About Special Olympics Missouri

Promoting acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities through sports.

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.

 

MASC Honored with Special OlympicsMissouri’s Highest Organizational Honor

2013 Award of Excellence Winner

(Jefferson City) The Missouri Association of Student Councils was recognized for its 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. Past honorees have included Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers and more.

The Missouri Association of Student Councils chose Special Olympics Missouri as its 276814_150724721653485_1011487159_n[1]charity of choice 20 years ago. Since that time students have been raising funds and awareness in junior highs and high schools across the state. Member schools are encouraged to assist with Special Olympics events in their areas. Many of the schools host events, volunteer at events, do fundraisers, participate in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign and take the Polar Plunge. The students volunteer an average of 12,000 hours a year equating to 240,000 hours they have given to Special Olympics Missouri.

In 2009, MASC stepped up its commitment and really promoted the Polar Plunge. That year, 700 youth raised more than $99,000. Schools are being creative with how they raise the money and they have even started competitions between other, rival schools. There are two schools in the Kansas City Metro Area who year after year bring between $20,000 and $30,000 together because of their spirited rivalry and commitment to Special Olympics Missouri. The momentum schools have generated since 2009 has resulted in a grand total of more than $490,000 being raised just through the Polar Plunge. This amount does not include all the other fundraising the individual schools do throughout the year.

MASC promotes and teaches acceptance, respect and inclusion for all. Our athletes are included in the MASC Summer Leadership Workshop where they work side by side with their peers developing their leadership skills, confidence and building a bridge of acceptance and change for all. The interaction between the youth leaders and the athletes is amazing! Athletes grow from timid, unsure individuals to outgoing, confident leaders who are ready to get involved with their student council as representatives, run for office and plan school activities. Youth leaders learned to embrace individual differences and the value of inclusion.

MASC is educating the leaders of our future to be agents of change, fostering respect and dignity for through service to others.

MASC Executive Director Terri Johnson was on hand to receive the award on behalf of the participating schools around the state.

For information about Special Olympics Missouri, the Annual Award recipients or the 2014 SOMO Summit, please contact Brandon Schatsiek at 573-635-8233 or Schatsiek@somo.org.

 

Coach McCullick stands out by blending in

This is the third 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 Southwest Area has singled out coach Julie McCullick of El Dorado Springs as the December Special Olympics Missourian of the Month.

Usually when someone has made a name for themselves, or if their reputation precedes them, it’s typically because they have gone out of their way to make sure people notice them.

With Julie McCullick, it’s quite the opposite.

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Julie McCullick

As a Special Olympics Missouri coach of more than 20 years, McCullick has gone out of her way to not be singled out for her hard work on behalf of all of her athletes. She keeps her head down and powers through without needing praise or validation to continue her pursuit of making sure her athletes receive the best support possible.

She does it all for the 25 athletes at her agency – Partners In Your Community.

And that’s exactly why she’s being honored as the Special Olympics Missourian of the Month for December.

“She does not always stand out because she just blends in and sometimes the best (like her) get overlooked because they just never need to be told to do things; they just do them,” said Robin Anderson, Southwest Area Development Director. “She is good because she cares. She rarely needs much assistance because she does it correct the first time.

“She has just always been a great coach and person and that can sometimes blend in.”

Whatever needs to be done

As owner of Partners In Your Community, McCullick works with individuals with intellectual disabilities to give them the proper assistance they need to live on their own.

Some of those individuals she assists with their living situation while at work also end up being some of her athletes.

According to her PIYC employees, she’s sees that the two go hand-in-hand and she’s equally dedicated to both.

“What I think separates Julie from other coaches is that she completely enjoys the entire experience,” said fellow SOMO coach and PIYC employee Julie Deckard. “She is the boss of Partners and would not have to go at all, but she chooses not only to go, but to take care of all of the work involved without ever complaining.”

“She is never demanding or critical (of the athletes). She makes it her goal to make sure each and every one of the athletes are having a good time.”

McCullick has never been afraid to go that extra mile if she knows that it will make even the smallest difference for her athletes – or any athlete for that matter.

“She will assist with the ramp, carry balls and shoes or bags not only for our clients, but for anyone who she sees is needing some help,” said SOMO coach and PIYC employee Paulette Fishburn.

“She is there when they receive their medals and takes pictures of them to give each athlete a copy. Julie encourages anyone who is not bowling well and will stay by them to talk through it.”

An example of McCullick’s commitment to doing whatever it takes for her athletes can be seen with one particular athlete whom Deckard said “absolutely loves to bowl,” but can sometimes lose control of himself.

On the trips to and from Special Olympics Missouri events, the athlete has had several accidents, so others suggested maybe he should only go to the events close to home. McCullick doesn’t want to hear any of that.

“Julie has a very nice, pretty new truck and she puts him in her truck each time. We have had to stop several times to clean up her truck, clean the athlete and change his clothes, but she doesn’t bat an eye, she just jumps in and gets it taken care of and off we go,” Deckard said.

“I have never once seen her ask anyone else to do this. … I think that is pretty amazing, especially since she is the owner and boss of the company and wouldn’t have to ever be hands on.”

Best of the best

If Marguerite Goodwin could have it her way, she’d want every coach to be exactly like McCullick.

Goodwin’s son, Paul, 53, has been involved with SOMO since the beginning in 1971 and has been through her fair share of coaches over the year, but according to her, McCullick is the best.

“She’s just generally a very caring person and she’s real patient to try to understand and deal with not only difficult athletes, but parents as well,” Goodwin said. “She wants the events to, above anything else, be cheerful.”

McCullick takes the time to really teach the athletes and make sure they improve in every facet of their lives.

“It amazes me when they go up to bowl and the improvement the participants have made. She’s always very encouraging even if they think they can’t do it, she talks them into it,” Goodwin said. “She’s very outgoing, but not pushy. She just watches them and certainly helps them when she thinks some improvements could be made.

“Julie is absolutely amazing.”

She is who she is

According to the people closest to McCullick, it sounds like she really is everything she preaches.

“She always has a smile on her face,” Fishburn said. “She has many things planned to do with the athletes even when they aren’t (competing).”

It’s the fun-loving part of her personality that allows her to truly enjoy every aspect of coaching in Special Olympics.

“Julie is just a friendly, upbeat and caring person,” Deckard said. “She doesn’t ever hold herself above anyone else – athlete or staff.”

Most people change over time, but Deckard, who has known McCullick for 30 years and worked for her for more than eight, said she doesn’t believe McCullick has changed “at all.”

“She is the same person every time you see her. She has a big heart and is always keeping her staff’s and her clients’ welfare and safety in mind,” Deckard said. “She makes sure everyone is comfortable and having a great time.”

After 20 years of coaching bowling, basketball and track and field, McCullick said she most enjoys watching the athletes’ pride come through both on the field of competition and on the medal stands.

“I started coaching because no one in our small town was a coach and we had several athletes who wanted to get involved,” McCullick said.

“What keeps me involved is the athletes depend on me, and I don’t want to let them down.”

Officer Mark Wiesemann named 2013 Letz Award Winner

Congratulations to our “unsung hero” Officer Mark Wiesemann

Officer Mark Wiesemann of the Lee’s Summit Police Department was awarded the John Michael Letz Award, the highest award presented by the Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run® program. Officer Wiesemann’s dedication to the Law Enforce Torch Run® (LETR) over the past 11 years has made all the difference, especially to the Special Olympics Missouri athletes in the KC Metro Area.

The John Michael Letz Award recognizes an individual whose unselfish efforts and Letz Awardcontributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics. The recipient is an individual who constantly works to do more, not for recognition, but rather in support of SOMO athletes.

On Dec. 12, Officer Wiesemann joined his colleagues as well as past recipients of the Letz Award at the 2013 Law Enforcement Torch Run Awards Ceremony held at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. The 2012 Letz Award recipient, Sgt. Mark Koeller, acknowledged Wiesemann for his hard work and dedication. Exceeding the required criteria to receive this award, Wiesemann’s dedication includes serving as his agencies’ Torch Run Coordinator for the last 11 years. Under his direction, the agency raised more than $490,000 for Special Olympics Missouri. Of particular note, is his leadership as the chairman of the largest Polar Plunge event in the state. During the nine year history, this event generated more than $1,381,000 – and in 2013 hit an all-time high of $289,000. He also served for three years on the Games Management Team for SOMO’s State and Regional Basketball Tournaments. During the presentation in front of nearly 300 law enforcement peers and supporters, the Koeller said, “What sets Officer Wiesemann apart is his ability to bring people to the table who contribute in major ways to SOMO; he recruits leaders, sponsors, in-kind contributors, media partners and orchestrates it all in a fashion of “game day” for college football.”

The John Michael Letz Award, established in December 1994, is named after Mike Letz because of his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The St. Louis Trivia Night fundraiser was his creation and it continues today raising more than $160,000 since its inception. There are trivia nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now as a result of the one he started in St. Louis.

Missouri’s Law Enforcement Torch Run ranks No. 7 in the world for funds raised for Special Olympics – law enforcement’s charity of choice worldwide.

For more information about LETR or the LETR Conference including the Letz Award please visit contact Susan Stegeman, Vice President at (800) 846-2682 or stegeman@somo.org.