2005 Letz Winner-Capt. Zim Schwartze

Each week until the unveiling of this year’s winner, we will feature the past winners of the John Michael Letz Award for service, commitment and contributions to the Law Enforcement Torch Run. In 2005, Zim Schwartze received it for her devotion to the Torch Run and raising awareness and funds for the program. Below is the speech given prior to her receiving this honor.

zim_portrait1

The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award.

The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after an individual who serves this distinction from his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept. and who died from cancer in 1994. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today generating over $75,000 for SOMO. There are Trivia Nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now.

The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 20 years ago. When I read the previous years’ recipients, I’d like them to stand: John Cira, Rich Banahan Tim Goebel, Mary Branstetter, Randy Boehm David Pudlowski, Janelle Waterman, Graham Burnley, Jim Moran, Jim McCart

The criteria for recipients includes:

  • Responsible for significant fundraising results
  • Participates in year-round support
  • Exemplifies the Special Olympics mission
  • Someone who is a visionary for the Torch Run
  • Someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes

About this year’s recipient:

There are many names involved in the Torch Run in the early years. Names like Ralph Biele, Red Lair, Ira Copeland, Carl Wolf, & Gary Kempker…to name a few. Since then there have been many who have joined the ranks of Torch Run enthusiasts most of whom we don’t know. The reason we don’t know them is because they don’t do the work for the fame – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are always in the background – working to do more.

Let me tell you a little about this year’s recipient:

  • Involved in the Torch Run for more than 10 years
  • Co-directs the agencies’ fundraising committee
  • Sells t-shirts, raffle tickets and hosts various agency fundraisers – including trivia nights & tip-a-cop raising over $14,000 so far this year
  • Has participated as a runner for all 10 years
  • Serves on the State Torch Run Committee.
  • Coordinates the Run each year in May.
  • According to the nominator, “This person’s devotion to the mission of the Torch Run has resulted in continued significant fund raising both locally and statewide. She is an inspiration to other officers and she herself is clearly motivated by the elation and pride that she instills in the athletes and all those who benefit from participating in Special Olympics.”
  • By now, some of you know that I’m talking about Capt. Zim Schwartze. If you don’t know her by name, you’ll recognize her contagious smile.
  • Please welcome the winner of the 2005 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award- Capt. Zim Schwartze.

 

2004 Letz Winner- Jim McCart

Each week until the unveiling of this year’s winner, we will feature the past winners of the John Michael Letz Award for service, commitment and contributions to the Law Enforcement Torch Run. In 2004, Jim McCart received it for his fundraising efforts and continued support of the Torch Run. Below is the speech given in his honor.

The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award.

The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after an individual who serves thisd istinction from his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept. and who died from cancer in 1994. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today generating over $66,000 for SOMO. There are Trivia Nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now.

The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 16 years ago. I was last year’s recipient. When I read the previous

years’ recipients, I’d ask them to stand: John Cira, Rich Banahan, Tim Goebel, Mary Branstetter, Randy Boehm, David Pudlowski, Janelle Waterman, Graham Burnley, Jim Moran, Jim McCart.

The criteria for recipients includes:

Responsible for significant fundraising results

Participates in year-round support

Exemplifies the Special Olympics mission

Someone who is a visionary for the Torch Run

Someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes

About this year’s recipient: There are many names involved in the Torch Run in the early years. Names like Ralph Biele, Red Lair, Ira Copeland, Carl Wolf, Gary Kempker…to name a few. Since then there have been many who have joined the ranks of Torch Run enthusiasts most of whom we don’t know. The reason we don’t know them is because they don’t do the work for the fame – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are always in the background – working to do more.

Let me tell you a little about this year’s recipient:

  • Involved in the Torch Run for more than 7 years
  • Hosts an annual golf tournament that raises $3000 each year
  • Sells t-shirts, raffle tickets and hosts various agency fundraisers
  • He knows how to raise money by climbing to new heights. In 1 day he raised $4800 for SOMO.
  • His agency has orchestrated and hosted a major regional special event for 9 years bringing his agency together with other law enforcement agencies and his community.
  • He knows how to freeze for a reason – and plans a pretty good party.
  • His agency has raised over $550,000 in 9 years.
  • His strategy for an event is being replicated elsewhere in Missouri in 2005.

 

Law Enforcement Torch Run Celebrates 30th Anniversary: Part 2

Law enforcement officers serve selflessly every day to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. This year, we are celebrating a wonderful 30-year partnership with law enforcement in Missouri. How can you sum up 30 years? It’s not possible, but we can take a look back and try. What drives these officers? The constant light that Special Olympics athletes give through their inner and outer strength. Thank you to all of our law enforcement officers for your bravery every day in protecting us, and thank you for all your efforts to support our athletes.

30 years – one decade at a time
Second in a three–part series

Read the first post of the series here

March to the Million $ mark: 1996 – 2005
In 1995, the LETR efforts raised just over $200,000 gross. We sold over 10,000 LETR shirts in a year. The next decade was our largest growth.

1996: Polar Plunge introduction
While attending the International LETR Conference in Wisconsin, Missouri delegates heard about this amazing phenomenon called Polar Bear Plunge. They brought the idea back to Missouri and the SOMO liaison had the assignment of calling the Chief of Police in Osage Beach to see if he’d support such an idea.

Jamie Graham

Jamie Graham

Susan Stegeman recalls that phone call. “While on maternity leave with my first son, I planned the call. A lot of people were intimidated by Chief Troutman’s rough exterior, including me!” The Chief’s response was immediate and included “I think we could do that, and I’d love to see my community embrace this idea. If it’s for Special Olympics, of course.” Chief Troutman’s connection to SOMO began with his close relationship to athlete Jamie Graham. Jamie is a huge part of SOMO’s LETR in large part of the photos he draws and presents to the Missouri Police Chief Association President each year. The Polar Plunge debuted in 1996 at the Lake of the Ozarks and resulted in 54 plungers who raised $8,200. This was the only plunge in Missouri for 9 years. In 2005, we added St. Louis and Kansas City. In 2017, Missouri will have 13 different Plunge locations. (Registration will open soon!)

1999: hosted the LETR Conference in St. Louis with more than 800 attendees
Group w Jim RayMissouri was the first program to host “host night” off site. We transported attendees via school buses to the Arch. We were also the first program to utilize our athletes as presenters to introduce speakers and sessions. This really jump started our program because we were able to bring in more law enforcement attendees as conference volunteers/attendees and also incorporated the Department of Corrections and their vendor relationships. This conference was a first also in that it was the last event ever held at the Henry VIII Hotel prior to its demolition as part of the St. Louis Lambert Airport expansion project. Our officers were great hosts in planning everything from airport transfers, local transfers wherever attendees wanted/needed to go, and a hospitality room that is still revered. Due to great planning and support from local organizations and sponsors – we also generated revenue!

1999: Began region awards in four categories presented at the annual Missouri Police Chiefs Conference in December
Outstanding agency participations (chosen by each Region Coordinator)
Outstanding volunteer effort (chosen by each Region Coordinator)
Highest percentage increase in dollars raised
Greatest overall gross dollar increase

2000: Shirts sold at Shop ’n Save locations peak to 41,000 sold and sparked a great relationship that exists still today
The Shop ‘n Save T-shirt sales promotion began in 2000, but according to Dave Pudlowski, it was a dismal failure. What happened the next year resulted in $17,017 in sales of LETR shirts and hats at 14 Shop’n Save stores. St. Louis County PD coordinated the effort but connected the local municipalities to each store where a relationship began to form. From 2001, this event continued to grow year over year. Shop ’n Save employees became volunteers at Special Olympics events, they brought their families with them, and they started hosting their own events to support their charity of choice. Events like the I-55 Raceway and bowling tournament have gone by the wayside, but Trivia Night, Gateway Golf and Gala and Round Up remain as their fundraising events. Shop ’n Save is an awesome partner with law enforcement to support our favorite charity.

Jeff Ottenad, third from left

Jeff Ottenad, third from left

2001 – St Louis Route named Jeff Ottenad Route
In 2001, the St. Louis Region 8 Route was named after Jeff Ottenad, a SOMO athlete who always ran with the torch runners. After cancer took his leg, Jeff still participated but from his wheel chair.  After his death, the route was named in his honor. The Ottenad family continues to participate annually to continue the legacy of their brother and son.

2001 – First auto raffle
We partnered with the Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers and Shop’n Save to sell tickets statewide. The giveaway was hosted at the I-55 Raceway and more than $60,000 was raised in year one! This event is now called the Drive It Home Raffle.

2002 – Department of Corrections support took off and Corrections Officers raised over $98,000 from 23 institutions and Central Office.
The Department of Corrections began supporting Missouri’s LETR in 2002.  Corrections Officers and employees from their adult institutions and Central Office raise funds by hosting internal fundraisers like chili cook-offs, bake sales, and sell Torch Run shirts. They also participate in SOMO events like Over the Edge, Polar Plunge and selling Drive it Home Raffle tickets.

Rich Banahan, right

Rich Banahan, right

International recognition followed:
Rank in World – we were recognized among the top 10 programs at the Conference in Nashville – at #5!
2000 Dave Pudlowski was inducted into the Hall Of Fame
2001 Jim Moran, St. Louis Metro PD, won the John Carion Unsung Hero Award at the Conference in Wichita, KS, where the international LETR began.
2004 Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD, was inducted into the Richard LaMunyon Hall of Fame at the Conference in Virginia

Rays notesMarch to Million runners agencies gross
1996 349 116 $314,764
1997 706 172 $409,300
1998 900 176 $595,380
1999 806 188 $811,245
2000 803 181 $908,316
2001 711 170 $756,305
2002 975 165 $864,000
2003 963 167 $929,472
2004 931 173 $1,055,196
2005 887 172 $1,000,000

Created the Letz Award – Missouri highest LETR Award for Unsung Hero recognition: 

Ralph Biele, third from left

Ralph Biele, third from left

1994 – Ralph Biele, MO State Highway Patrol, and founder of Missouri’s LETR program
1995 – Major John Cira, Hazelwood PD
1996 – Sgt. Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD
1997 – Chief Randy Boehm, Columbia PD
1998 – Mary Branstetter, St. Ann PD
1999 – Lt. Tim Goebel, Crossroads Correctional Center
2000 – Major David Pudlowski, St. Louis County PD
2001 – Janelle Waterman, MSHP Troop A
2002 – Capt. Graham Burnley, Chesterfield PD
2003 – Capt. Jim Moran, St. Louis Metro PD
2004 – Chief Jim McCart, Osage Beach DPS
2005 – Capt. Zim Schwartze, Columbia PD

Loretta Claiborne speaks at the LETR Kickoff

Loretta Claiborne speaks at the LETR Kickoff in 2005

2005 ended with a $1 million dollar LETR program with many funding projects poised to support SOMO and our athletes for years to come.

Making the most of SOMO summer programming

For high school students, summer could be seen as a time for catching up on sleep and sun while taking a deserved break from school work. But for two weeks in June, one Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) athlete took a different approach to summer.

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Michael with one of the fish caught at Sports Camp

Michael Mohrmann, a rising senior at Warrenton High School and a SOMO athlete for nearly a decade, took full advantage of several summer activities offered by SOMO and the Missouri Association of Student Councils (MASC). From June 13-24 Mohrmann kept himself busy, attending the MASC Summer Leadership Workshop for five days in Fulton, then topping it off with a full week in Mexico, Mo. attending two SOMO events: Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) University and Sports Camp.
Mohrmann was drawn to these experiences by a desire to improve both as an athlete and a leader to someday become a basketball coach. He was encouraged by his coaches, Julie Busken and Julie Reese, to attend.

MASC has partnered with Special Olympics Missouri as its charity of choice for 25 years and provides its students throughout the state an opportunity to volunteer and provide service. SOMO athletes also have a chance to attend the Summer Leadership Workshop, the flagship event of MASC’s programming through which more than 700 students in grades 8-12 meet in Fulton for an annual weeklong leadership camp. Athletes can serve as representatives on the Youth Activation Council and can participate in the many activities featured throughout the week.

Mohrmann was one of six SOMO athlete representatives at the Summer Leadership Workshop, where he was able to serve on a discussion panel about his accomplishments with Special Olympics Missouri, as well as immerse himself in the world of student council leadership building.

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Practicing balance during soccer drills at Sports Camp

“In my new experience at MASC, I got to meet new people from other counties and school districts while learning leadership traits,” Mohrmann said. “It taught me not to be afraid, to be yourself and meet new people in your life.”

Following the week in Fulton, Mohrmann travelled north to Mexico, where he attended ALPs University, a two-day educational program for SOMO athletes that gives them a variety of topics to pursue, such as governance, communications, leadership and coaching. Athlete-leaders who attend ALPs University are required to go to at least three sessions, as well as complete a practicum for each course they take in order to graduate from their majors. Once completed, the athlete-leaders will be better equipped to serve as representatives and advocates for Special Olympics Missouri in their respective communities.

Mohrmann, along with his unified partner Tyler Busken, completed his second ALPs University session June 17-19 as a governance major, and will graduate following the completion of his practicum and leadership capstone. As a result of what he learned at ALPs, Mohrmann led the discussion of our input council following Sports Camp, facilitating discussions with more than80 athletes about what could be done to improve camp. He will also be an athlete representative at the Special Olympics South Central Conference in October, which takes place in Dallas.

“I got to experience how to become a leader in my Special Olympics area, and I learned that you can be a leader in everyday life and not to be afraid to become one,” Mohrmann said.

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Learning to ride a bike at Sports Camp

To cap off his whirlwind week, Mohrmann attended five days at Sports Camp, a weeklong summer camp to practice sports, learn new skills and create bonds with new friends. In addition to practicing for the sports he plays, which include volleyball, basketball, bowling, track, soccer and bocce, Sports Camp gave Mohrmann a chance to practice what he had learned in the weeks prior, as well as learn how to ride a bike.

While it may have been a busy time of the summer, Morhmann said that he enjoyed his time at all three, and highly recommends them to anyone considering it. ALPs University, MASC and Sports Camp all gave him a great chance to build skills and development traits that will last well beyond those two summer weeks. They also provided a great example of the kind of programming that SOMO offers to its athletes to help them grow.
“You do not want to miss the fun (of these events) staying at home playing video games,” Mohrmann said. “It is a chance to meet new people, have fun for the summer and learn new things that can help you for your whole life.”

Getting yourself involved in any of these programs is easy. If you have interest in the MASC Camp or the Youth Activation Committee, contact Amber Young at young@somo.org. Sports Camp information is always available at http://www.somo.org/camp.
If you have any interest in attending the next ALPs University, it will be held Oct. 27-29 in Kansas City with online registration opening Aug. 29. More information can be found at http://www.somo.org/alps, or by contacting our ALPs coordinator Brandon Schatsiek at schatsiek@somo.org.

-Harrison McLean

My Story: Becca Tincknell Pt. 2

My story is about when I traveled to New Jersey for Special Olympics for USA Games in 2014. The Special Olympics was very fun to be there it was amazing. There was few celebrities like Uno’s of wrestling a female wrestler, a boardwalk like the beach. Kathy was my coach was from 2003, I played bocce. Team Missouri watched girls basketball game at Princeton, New Jersey with our parents. My team members are Courtney, Linda, Morgan, Melissa, Jeanie, Scott, Mike, Lonny, Reese, Matt. We all won a lot of medals we even had a slogan “show me show me show me show me show me mo. mo. mo. mo. mo.” All of our fans kept on saying that slogan even my little nephew says the slogan. He even plays bocce when I teach him the game. Melissa moved to New York to be close to her family, Jeanie still talks to her on Facebook. Melissa’s mom and my parents and head coach went out for lunch against team PA, New Jersey, Minn.During one day of competition I got sunscreen lotion in my eyes. My coach name is Kathy. I got a gold silver and a fourth place ribbon.
Your Athlete Becca Tincknell

becca tincknell 2

My Story: Becca Tincknell Pt. 1

This story is written by SOMO athlete Becca Tincknell as part of her Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) University practicum. This practicum is part of the School of Technology in ALPs University, and will put her one step closer towards graduation from the program. If you want more information about ALPs University after you enjoy Becca’s story, click here.

My story is about when I went to Dublin, Ireland. The first time I went to sports camp the head group leader was there. Her name was Susan Shaffer and there was another group leader his name is Gary Brimer. They asked me if I wanted to play team handball at first then they decided that they wanted me to try out for tennis for Team USA. A couple of days later they called me to tell me that I‘m going to Dublin, Ireland, for Team USA . I never played tennis before they told me to start practice at home and with some of the other members. In June of 2003 Team USA traveled to Florida then we traveled to Ireland and we flew on Air Force 1 that the President let us borrow. We played tennis got to go to a beach and team USA went to a mall for a whole day with our parents. We had a lot of fun, we met celebrities like Colin Farrell, Maria Shriver, Pierce Bondsman we had a couple of days off we watch others play and then it was the individual tennis skills teams turn on the last day I seen Eunice Kennedy Shriver and couple of years later she passed away. I got a gold medal and it weighs a lot more than the other medals and I had a nephew born a couple months before we went to Ireland. I compete against team Italian, Iran USA., Pakistan. I got a stuff animal dog from Ireland her named is Racateer. My coach is Kathy. They learned that I was both handed. There was only four ladies from Jefferson county Becca Tincknell, Jane Howell, Sarah Surdyke, and Michelle Beamon.

Submitted by Becca Tincknell

Becca Tincknell

 

Cycling at Sports Camp

For one week every summer, Sports Camp at Special Olympics Missouri gives more than 80 SOMO athletes a chance to practice their athletic skills, try new sports and bond with fellow athletes, coaches and counselors. Sports Camp offers up to 10 sports over the course of the week, ranging from official Special Olympics sports such as flag football, soccer and volleyball, to other activities such as disc golf and cycling.

The cycling classes were featured every day of camp and, with the help of the PedNet Coalition (www.PedNet.org), provided athletes of all ability levels a chance to practice their biking skills. Beginners could start on Strider bikes (www.StriderBikes.com), which do not have any pedals and allowed riders to get their balance before moving up to larger bicycles, while more advanced riders could try to tackle different obstacle courses that were set up each day.

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Don Richter rides a bike flanked on each side by camp staff members

The highlight for many athletes, coaches and camp staff members was seeing athletes move from pushing themselves along on a Strider bike on Monday and graduate to riding a full-sized bicycle by Thursday. Sometimes athletes who had ridden before just needed a week at Sports Camp to rekindle their enjoying riding a bike or brush up on their skills.

 

Don Richter, the oldest athlete at Sports Camp at age 69, was able to ride by himself for the first time since having two hip replacements in 2014 and 2015. He said that, even though he had ridden before, the fact that he was able to get back onto the bike for that first time gave him the most excitement from the activity.

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Logan Gardner is ready and raring to go!

Another athlete, Logan Gardner, became so inspired by the help he had over the course of the week to ride a bike by himself, that once he figured it out he circled the facility yelling, “I can ride a bike!” in excitement and would hardly stop for anyone. In an interview alongside his father, Tim, Logan Gardner said that he used memory of when he first learned how to ride at a younger age to help others through their own learning process at Sports Camp.

 

“He loves riding and once he figured it out at camp, he wanted to encourage the other athletes,” Tim Gardner said. “He wanted to show them that if he could ride, they can too and nothing was stopping them.”

PedNet’s Assistant Director Lawrence Simonson has led the cycling session at Sports Camp for two years and saw first-hand how much the athletes loved hopping on a bike, sometimes for the first time.

“In our culture there are certain milestones in people’s lives and that ‘learn-to-ride’ story is certainly one of them,” Simonson said. “That’s a massive milestone and some people in your program may have never had that opportunity. If we can come in and give them that life milestone, it’s a wonderful thing. Everyone should have that. We’re excited to help give them that.”

One such example of this is of an athlete who came to Sports Camp who tried to ride a bike when he was younger, but never really got the hang of it.

“Getting to speak to his dad, he thought it was just another one of those life milestones he’d never get and here he is as an adult finally getting that chance to ride a bike,” Simonson said. “He had that determination to never give up.”

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Lawrence Simonson helps guide SOMO athlete Larry Stephens down the lane

That leads to one of the things that has surprised Simonson about working with Special Olympics Missouri athletes: positivity.

 

“One of the things that surprised me the most — and it’s a credit to staff and volunteers — is the positive attitude of the athletes,” he said. “I’ve never worked with another group of individuals who can take failure and take them as learning experiences rather than something they just can’t do.

“They understand they will fall from time to time, but they get back on and keep trying.”

Another important benefit of cycling that Simonson and PedNet are excited to share with the athletes is how riding a bike can be a great mode of transportation for them.

“A lot of times, your athletes may never get a license and struggle with transportation issues,” Simonson said. “Using a bike is an efficient, healthy and affordable option for them to get to their job or see family and friends. That’s just one more wonderful benefit to this program.”

These are just a few examples of the many successful stories that came from the just the cycling activity that week. Seeing the excitement on the athletes’ faces when they realized what they had accomplished in just four short days was the payoff that made cycling an important and joyful part of Sports Camp. Thanks to the strong relationship with PedNet, Special Olympics Missouri program staff hopes to continue to offer cycling at Sports Camp and at future events throughout the rest of the year around the state.

“I really do think this would be a wonderful sport for SOMO to have,” Simonson said. “I always say that if you give me a problem, I can solve it with a bike.

“I’m happy to at least be stoking that fire at least a little bit.”

-Harrison McLean, Brandon Schatsiek