Meet this week’s featured athlete in our SOMO Spotlight: Sierra Simmons!
Meet the September 25 SOMO featured athlete: Sarah Byland from Columbia!
The following is an interview with Eli Johnson, 5, from Skidmore, and his parents, Roger and Kathy. The Young Athletes Program is designed to reach out to children with intellectual disabilities ages 3 to 7, and to welcome them and their families to the Special Olympics movement.
Interview with Eli
What’s your favorite sport/play activity? Why?
I like t-ball , baseball and basketball because my older brothers play. I like catching the ball and playing with my friends.
Do you have a favorite sports hero? Who?
Yes, I like Billy Butler. He plays for the Kansas City Royals.
Do you have a favorite sports team? Which one?
Yes, I like the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Kansas City Royals.
What’s your favorite toy to play with? Why?
My favorite toys are tractors, animals, bullriding, Playmobil and hot wheels. I just like them because they are fun. I can pretend with them.
Interview with Roger and Kathy
How long has your son been involved in Special Olympics’ Young Athletes program?
What is your child’s favorite sport/activity? Why?
Eli enjoys t-ball, basketball, track and field Little Feet Meet. He enjoys competing like his older brothers and being part of a team. Eli does not see any limitations when he participates.
How did your child / family become involved with Special Olympics?
Three years ago they started a Young Athletes Program in the county where we live. Eli started attending the four week sessions where he plays games and meets other children with disabilities. Then as a young athlete he was invited to the Little Feet Meet track and field day where each young athlete participates in the open ceremonies and three events: running, standing long jump and throwing a tennis ball. Eli loves going and he looks forward to participating again this coming spring.
What has your son gained from his participation in Special Olympics?
Eli is not as shy. He tries different activities. Eli is able to compete like other kids and he feels important because of it. It helps him to not see barriers.
Describe your proudest moment regarding your child’s participation in Special Olympics?
Our proudest moments are seeing how excited Eli is when competing and trying new things. We love Eli’s smile and pure joy as he runs down the track. We are excited to see how proud Eli is when he participates in the track and field Little Feet Meet opening ceremonies while the crowd is cheering. Eli has developed a feeling of self worth by participating in Young Athletes Special Olympics. We have also enjoyed seeing how supportive Eli’s older brothers are when watching him participate. Eli is determined to do everything on this own.
Meet Ryan Fant in this week’s SOMO Athlete Spotlight!
Meet SOMO athlete Rachel Jackson from Russellville:
This past June, Special Olympics Missouri athletes attended National Games Selection Camp in Mexico, Mo. Of these athletes, 125 were chosen to be a part of the Missouri national team, called MO Magic, and represent the state of Missouri at the 2014 National Games in New Jersey.
It’s a privilege to be selected and an exciting time in the lives of these athletes, but there is work to be done before they compete in 2014. Each athlete has a goal to raise $1,500, and many will set individual goals along the way. Fundraising efforts began at the beginning of August, and in the past month a few athletes have already begun effective campaigns that will lead them to New Jersey.
Logan Hulett, 22, has already met the fundraising goal in just one month, but he is not stopping there. A local sports editor in his hometown of Moberly wrote a feature article about Logan and how swimming for Special Olympics has helped him over the years. The article helped raise awareness in his hometown and generated an interest in his success and accomplishments as a part of the Missouri team.
As far as fundraising goes, Logan is selling mums which each generate $10 of profit towards Logan’s fundraising. In addition, Logan’s father, Stanley Hulett, is putting together a corporate challenge to benefit all Missouri team members. He will be inviting local businesses in Moberly to pledge a donation for SOMO athletes. His father has no doubt that this effort will be successful due to Logan’s presence in the community.
“Logan endears himself to a lot of people. There are not many people around here that Logan doesn’t know,” said Hulett. He believes that this personal connection is what drives people to want to donate.
Jane Highland, 34, will be competing in athletics in New Jersey and has a similar presence in the Columbia community. She has been selling homemade cheesecakes for a month now with the help of her mother, Mary Moore. In just one month, 50 cheesecakes have been sold at $20 each.
“I thought we would make maybe $500 overall with the cakes… a lot of people buy them to support her,” Moore said. In addition to selling cheesecakes, Jane has had great fundraising success at her workplace, Kilgore’s Pharmacy in Columbia. One of her coworkers had the idea to sell T-shirts with the store’s name and to make them Jane’s favorite color — orange.
The idea is to sell the shirts for $20, with the $10 profit from each shirt going to Jane’s fundraising. As an extra incentive, Kilgore’s will begin allowing employees to wear the shirts on Wednesdays (the day that Jane works) if they pay $5, which will be donated to Jane’s fund as well. So far, more than $500 in proceeds has been raised for Jane from Kilgore’s.
Pierce Rash, 32, from Galt, is a MO Magic bocce team member who has already begun successful fundraising as well. “He’s a real motivator… he always wears his medals,” said his mother, Judy Rash. They have spread the word in the community that Pierce was selected for the Missouri team, and people are excited to help him get to New Jersey. His mother has made sure everyone knows that he has to earn his way to New Jersey, so Pierce has been asked to help with projects around town. Pierce fed his neighbors’ chickens for a week earning five dollars per day, bussed tables at Mi Mexico restaurant in Gallatin for tips and cleaned the glass of DTC Bank’s front doors in Trenton.
At the end of the month, there will be “Rent-A-Pierce,” as his mother calls it. Missionaries who are moving out of town will be “renting” Pierce to load their trailers, wash trucks and compile donation items for the thrift store where Pierce volunteers. Among other things the Rash family has planned is an Apple iPad mini raffle at five dollars per ticket and a SOMO-decorated Christmas tree raffle at one dollar per ticket.
The family will also be sending SOMO-decorated Christmas trees to St. Joseph for other athletes to raffle off. In addition, Pierce walks one mile every day, and people pledge the miles he walks, which is a constant source of donation money. “The communities here are totally behind him. … They’ve honored our wish to have him earn his way to New Jersey,” Judy said.
Melissa Buss, 26, from Festus will be competing in bocce in New Jersey, and she is another athlete receiving strong community support. Her father, who passed away this past year, was a member of the Elks Lodge, and the organization has decided to reach out to Melissa in her journey to New Jersey.
They will be having raffles and tailgates over the next couple of months, and will then present a check to the Buss family that will go towards her $1,500 fundraising goal.
“Melissa told them about her events. Whenever she’d come home with a medal, she’d go there,” said Helen Buss, Melissa’s mother. “They’ve taken her under their wing to make sure she gets to New Jersey, they’re just friends who want her to get there.” Melissa has also set up a link to her donation page on Facebook and Twitter to let friends and family know how they can help.
These athletes’ communities have played an important role in their fundraising efforts, along with hard work and creativity. People enjoy helping a good cause, so it’s important to spread the word and make sure people know how they can help. For many athletes, social media sites are a great and easy way to keep people updated. Logan, Jane, Pierce and Melissa have all started off strong with fun and effective ways to raise money. For more information on the MO Magic team and how you can help the athletes get to New Jersey, visit http://somo.org/nationalgames.
Special Olympics International has announced a partnership with Walt Disney Company and ESPN to promote social inclusion and acceptance through sports.
According to the press release from ESPN on Friday, Sept. 6, ESPN and parent company Walt Disney Company have signed on to become global presenting sponsors and official media sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports.
The rest of the press release from ESPN is below.
The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Special Olympics today announced a two-year global initiative that will leverage the power of sports to promote an environment of social inclusion and acceptance, by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through the Special Olympics Unified Sports program. With a multi-million dollar financial and in-kind investment, Disney and ESPN will support Special Olympics’ goal of registering one million Unified Sports participants, including athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities), teammates (individuals without intellectual disabilities) and coaches, by 2015.
The new collaboration, announced by John Skipper, ESPN President, and Timothy P. Shriver, Special Olympics CEO and Chairman, expands on Disney’s and ESPN’s 30-year commitment to Special Olympics. A portion of the new funds will be directed to Special Olympics Programs around the world to help grow Unified Sports initiatives, as well as to enhance Special Olympics Unified Sports branding and marketing initiatives to increase awareness of the program.
Eight target growth markets have been identified, including four domestic (Connecticut, central Florida, southern California/greater Los Angeles and Seattle) and four global (Argentina, Brazil, India and Mexico). ESPN will also help Special Olympics develop and strengthen the Unified Sports global brand through marketing assistance, target-market research and in-kind ads and public service announcements across ESPN platforms. Additionally, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN have become the global presenting sponsors and official media sponsors of Special Olympics Unified Sports, and will lend their branding to Unified Sports events in the eight target markets.
Tim Shriver, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Special Olympics:
“We are thrilled that Disney and ESPN recognize the power of Special Olympics Unified Sports and want to support the growth of our program that creates a level playing field in schools and communities throughout the world. Our movement is a social revolution using sports to achieve our goals and Unified Sports is our path to creating communities that are accepting and inclusive.”
John Skipper, ESPN President, Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks:
“We’re proud to play a leading role in this global initiative to encourage social inclusion through sports. We’re inspired by the tremendous work done all over the world by Special Olympics through Unified Sports. Inclusion and acceptance are values that our company stands for and I know our employees will passionately support this wonderful effort.”
Leslie Goodman, Senior Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, Disney:
“Sports have the unique ability to transcend social and cultural barriers. Disney is proud to support Special Olympics Unified Sports, which is helping to create a better world through compassion and understanding.”
Special Olympics Celebration at ESPN’s campus
In conjunction with the announcement, ESPN hosted a Special Olympics Unified Sports celebration on its Bristol, Conn. campus—one day before ESPN’s 34th anniversary (Sept. 7). Teams participated in Unified Sports recreational competitions, which included basketball, flag football and soccer. Special Olympics athletes played alongside Portland Trail Blazers’ NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, X Games skateboarder Mitchie Brusco, U.S. women’s soccer player Kristine Lilly, ESPN NFL Live host Trey Wingo, ESPN SportsCenter anchors Sage Steele and Kevin Negandhi and several ESPN employees. Additionally, Sue Swanson, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, was on site to support the announcement as was Special Olympics International board member and champion figure skater, Michelle Kwan.