be) more substantial than just being PC. Full disclosure, I am aware of all the criticisms against using person-first language and how some advocacy groups or disability cultures abhor its use. Again, I am just trying to create a narrative about how utilizing person-first language has been a useful in my experiences.

If you are still with me I am sure you have asked or are asking yourself what does this have to do with Special Olympics. I am writing this menagerie of irreverence in hopes someone somewhere decides to supplement or enhance their Spread the Word program by using person-first language. One of the difficulties I have seen over the last 7 or 8 years of ban the r-word programming is that there is a disconnect between the impassioned few and the ill-informed mass. I have seen teenager and adult alike employ a wide spectrum of strategies to combat the use of the r-word. The disconnect is in us telling someone else they have done and are doing something wrong by using the r-word. People who generally mean well and use the r-word use it much the same reason a habitual swearer uses curse words. They lack a robust enough accessible vocabulary and the r-word much like cuss words easily fill the all those roles of speech, it can serve as a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. However, there is also the case of the educated person who still chooses to use it. To this I say we have to change the way people chose their words. I doubt the masses wake up and consciously decide “today I will try and use as many offensive words as possible.” So why are people using the r-word? I think back to times when I have said something I should not have and try to figure why I said it. How did I decide to use the words or words that I let slip from my mouth? I recognize I had control of my actions but I wasn’t consciously selecting each and every individual word that came forth. There was a level of automaticity to it; I knew what was coming or what I wanted to get across but sometimes certain words just come up as we look for other ones.

How do we change how we think or our subconscious word selection? The answer for me was people first language. If you find this as intriguing as I initially did, and continue to, I implore you to give it a try. It may take a few days, weeks, or even months but it has the potential to impact how you see people around you. My hopes are that in time you will share it with the people around you as I have with my students, colleagues, and friends who can attest to its affects.

For further information on

Person-first language:

http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/explore/people-first-language

http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2523

Person-first language in writing and journalism

http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2523

Linguistic Relativity

http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Sapir%E2%80%93Whorf_hypothesis.html

 Jacob Conklin is a special education teacher at Pleasant Hope R-VI School District in Pleasant Hope, Missouri. Conklin has interned with Special Olympics International and is a Student Council advisor.

 

Lee’s Summit cop perfect role model for athletes, other Unified Partners

This is the fourth in a series of stories compiled by Special Olympics Missouri to highlight those people within the organization who are doing great things. The Special Olympics Missourian of the Month will highlight an athlete, coach, family or volunteer who the SOMO staff members believe embody what the mission is all about. This month, the KC Metro Area has singled out coach Amanda Geno of Lee’s Summit as the January Special Olympics Missourian of the Month.

Fitting in can sometimes be troublesome, especially if people think they don’t have any shared commonalities.

Therein lie a potential difficulty in growing the Unified Partners® program in Special Olympics Missouri – but only if the focus is on peoples’ differences instead of their similarities.

Unified Sports® is an inclusive program that pairs individuals with intellectual disabilities (SOMO athletes) and individuals without IDs (partners) on sports teams for training and competition in 21 Olympic-type sports divisioned by age and ability.

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Amanda Geno, left, accepts an award from Kansas City Metro Area Regional Development Director Kami Delameter.

It might seem like growing such a program would be difficult, but only if someone focuses on the differences. It doesn’t take too long, however, to see there are many more similarities between our athletes and our Unified Partners than differences.

If there’s one person who could be considered the poster girl for ignoring the differences and highlighting the similarities between athletes and UPs, it’s UP and Lee’s Summit Police Officer Amanda Geno.

“Amanda is awesome,” said coach Bea Webb of the Jackson County Parks and Rec Special Population Services team. “She has become a big sister, a role model to the guys and girls of our team.  She’s just a great young lady; she’s dignified, but laughs and jokes with them as if she was one of them.”

Geno, 29, is one of them. As a UP, she’s considered a Special Olympics athlete – and her fellow athletes love her.

“She’s a lot of fun,” said SOMO Athlete Brittany Selken. “She wants to be around all of the time.”

Selken, 23, and Geno have been partners for a little more than a year in softball and bowling. Selken has already taken a liking to Geno, mainly because of her authenticity.

“She’s just so understanding, loveable, caring and there for you when you need somebody to talk to,” Selken said. “When my mom passed away she was there for me to talk to and understand what I was going through.”

Geno said the experience of being a UP is what you make of it.

“It’s hard to decide what I most enjoy as a UP,” Geno said. “ Sometimes I laugh until I cry and sometimes they laugh out loud at me when I trip over the ball return or do something goofy. I also enjoy how excited they are to see me and are always quick to ask how my weekend was or how I’ve been.

“I’m proud to introduce and claim my partners and team. I make them a part of my life outside of SOMO.”

‘Almost like it was meant to be’

Geno first became involved with Special Olympics in 2002 after selecting her college sorority based on its already-existing relationship with Special Olympics.

She went on to help a Special Olympics wheelchair slalom team practice with her college cross country team.

Following college, Geno became a police officer and joined the Law Enforcement Torch Run®, which helped further the cause in Geno’s eyes.

“It’s almost like it was meant to be!” she said.


Staying busy

In the past few years, Geno has gone out of her way to become more involved with SOMO. Fellow Lee’s Summit police officer Mark Wiesemann said Geno has been pushing to do more with the LETR.

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Geno takes pride in not just competing and volunteering for SOMO athletes, but fundraising for them as well as is seen in this photo of her taking part in the Over the Edge fundraiser.

“What separates her from other officers involved in LETR is that she goes to many more events,” Wiesemann said. “Whether it’s to pass out medals or to participate as a Unified Partner® … she has also helped coordinate a Torch Run and also assists both in the planning and set-up of the Polar Plunge.”

Kami Delameter, regional development director for SOMO, said Geno is the embodiment for  what LETR is all about.

“Amanda is a wonderful representation of our partnership with law enforcement,” Delameter said. “She has embraced SOMO in all aspects – torch runner, Plunge committee member, (Games Management Team) member and general event-day volunteer.

“She’s gotten her mom and boyfriend (another law enforcement officer) involved with volunteering also.”

Geno said she wanted to serve on the games management teams because she can be the voice of the athletes and make sure they are heard in the planning of events in and around the KC Metro Area events.

“I wanted to serve on several GMTs because I know the athletes; I know what’s important to them; I know what they like and don’t like,” she said. “I decided to join the Plunge committee because the KC Metro Area Plunge is the best. It has been run by a Lee’s Summit officer for the last 10 years, and it is just another way to be involved by creating awareness and raising funds for the athletes.”

Coach Webb said this push to become immersed in the behind-the-scenes aspect of SOMO is what makes Geno so invaluable.

“She surrounds herself in our program,” Webb said. “I asked her why and she didn’t even hesitate to say, ‘It’s a part of my life.’

“It’s a part of her.”
A little MO Magic

In June 2013, Geno took part in SOMO’s USA Games Selection Camp at the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo. She qualified for the bowling team and will compete alongside fellow athlete Tiffany Wright at the 2014 USA Games, June 14-21, in New Jersey.

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Geno, right, poses for a photo with SOMO athlete Tanya Johnson after they received a gold medal at a local bowling competition.

This will be the first time Geno will compete at a national level for Special Olympics Missouri and it’s safe to say she’s a little excited about the opportunity.

“I’m learning as I go, and I’m pretty sure I’m just as excited as the athletes,” Geno said. “I’m proud to be their voice if they need it, their shoulder to cry on when things get tough and an encouraging voice when they are having a bad game.

“After I was nominated by (coach Webb), I wanted to join the team because the athletes know I’m there for them and want the absolute best for them. And on the same hand, they know I expect nothing but the best through a lot of hard work. I wanted to experience the opportunities these athletes will have all thanks to Special Olympics.”

So, why did coach Webb pick Geno as a Unified Partner® for the Team Missouri bowling team?

“The fact that she’s an officer, I thought it’d be great to have a volunteer officer on the team and how she gets along so well with all of the other bowlers,” Webb said.

“I noticed one day at bowling practice she was tutoring an athlete in their schoolwork in between taking turns bowling. She’s very respectful to the athlete and herself.”

Geno said she wants to go to New Jersey so badly that she would have taken any spot on Team Missouri, regardless of the sport.

“The athletes put a smile on my face and teach me to be a better person every minute I’m around them,” she said. “I can’t wait to go on this journey with them. And then when I return to Missouri, I can’t wait to tell all of my family, friends and co-workers about the experience, hoping to spark an interest in volunteering!”

Special Olympics Missouri — Hall of Fame Inductees for 2013

Congratulations to Danny Duvall & Mark Bussen

In a surprise presentation at the Chateau on the Lake in Branson, athlete Danny Duvall of Kansas City and coach and advocate Mark Bussen of St. Louis were inducted into the Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) Hall of Fame.  They believed they were simply attending a Special Olympics Missouri Annual Awards Luncheon to find out how else they could further the athletes’ cause when their names were announced at the Hall of Fame luncheon.

SOMO can induct up to two athletes and two non-athletes into the Hall of Fame each year.

Duvall and Bussen will be recognized alongside the newest inductees to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, including former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee, longtime MU announcer Gary Link and 14 others.  The enshrinement ceremony takes place at the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield on Jan. 26 at 4 p.m.

Danny Duvall, AthleteDanny Duvall 1.26.14

Danny Duvall has been training and competing in Special Olympics for 37 years.  Over the years, Duvall has competed in golf, bocce, softball, bowling, athletics, basketball, floor hockey and powerlifting.

In 2006, Danny participated in the first ever USA Games in Ames, Iowa in bowling setting a Special Olympics record for single-game bowling at a score of 231.  In 2008, he received the Special Olympics Missouri Outstanding Athlete of Year award and was recognized by the Kansas City Sports Commission with the Special Athlete Achievement Award.

In addition to being recognized for several honors as a SOMO athlete, Duvall won the Bishop Sullivan Award through Catholic Charities in part because of his work as a Eucharistic Minister, usher and member of the Knights of Columbus.

Danny is a global messenger and has made numerous speaking engagements and media interviews over the years to promote the Special Olympics movement.  Duvall’s contagious smile, fun-loving attitude, giving heart and his spirit of sportsmanship have made him a household name in Special Olympics Missouri.

Mark Bussen, VolunteerMark Bussen HOF

Mark Bussen became involved with Special Olympics Missouri in 1997 as the coach of the West County Special Olympics team.  He has two passions: sports and the great rewards that such activities bring and an overwhelming desire to make an impact on the lives of people.  He always had a special connection with individuals with intellectual disabilities, so it was a natural fit for him to coach SOMO athletes.

Through his leadership, the West County team is one of SOMO’s premiere programs with more than 40 athletes involved.  He tirelessly supports SOMO through his charitable efforts, raising more than $15,000 in the annual car raffle.  As a business leader, he has also built goodwill among several industries helping to generate nearly $50,000 annually.  In 2005, Mark was recognized as the Outstanding Coach of the Year.

He takes his role as coach and advocate beyond the playing field and touches the lives of so many through his generosity, dedication, enthusiasm and charisma.  As one athlete said, “Mark Bussen is the best coach in Special Olympics!”

For more information or to learn how you can support Special Olympics Missouri, contact Brandon Schatsiek at Schatsiek@somo.org. Information about the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Enshrinement can be found at www.mosportshalloffame.com.

Special Olympics Missouri’s Annual Award Winners Announced

Jennifer Neihouse, Jeff Fugett, Mike and Kathy Lowry and the Hewlett family were all recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri at the 2014 SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 18 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement.

Outstanding Athlete: Jennifer Neihouse, Lee’s Summit 

Jennifer Neihouse has everything a coach could want in an athlete–hustle, hard work, Jennifer Neihouse Athlete of the Yearalways smiling, cheering, great team work, willingness to try new sports and then some!  She participates in bowling, track, swimming, basketball, bocce, softball and powerlifting.  She would do more if we offered it and it fit her schedule!

Jennifer is currently tackling a swimming routine to improve her times so she can do well at this summer’s USA Games in New Jersey.  Once again, we have challenged Jennifer to work hard at a sport that is not easy nor her best one but once again she is doing the work and making improvements so she can do her very best.

Jennifer also exhibits a love for promoting the program and has taken the steps to be a Global Messenger.  She has given her time to go out and promote the message of Special Olympics to many groups in KC.

Outstanding Volunteer: Jeff Fugett, Bolivar

Jeff Fugett is a trooper with the Missouri Highway Patrol and has been involved with SOMO since 2000.  In his time with SOMO he has served on various committees and participated in the Torch Run every year.  Jeff also has volunteered his time at various events as well as hosting an area basketball tournament and has served for several years on the water crew at Summer Games.

At the 2013 State Summer Games, Jeff decided to come up early and help coordinate aJeff Fugget Volunteer of the Year group of officers to set up the games.  He then participated in the final leg of the Torch Run to open the games.  When medal presenters didn’t show, he stepped in and helped present medals to the athletes.  On top of what he did at Summer Games last year, he then did the same thing at Fall Games, helping with the tear down of each venue.

In addition to his volunteering at events, he is also a Super Plunger raising a minimum of $2,500.  He has been a Super Plunger for many years and truly does NOT enjoy jumping in the icy cold waters at the Lake of the Ozarks 24 times in 24 hours, but does so because he believe in the mission and in the nearly 17,000 athletes in Missouri.

Outstanding Coaches: Mike and Kathy Lowry, Independence 

Kathy and Mike Lowry are both dedicated, passionate and selfless coaches who give their all to Special Olympics Missouri.  The two-for-one package is hard to break.  Mike and Kathy are coaches who work on improving their athlete’s lives by growing them as Lowrys Coach of the Yearleaders both on and off the playing field.  They are always looking for better ways to improve their athletes’ skills.  They often give their time on a free weekend to travel to sports clinics and other activities, so the athletes can learn new skills and improve others.  Mike and Kathy offer seven different sports at William Chrisman High School, but when athletes want to play a sport they do not offer, the Lowrys find a team for athletes to play on, and make sure they get to practice.

Besides these duties, they both volunteer their time as key Volunteer Managers at the area & state level competition.  Both Mike and Kathy also bring their talents to Sports Camp for a week, in order to help make camp a wonderful experience fort the athletes.  It’s nice to count on them as they can be moved around at events to assist with different activities and they will make it fun for everyone.

Outstanding Family: The Hewletts, Warrenton

The Hewlett family is a family that goes above andHewletts Family of the Year beyond to build awareness for Special Olympics Missouri.  Kim Hewlett is the mother of D.J., Emily and Sarah.  Emily and Sarah are both athletes in the program.  D.J. is their older brother and he volunteers in a variety of ways as a chaperone, Unified Partner and venue coordinator.

Kim is a single mom who works a very demanding full-time job.  She is an advocate not just for her own children, but for others as well.

D.J. works full time at the sheltered workshop and goes to college in the evenings.  D.J. applied for the job at the workshop because of his sisters and his involvement with Special Olympics and his love for working with individuals with special needs.