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

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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

My First Week at Sports Camp

13533175_10157356670870643_4808630609636102854_nMy name is Harrison McLean and I currently serve as the Public Relations and Volunteer Coordinator for Special Olympics Missouri. I have been involved with SOMO for a little over a month, so since I am the newest member on staff I wanted to share some of my first experiences I’ve had as part of this organization. Enjoy!

I did not know what to expect. I was nervous. Optimistic. Excited. Unsure.

I did not know that a week spent on the campus of a military academy in the sweltering heat of summer would become the highlight of my young career.

I was going to Sports Camp, a week-long adventure held once year over the course of one week by Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) to give over 80 athletes a chance to practice and try new sports, meet new friends and spend time on their own away from home. For athletes with varying levels of intellectual disabilities, it gives them a chance for a summer camp experience they may not be able to have otherwise. Upon their arrival to camp, the athletes are split into five groups which they stay in for the entire week.

Sports Camp consists of a multitude of sports and activities that are both offered as official Special Olympics sports or more leisure-based games. The mornings are spent rotating through five SOMO sports (volleyball, flag football, soccer, tennis and golf), with each group spending about 45 minutes at each station.

13482926_1147117452018224_2008321758353302433_oFollowing lunch and a brief rest period, the groups rotate through another five activities, ranging from disc golf and swimming, to bocce and noodle hockey. Then, after all 10 activities are done and dinner is served, the whole camp participates in an evening activity, whether it be a movie night, Minute to Win It games, relay races or the highly anticipated dance.

While the focus of Sports Camp is, naturally, to play sports and pick up skills throughout the week, it soon becomes much more than that for campers, staff, counselors and coaches alike. It becomes a time for people to bond on and off the playing field, to understand one another not just as athletes but on a more personal level. Everyone eats together, lives together in the barracks, plays together, shares the same experiences throughout the week, making getting to know someone in a group that spends five and a half days together that much easier.

Even spending just a single day in a group, as I did, can create bonds and friendships that will last beyond the week at camp. As the new PR and media member on staff, it was my job to document the events of the week on social media, following a different group each day. Through the lens of my iPhone camera, I was able to capture people’s joy as they played their favorite sport with friends, determination as they learned a new skill, triumph as they learned to ride a bike for the first time.

But through the lens of my own two eyes, I was able to see the bonds of friendship being formed, both between athletes and staff members. I sometimes even forgot my media duties because I got too wrapped up in helping an athlete learn how to hit a tennis ball or swing a golf club.

This was my first opportunity to get to know a lot of our athletes over an extended period of time. I started on Monday nervously asking a group leader if I could follow them and maybe take a few pictures. By Friday, I had made connections with athletes in every single group. We cracked jokes, overcame challenges, told each other about our days and shared stories about ourselves. I even scored a couple of dates to the dance.

At the end of the week, a few staff members held what we call Input Councils, where we give athletes as well as counselors and coaches personal spaces to talk about what went well and what could be improved upon going forward. One athlete brought up that a strength of the camp was how everyone was able to come together as one, had respect for one another and built to become a family. Because Special Olympics isn’t just an organization, it becomes a family.

In my first month on the job I had seen events like State Summer Games and Jamaal Charles football camps take place. I knew what it was like to work in the Jefferson City offices and manage the business side of the organization. But it wasn’t until Sports Camp that I really got to see what Special Olympics Missouri was all about on a personal level. I knew then that I was part of the family.

-Harrison McLean

Profile: Justin Janes, 2015 Raffle Winner

The 2016 Drive it Home Raffle tickets are for sale, which means you could be the recipient of $500 or, if you’re as lucky as Justin Janes, a brand new Ford F-150.

Justin Janes in truckJanes, a Warrenton sheriff’s deputy and the winner of last year’s Drive it Home Raffle, purchased the winning ticket from former Board member Randy Boehm. James said that a presentation was given while he was enrolled at the Law Enforcement Training Institute in Columbia about the Law Enforcement Torch Run and the raffle, which led to his unwittingly winning decision.

Boehm, who has been heavily involved in the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics Missouri for nearly 30 years, was glad that he not only sold the winning ticket, but that it went to a young, soon-to-be law enforcement officer.

“I’m proud to be a part of a fundraising effort that allows these athletes who might not be able to compete to be a part of the experience. It’s a perfect way to give back,” Boehm said. “Hopefully I can use that I sold the winning ticket to help boost my future sales too.”

The final drawing was held last November at the Zimmer Radio Tailgate prior to the Missouri v. Tennessee football game. Janes was then presented with keys to the truck in the end zone during the game.

While Janes was able to drive off with his new car, he did not get to enjoy it for long. After two months of driving the car, he sold it, which he admitted was a difficult decision. However, in return, it helped pay off Janes’ and his wife’s student loans.

Despite little involvement with Special Olympics Missouri prior to purchasing raffle tickets, Janes said he is considering becoming involved in the Torch Run and possibly reentering this year’s raffle drawing.

“I’ve seen close coworkers involvement in the Torch Run, and I’ve had family involved in Special Olympics so I see how it has impacted them, what they do and what it stands for,” Janes said.

Tickets for this year’s drawing are currently on sale at $5 per ticket, or one book of 10 tickets for $50. Proceeds go toward SOMO’s 15,000 athletes throughout the state and their participation in sports. There will be eight finalists chosen: seven regional winners and one from tickets sold on November 26 at the Zimmer Tailgate. All tickets not sold at the tailgate must be purchased by October 31. This year’s prize is a 2016 Ford F-150 XLT. More information can be found at somo.org/raffle.

Ali Remembered at Special Olympics

Special Olympics Missouri Risk Management Director Gary Brimer shares a story about boxer Muhammed Ali, who passed away Friday, and his experience at the Special Olympics. Ali, a three-time World Heavyweight Champion during his career, also served as an activist and made several appearances at international Special Olympic events throughout his life.

“I had never been a big fan of Muhammad Ali. I don’t know why but I had never cared for people that bragged about themselves. It just seemed so egotistical and pompous. Yet in 1979 when I arrived in Brockport the rumors that Ali was there kind of mellowed my feelings. I mean the most famous man in sports took his time to come see our athletes.

As I wandered about my first International Games, awed by sights and sounds of such a wonderful event, I heard the story of how Muhammad Ali had disembarked from his own private air craft in Chicago and boarded a commercial flight carrying the delegation from Washington state so that he could be with our athletes. This couldn’t be the same guy that boasted “I am the best”, could it?

Then I saw an autograph tent with hundreds of athletes around it waiting to get in. I could not guess who could be in there so I asked a nearby volunteer wearing a red Coca-Cola volunteer t-shirt. She said that it was Muhammad Ali’s tent and it had been that way for two full days.

As I watched in wonder, suddenly the tent opened and the man himself emerged. His body guards immediately began pushing back the crowd of athletes and behind them the coaches and other fans. He stopped his body guards with a word, waved them back and told them to keep all the non-athletes back and then began his saunter across the campus with hundreds of athletes around him.

It was an incredible sight. He held hands with as many athletes as he could, lifting the smaller ones for a quick hug or just to show them something. At that moment he was “The Greatest” in my eyes and he became one of my heroes from that moment on.

I saw him many years later at another Games in Ireland as I walked in with Team USA. He was there to participate in yet another Opening Ceremonies. He had aged dramatically, his Parkinson’s had a terrible effect, but his eyes were still bright with the fire that he had in 1979. I will always admire the man for what he did for our Special Olympics Athletes and how he put them on pedestal.”

-Gary Brimer