Gary Brimer’s Legacy

On Friday, November 20, 2020, Gary Brimer passed away after a battle with cancer. He left a legacy behind that includes the biggest heart for our athletes, building the SOMO sports and training program to what it is today and for loving his family and friends with all of his being.

I had the honor and privilege of working with Gary my entire career. Our relationship started as work colleagues, then he became my mentor and it morphed into this crazy friendship that was sometimes brother/sister, sometimes dad/daughter but always best friends. In fact, I had the honor of being his best woman at his wedding when he married Diane Brimer. When our daughter Rachel was little, she truly believed her name was Rachel Marie Brimer Lutz! Gary was her Godfather and her Grandpa by heart (because my Dad passed away when she was almost a year old). Gary is one of the reasons I met and married my husband Brian Lutz. So as you can see, he has been an important part of my life for more than 25 years.

Gary began his journey with Special Olympics Missouri in 1976 and dedicated 41 years of his life to providing year-round sports training and competition to the 1,000s of athletes in Missouri. What began as a hobby in 1976 as a volunteer coach eventually grew into a career in 1994 when he joined the staff as the Director of Sports and Training until his retirement in 2016.
During his career, Gary was instrumental in leading the charge to develop a coaches’ training program that put SOMO coaches among the very best in the world. He has been a coach, Unified Partner, head of delegation or member of the management team for EVERY Summer world or National Games from 1987 through 2014 when he went to his last games as the head of delegation for Team Missouri in New Jersey.

Gary developed the Team Missouri selection process so that every athlete or volunteer who wanted the opportunity to attend higher-level competition had an equal opportunity. During his reign as the Director of Sports and Training, he introduced Unified Sports LONG before any other program in the United States. Today, the SOMO Unified Sports program continues to thrive and grow.
These are just a few of the many reasons why Gary’s legacy to the SOMO program over the decades has positioned SOMO to be a premier sports program in the country and one of the most revered Special Olympics program in the movement.

In 2017, Gary was inducted into the Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame.
In the words of SOMO Athlete and Hall of Famer, Robb Eichelberger, “Gary Brimer treated every athlete as his family. Gary knows all the athletes and he is loved by them all and they know him. He has worked very hard to earn the respect of each athlete, coach, staff member, board member and volunteer of Special Olympics Missouri.”
SOMO has its very own guardian angel watching over us. Katie Hrenchir Lyle, former staff member, family member and SOMO coach, posted a tribute to Gary on Facebook and she said it best, “I bet there was one heck of an opening ceremony for you when you went through those gates.”

Until we meet again my friend,
Trish Lutz


SOMO partners with Midway Golf and Games for the first ever corn maze

For the first year ever, Midway Golf and Games has decided to add a corn maze to the number of attractions they provide during the Fall season. This year, they have partnered with Special Olympics Missouri to cut the Special Olympics Missouri logo into the corn maze.

Prior to the 2020 Olympics being rescheduled, Midway Golf and Games wanted to go for an Olympic theme for their corn maze. After finding out that the Olympic games were being pushed back, they decided to partner with Special Olympics Missouri to support a non-profit while also sticking to the Olympics theme. A portion of the profits made from the corn maze will be donated to Special Olympics Missouri to benefit the athletes.

“Giving back is something we are very passionate about,” said Allie Rost, the Event Coordinator at Midway Golf and Games. “We thought this was a really exciting opportunity because it would represent Special Olympics in our theme, trivia questions, and in all of our advertising”.

Midway Golf and Games has many attractions including go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, and axe throwing, but they were looking for another attraction, so they added the corn maze. There are also essential fall activities like hayrides and pumpkin patches to make it an experience where you can spend an afternoon or an evening with your friends and family.

The corn maze is not a start to finish maze, there are 8 checkpoints. Each checkpoint has a trivia question relating to Special Olympics and for each checkpoint a person finds, they are entered into a chance to win prizes at the end of the season.

“It’s super fun, you get to go through, answer some questions about Special Olympics, and you get to have fun on the journey,” said Anna McDaniel, a Special Olympics Missouri athlete. “It is very friendly, you can bring kids. There are a lot of fun activities you can do, like bonfires, pumpkin picking, and all sorts of fun things.”

There will be Special Olympics Missouri athletes at Midway Golf and Games every weekend up until Nov. 1. The athletes will be there selling $5 raffle tickets for a 2020 GMC Canyon 4×4 Truck, and participating in all the other fun activities. The staff at Midway Golf and Games want Special Olympics Missouri athletes to get involved in the events so they can participate and have a say in what events are taking place. The athletes then get the chance to see all of the work that has gone into planning out this event and the community that comes out to support them.

“We were out here on the day that they cut our logo out, which it’s phenomenal, but really it’s just our awareness in Special Olympics and we are just really here for the athletes. They are excited to know it’s our logo,” said Susan Shaffer, Outreach and Games Director for Special Olympics Missouri. “It has been a great opportunity for the community and surrounding areas to be able to see what Special Olympics is truly all about.”

On Oct. 31, there will be trick or treating for everyone and several Special Olympics Missouri athletes will be joining as well.

“It is a lot of fun at the corn maze and it’s a good thing to come to,” said Shirlene Treadwell, a Special Olympics Missouri athlete. “Come out and learn more about Special Olympics Missouri!”

#SOMOAtHome Programs

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With the cancellation of all Special Olympics Missouri programming through May 31 due to COVID-19, SOMO staff has adapted their programming to continue providing athletes with opportunities to learn and be engaged, while also practicing safe social distancing.

SOMO Health & Wellness Manager Krista Dye said, “Originally the idea behind these videos started with a conversation (trying to come up with a health) challenge in place of (State) Indoor Games since we had to cancel.”

After discussions with other staff members, Brandon Schatsiek, director of communications & athlete leadership, said they came up with the idea behind #SOMOatHome.

Several SOMO athletes rose to the challenge and wanted to be a part of the videos so they could help other athletes during this time. SOMO staff left it up to the athlete-leaders on what they wanted to cover and teach their fellow athletes.

“The aspect about these videos that excites me the most is that (90 percent of them are) run by our athlete-leaders,” Schatsiek said.

“(Athletes and staff alike) all jumped at the opportunity because what they are teaching in these online sessions is what they’re taught in their (Athlete Leadership) classes,” Schatsiek said. “They already know all of this stuff, now it’s up to them to share it with the world.

“This is the real world experience that they’ve been looking for. We tell our athletes in the very first introduction to (Athlete Leadership) class … that (they’re) going to have a lot more opportunities now as an athlete-leader. They need to set a good example for their fellow athletes; this is the perfect way to do so.”

SOMO athlete-leaders knew that there would be a need among their friends to continue their workouts during this time and stepped up to the plate through #SOMOatHome programing.

“I wanted to be involved with these videos because it gives me something to do,” said Ashley Stribling, SOMO athlete-leader. “The coronavirus has not only affected my sports, but my job as well. So now I’m just stuck at home and this gives me the chance to help others.”

“I know what it’s like being stuck in the house, and I know if I am suffering, then others are too and I knew if there was a way I could help, I was going to do it.”

The health and wellness lessons cover a wide range of topics, including stretching, workouts, hydration, healthy cooking, hygiene, and even mental health.

Alyssa Cress, KC Metro area program director, said “I am going to be teaching athletes about how your mind can affect your performance, and how sports are not all physical, but that our mind does a lot for us when we compete.”

Shortly after the health and wellness classes began, other athlete-leaders, SOMO staff members, and volunteers started thinking about potential leadership and life skills courses that could be taught as a part of #SOMOatHome.

“We were coming up with ideas including topics like SMART Goals, teamwork and problem solving, communication tips and tricks, establishing better habits, and more,” Schatsiek said.

Through the SOMO Facebook channel and SOMO’s Zoom Teleconferencing account, there are at least three sessions for SOMO athletes to take part in every day. Health and wellness classes are at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., while leadership classes are scattered at different times based on the availability of the instructors.

Trish Lutz, SOMO’s vice president of programs, said there are many ways to communicate these days, so SOMO is trying to utilize those resources and create new opportunities to spread awareness with the goal to get as many athletes involved as possible.

“By offering these online videos, it broadens the scope with what we can offer people, especially with our Athlete Leadership program,” Lutz said. “It’s no different than college students nowadays taking classes online.”

SOMO staff felt it was important to utilize their athletes and encourage them to experience real-world leadership during this time. The staff wanted these programs to be for the athletes, but most importantly, to be run by the athletes as well.

“(Special Olympics is) their program,” Schatsiek said. “Let’s give them the reigns and see what they can do with it. We’ll support them if they need help, but they’re capable of a lot more than people think; this program is proving that point.”

Athlete-leader Allen Tobin said he wanted to give back to other athletes because Special Olympics has done so much for him.

“I wanted to be a part of the videos to help other athletes be active even though we aren’t doing anything or having our practices- to keep them in shape. This way they will be ready to go back to practices and competitions, and be healthier when we start up again.”

“The healthier you are; the better athlete you’re going to be.”

Athlete-leader, Lynna Hodgson, was already active when it came to promoting healthy tips and tricks through her personal social media channels. She was always posting health facts, healthy snacks, and leading exercises every Wednesday for SOMO’s #WellnessWednesday on its social media channels.

Lynna was known for her monthly “step challenges” where she would encourage her fellow athlete to take as many steps as they could in one month. She would track everyone’s progress on a leaderboard and create a community of encouragement around exercising and eating well.

#SOMOatHome was just one more way for Lynna and her friends to share their passion for health with her fellow athletes.

Lynn Shuffit, SOMO athlete-leader, said, “I think it’s important to reach out to other athletes right now because they are stuck in the house and really can’t do a whole lot.”

“This is a good time for us… to help athletes to show them how to do exercises in their homes as well as how to cook healthy meals to stay fit.”

Stribling said these videos not only help with the physical side but also with the social side of being quarantined.

“I think these videos are important because they get athletes up out of bed or off the couch and gets them up and moving and gives them something to look forward to,” Stribling said. “These videos also have given me the chance to make new friends.”

As of April 1, a little more than two weeks’ into the program, there have been a total of 33 classes covering a multitude of topics in health and wellness, and in leadership and life skills, with many more classes and topics still yet to come.

Dye stated her hope for this program moving forward is to eventually integrate it into the everyday SOMO programming.

“(In the future) it might not be the same amount of videos we are putting out now, but at least something once a week… to give our athletes that leadership role and continue putting the spotlight on them and showcasing all the talents that they have.”

Lutz said despite everything the organization has been through in the last year, the staff wasn’t going to shut down and wait for the pandemic to subside.

“We’ve been hit with many obstacles this last year between the tornado and this, but we’ve never let it stop us from being able to do what we need to do for our athletes and continuing to provide for our athletes.”

To see all updates related to the coronavirus, including past online learning sessions and a calendar of upcoming sessions, please visit on a regular basis.

2019 LETR John Michael Letz Award

The John Michael Letz Award is the highest honor given within the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award. The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run more than 30 years ago.

Previous recipients:

  • Ralph Biele
  • Rich Banahan
  • John Cira
  • Mary Branstetter
  • Randy Boehm
  • David Pudlowski
  • Janelle Waterman
  • Graham Burnley
  • Jim Moran
  • Jim McCart
  • Zim Schwartze
  • Tim Goebel
  • Randy Werner
  • Rick Hayes
  • Don Spears
  • Jim McNiell
  • Joseph Chapman
  • Jeff Cook
  • Mark Koeller
  • Mark Wieseman
  • Jeff Fugett
  • Steve Davis
  • Amanda Geno
  • Mary Wheeler
  • Lynn McClamroch

The criteria for recipients include being responsible for significant fundraising results and participating in year-round support; exemplifying the Special Olympics mission and being a visionary for the Torch Run. The winner of this award is someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes and who shows sustained commitment over a period of time.

We have many who are Torch Run enthusiasts; most we don’t know. We don’t know them because they don’t do the work for the recognition – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are usually in the background working to do more.

About this year’s recipient:

  • Involved in the Torch Run for 13 years
  • Is involved in fundraising in both local and statewide fundraising events
  • Since becoming the agency coordinator for their department in 2009, the agency has raised $173,915
  • Has volunteered to hand out medals at both local and state events
  • Serves on the local Polar Plunge committee and has been instrumental in growing this event to where it is today
  • Attends the International LETR Conference whenever possible and brings back new ideas to implement at their agency
  • Serves on the LETR committee as the assistant region coordinator for their region
  • Serves on the “Crew” at all state events – doing whatever is needed to ensure everything goes well for the athletes
  • Has shared their passion for SOMO with their family – including their son who volunteers and serves as a Unified Partner for the local team in their city
  • In the words of his nominator “This nominee generously gives his time and takes great pride in the events he organizes, and has a strong dedication to the mission of SOMO.”
  • This nominee recently stepped out of his comfort zone and represented MO in the Final Leg for the World Summer Games

The 2019 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Mark Priebe – Springfield Police Dept.

Mark Priebe

Mark Priebe, right, carries the Flame of Hope during the Final Leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run before the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Challenge Days at the TLC

Editor’s note: This Challenge Day took place May 10, 2019. Less than two weeks later on May 22, an EF3 tornado tore through Jefferson City, destroying our athletic field and damaging the roof and most interior spaces at the Training for Life Campus. The campus is closed for extensive repairs which are expected to be completed in May 2020. Visit for updates on the #SOMORebuild.



On May 10, students from Delmar Cobble State School, Dogwood State School and Kirchner State School attended a Challenge Day held at the Special Olympics Missouri Training for Life Campus.

Challenge Days are a one-day event that have been designed specifically for people with severe and profound disabilities, who are often not able to compete in a rigorous sport program. Due to the need to offer more activities to this population, it has been a goal of Special Olympics Missouri to expand on their motor skills programs, including offering more events such as Challenge Days.

Special Olympics Missouri has planned Challenge Days at these schools for decades, but this was the first such event to take place at the new Training for Life Campus.

“The state school is for students with severely-handicapped needs,” said Shelly Stumbaugh, a teacher at Kirchner State School. “The Challenge Day is bringing different schools together and having the kids do their best, try different sports and have fun. We do a Challenge Day once a year with Special Olympics Missouri.”

Challenge Days consist of various activities in which participants take part either as an individual or on a team. Each participant is given the opportunity to play sports such as basketball, volleyball, T-ball, wheelchair races, bowling and bocce.

Special Olympics Missouri staff felt that there was a need when it came to providing services for individuals with severe disabilities. Challenge Days are designed specifically for this population so that they too can experience the joy of being an athlete.

“We try to be involved with them and they help us out,” Stumbaugh said. “They donate different things for us, they provide awards for the kids and T-shirts if possible. It’s just a great way to show the community the kids that have special needs and what they can do.”

While many individuals with intellectual and physical challenges can compete and excel in sports, many with severe disabilities miss out on the athletic experience because organizations and society as a whole haven’t prioritized their needs.

“Delmar Cobble has been involved with Challenge Day for about 30-some-odd years,” said Donna Davis, a teacher at Delmar Cobble State School. “I remember when we would do Challenge Day, … We would pick the kids up on Saturday morning and we would transport them to the stadium where they could participate in Special Olympics. But probably due to funding, we stopped that and then Special Olympics came to the school and then we called it Challenge Day.”

Mona Purvis, a family member of a Challenge Day participant, said, “(Susan Shaffer, Special Olympics Missouri’s Outreach Director) came to our school and we just held it one day where we had games. We didn’t get to travel but we always still had a Special Olympics day and they have since (my son has) been attending there back in 2006.”

Davis said, “So now that the physical abilities of the students have changed over the years, the activities have changed to … more activities that will allow them to participate at their level. Maybe not physically, but through fine motor skills.”

All activities are modified to meet their individual needs. For example, in bocce and bowling, a ramp is used to assist athletes when rolling the ball. These athletes are given the opportunity to experience the joy of sport.

With the opening of the Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City in September 2018, Special Olympics Missouri has been able to provide more services and resources, and host more programs for people with intellectual disabilities, such as Challenge Days. This facility is the first of its kind in the world, with the purpose of enriching the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities through sport, health and leadership opportunities. It was built to inspire a new drive in our athletes so that they may continue to develop their physical and social skills.

“In the past, Challenge Day has been at our school or at a park, and now we have the chance to come to this new facility and it’s just great because you’ve got a track, you’ve got the turf, you’ve got different things going on inside,” Stumbaugh said. “It’s just a fun time for the kids and a way for the community to see what we have here in Jeff City.”

Davis said that it was great for the parents to see the Training for Life Campus and all the activities their children got to participate in. She is hopeful that this will encourage the parents to get their kids involved in Special Olympics Missouri’s program.

“A lot of our kids don’t get involved in Special Olympics outside the school setting and so this may help some of the parents realize that, ‘Hey, there’s Special Olympics and my child can be involved in it and on their level and they’ve got this great facility to where my child can go and meet other individuals and participate in physical activities’.”

Through Challenge Days, all children, their families and people in the community can be a part of building an inclusive team together.

“Students with severely handicap needs are just like anyone else,” Stumbaugh said. “I mean they are people even though they may not communicate, they are very smart, they have feelings, they laugh, they cry just like everyone else.

“Just reach out and acknowledge that they are there. Talk to them and actually see what they can do. You’d be surprised.”

Inclusion Revolution: Building Friendships One Game at a Time

On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, Joplin High School hosted the first annual Inclusion Revolution. More than 200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities from Joplin, Lamar, and Stockton joined approximately 250 Joplin High School students for a day of inclusive activities.

The Inclusion Revolution was a collaboration between Special Olympics Missouri and Joplin High School. Joplin High School committee members included Nick Reid and Julie McCain (Special Education/Peer Buddies), Matt Hiatt (Athletic Director), Jason Barchak (School Resource Officer/Joplin PD), Dr. Stephen Gilbreth (Principal) and SOMO SW Area Program Manager, Jana Fornelli. Joplin High School had expressed interest in hosting an event at their school. Our goal was not only to have a fun event for our Special Olympics athletes; we really wanted to promote inclusiveness. It seemed fitting for an inclusive event since they have a strong Peer Buddy program at their school. As we met to discuss the event, it fell into place to host the event in October during National Bullying Prevention Month and it was Joplin High School Homecoming Week.

The morning began with a Pep Rally with performances from Joplin High School Cheerleader and Dance Teams and messages from Dr. Gilbreth, Joplin HS Principal and Chief Stewart, Joplin Police Department. Special Olympics athletes and their buddies rotated stations playing games, dancing, popcorn, sno-cones, face painting and fun. Participants took the pledge to Choose to Include by signing the banner. Sports stations included flag football, bocce, kickball, softball home run derby, cheerleading/dance, and pickle ball. Bocce was a sport that many of our athletes have played but not many of the High School students had played so it was fun to see the athletes share their knowledge.

The event was such a huge success and the committee is already working on the event for next year. It was a great opportunity to see inclusion in action. Participants were able to find that they had more things in common, than they thought. This can go a long way to learning that difference is just a normal part of life.

At the end of the day, the Joplin Basketball coach wanted to know how to get more involved. The Joplin High School basketball teams are now planning a basketball clinic for Special Olympics athletes. It is amazing to realize how one event can affect so many people and further the inclusion revolution movement.

SOMO partners with Mizzou, MU Health Care, UM System

DSC_9877.jpgCOLUMBIA, Mo. — On Nov. 6, Special Olympics Missouri announced a major statewide partnership with the University of Missouri, MU Health Care and the University of Missouri System.

“We are thrilled to begin this partnership,” said Susan Stegeman, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri. “We have barely scratched the surface in terms of how we can combine our resources in order to impact lives across the state. From volunteer engagement and internships to education opportunities and health and wellness services for our athletes, this partnership is truly a win-win.”

The partnership was announced on the heels of news that Special Olympics Missouri will hold its State Summer Games in Columbia in 2020 after hosting the games in Springfield for the previous three years. The new relationship will allow Special Olympics Missouri to tap into the statewide reach of MU, MU Health Care and the UM System.

The news was shared at the aquatic mezzanine inside the MU Recreation Complex, where SOMO athletes have competed previously and will continue to do so in the future. The partnership could include collaboration across the universities in areas such as business, medicine, education, social work, and human development and family science.

“We are honored to partner with Special Olympics Missouri, a collaboration that will provide our community with more opportunities to interact with this esteemed organization that is important to so many Missouri athletes and their families,” MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “Celebrating the achievements of all people, including those with intellectual disabilities, is central to our core values of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence. Furthermore, the breadth of Mizzou’s enterprise, from our scholarship to spirit of service, will bolster the success of this partnership.”

MU, as well as the UM System’s University of Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, already have deep ties to Special Olympics Missouri. For example, this fall marks the sixth semester that Special Olympics Missouri has consulted with the Novak Leadership Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism at MU. The College of Optometry at UMSL has provided vision screening and eyeglasses, sunglasses or sport goggles to SOMO participants. UM System organizations, particularly fraternities and sororities, have raised thousands for the organization over the years. Earlier this year, when a tornado tore through Jefferson City and damaged the state’s headquarters office and brand new Training for Life Campus, members of the baseball, wrestling and women’s basketball teams assisted with cleanup.

Jon Sundvold, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said the partnership dovetails with the university’s mission.

“The core mission of the university is education, and this partnership will add opportunities to extend those education possibilities,” said Sundvold, who also is president of the Missouri Junior Golf Foundation, which operates the first nine-hole course in the country especially designed to meet the unique needs of children and individuals with disabilities. “At the same time, this partnership will allow us to serve the people of this state, which we endeavor to do in all our activities.”

By partnering with the UM System, organizers hope to leverage the reach of the UM System to support Special Olympics Missouri in a multitude of ways.

“With campuses located in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis, the University of Missouri System is uniquely positioned to support the statewide reach of Special Olympics Missouri,” UM System President Mun Choi said. “I am excited to see where this partnership will lead.”

Brian Neuner, chief development and marketing officer for Special Olympics Missouri, said the collaboration could include a variety of direct engagements, such as giving business students experience working with a non-profit; providing athletes with fitness and wellness programs administered by health science students; or providing a platform for journalism students to tell engaging stories about athletes, coaches, families and volunteers.

“I view this partnership as one punctuated with possibility,” Neuner said. “There are so many volunteer opportunities at Special Olympics Missouri, and I’m excited to see the University of Missouri System answer this call for support. It is personally gratifying to see two organizations I love work together in support of individuals with intellectual disabilities. As a graduate of the University of Missouri, I have never been more proud of my alma mater.”

Special Olympics is one of the world’s largest sports organizations with nearly 5 million athletes in more than 172 countries. In Missouri, the organization serves 16,400 athletes competing in 16 sports, has 30,000 volunteers and 1,100 coaches. The organization aims to engage youth and adults with intellectual disabilities in activities designed to build community, increase confidence, improve health and teach them how to live independently.

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Jared Niemeyer named SOMO Athlete of the Year, other athletes honored

All of the athletes below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Oct. 19 in Columbia. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Awards Luncheon.

Jared Niemeyer – North Area

DSC_9675 Jared Niemeyer
Jared has gone far and above of competing in Special Olympics Missouri sports. He sits on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Missouri serving as the Athlete Representative.   He is a graduate of the Athlete Leadership Program, he is a Charter Class member in raising funds for the Training for Life Center, He has served as Plunge Ambassador for 2 years and he is one of the first Global Ambassadors for Missouri.  He speaks to groups in our community and throughout the State – organizations such as colleges, Knights of Columbus, high schools (Highland High School has asked him to come talk also), community and civic organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary, etc. He visited 16 Casey’s to simply thank them for the June fundraiser! He sent pictures to Crystal Schuster to post on FB as our thank you! He has traveled to his second venture at the United Nations in June and all he does at every turn to promote, share and encourage others in or for Special Olympics.  Everything that our local LETR does, Jared participates in: Cop on Top, Drive it Home Raffle sales tables for LETR (he’s also a Business Partner as Jared’s Jams to sell raffle tickets), Tip a Cop, local annual Torch Run in Kirksville, fundraisers in various ways, etc. He has done many newspaper, TV and Radio interviews for area SOMO activities. Most recent was an article in Kirksville Daily Express & Edina Sentinel for UN participation.   Jared enjoys participating in Bowling, Basketball and Track. Jared is an advocate for inclusion as he feels this is the world we must promote because everyone deserves the opportunity to be all they can be! On top of what all he does for Special Olympics he has worked 8 years at Kirksville Hy-Vee since graduating in 2011. Jared is a member of the St Joseph Catholic Church.  He’s a Knights of Columbus member and started his own business called “Jared’s Jams” which has partnered with “Josh’s Java” and they sell jams, jellies and specialty coffee blends at Kirksville Farmer’s Market and regional festivals. Jared will do his best at all he is asked to do, he always does it with a smile and enthusiasm and does it for his fellow athletes.

Clarence Bentley – Central Area
Joe DiMaggo has this quote:  “A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, by example”.  Clarence Buchanan demonstrates this quote through his participation in Special Olympics.  He is a quiet leader who always gives his very best to whatever sport he is competing. Clarence is working toward becoming an athlete coach through ALPs.  He wants to help other athletes do their very best, gain skills and get stronger.  Clarence has a welcoming personality and yet there is a sense of shyness about him.  His infectious smile comes out when he receives a compliment or does something well.  When you see Clarence working or talking with other athletes, you can see the confidence that they have in him. Clarence enjoys going around the state for competition and has met many new friends.  He offers his assistance with fundraisers and/or other opportunities where athletes are needed to be represented.  This summer he was faced with a different situation when one of his favorite coaches left.  He didn’t think he wanted to continue, but after being asked, he came back.  Teammates and coaches alike are glad when Clarence is around.  He is a nice guy who cares about others.

Colin Garrison – Kansas City Metro Area
Colin has competed in Special Olympics Missouri for 13 years and has participated in bocce, basketball, softball, track, bowling, aquatics, flag football, soccer and tennis.  In 2018, Colin competed in Bocce at the USA games in Seattle earning a silver.  Previously, he participated in Athletics in the 2010 USA games in Nebraska. Just recently, in January 2019, Colin represented Missouri on Team USA in Abu Dhabi and came home with gold, silver, and bronze medals in bocce. Colin makes a huge impact on the community around him and around the country.  He recently represented SOMO as members of Team USA met President Trump following the 2019 World Games and visited with Senator Roy Blunt at the World games and in Washington DC.  In the Kansas City community, Colin works at the Goodwill doing computer recycling. Due to his accomplishments as a Special Olympic athlete and an excellent employee, he was chosen to throw out the first pitch at a KC Royal’s game. When competing in Missouri or around the world, Colin is a impressive representative of Missouri showing confidence and encouraging others.  His sportsmanship is top notch and his excitement for all sports is undeniable. The fans always cheer for Colin because he demonstrates excitement with outstretched arms when making a basket, a point in bocce, or just running by them in track.   If an athlete needs help or someone to pump them up, it is Colin.  Even if Colin is competing, he will stop and help whoever needs support.  He makes everyone around him feel special and welcome.  If any of his fellow athletes do not recognize an athlete from anywhere across the state, they will ask Colin.  He will tell you their name and their background if he has not already started talking to them.

Lucas Blattel — Southeast Area
Lucas Blattel exemplifies an All-Around Special Olympics athlete.  He has competed in 291 events in 157 games just through SOMO.  In addition, Lucas has participated in USA and World Games. In just 2018 Lucas competed in the following sports and games –

Softball – Regulation – Area, Regional, State, National Invitational Tournament

Basketball – 5-on-5 Regulation – Area, Regional, State

Bowling – Unified Doubles – Area & State

Tennis – Singles, Doubles, Unified – Area, State, USA Games

Athletics – Mini Jav, 800MR, Shot Put – Area, State

Volleyball – Unified – State

Bocce – Singles, Doubles – Area

In addition to his well-rounded athletic performance on the field, he is an asset off the field to this program as well.  He participates in ALL area fundraisers.  He plunges each year, helps at area Tip A Cop events, helps sell Drive It Home Raffle tickets and assisted at the 1st ever Scott Wright Memorial Cornhole Tournament, both as a volunteer and a player.  Lucas also spends several LONG days each May at the Wagon and Trail Ride fundraiser.  He cooks meals, loads and unloads trucks, serves meals, does dishes and anything else that is needed for a successful 4-day event! Finally, we would like to highlight Lucas’ strength as a teammate.  He helps with several teams his Mom coaches.  He is a mentor to new athletes joining Cape Independent.  Often the coaches rely on him to get athletes rounded up to a certain place or ready to go at a certain time.  He is well respected by his teammates and coaches, as a both a great athlete and reliable teammate.

Kit Gillihan — Southwest Area
Mr. Gillihan is one of the most extraordinary students/individuals I have encountered and have the pleasure of knowing. He has been a model, indeed an inspiration in his service to professional education and to Special Olympics. Mr. Gillihan has never had, or chosen the easy path. He meets challenges head on and welcomes the opportunity to conquer any challenge that he encounters. He holds himself to high standards of excellence, is an inspiration, and motivates others to do the same. Rather than giving up and quitting due to stress that would have emotionally incapacitated most, Mr. Gillihan never stopped or allowed himself to be hindered by societal injustices. He always comes back strong. This much heart seems difficult to find in society but he demonstrates it every day of his life.

Jacob Ritter — St. Louis Metro Area
In the last year, Jacob has really grown into a leader within the SOMO community. Jacob is an athlete for Warren County Handicapped Services where he competes in just about every sport available to him; bocce, bowling, basketball, flag football, golf, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.  For the first time in his athletic career, Jacob attended sports camp this summer to add to his knowledge of this list of sports and he soaked in all the pointers and drills he could. In addition to all of those activities, Jacob attended the Missouri Association of Student Council’s weeklong camp earlier this year, where he met new people from around the state and learned leadership qualities and inclusive activities he can bring back to his own school. He was also invited to serve on a committee to host a leadership summit to help promote unity in schools. Every event Jacob comes to, he comes with a positive attitude and makes sure he follows the Special Olympics oath.

Lou Holtmann named SOMO Volunteer of Year, others honored

All of the volunteers below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Oct. 19 in Columbia. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Awards Luncheon.

Lou Holtmann — Headquarters nominee

DSC_9586 Allison Lou Holtmann
Lou Holtmann has been volunteering at various Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) events for over 25 years. He has dedicated his life to serving people with intellectual disabilities and fighting for the respect and enhancement of their quality of life.  Most recently, he took on the position of Special Olympics Chairman for the Missouri Knights of Columbus. Over the last 3 years, Lou has put over 100,000 miles on his car traveling to Knights of Columbus Councils spreading the message of our programs and volunteering at SOMO competitions and fundraisers throughout the state. He treats his role of service as if it is a full-time job and beyond, never asking for anything in return. Lou has made friends with athletes across the state that recognize him, because of how much time he spends serving at SOMO. In many photos of our athletes, you will find Lou in the background beaming with pride. He never asks for recognition and loves helping behind the scenes. Lou spends many weeknights traveling to different Knights of Columbus Councils sharing the message of our SOMO programs.  He spends the majority of his weekends volunteering at events or hosting booths representing SOMO at various conventions throughout the state. Following the May 22nd tornado, Lou was one of the first to assist with clean-up efforts and rallied support across Missouri when we needed it most. He has planned and hosted numerous fundraisers, served meals, served as an Honor Guard of our Opening Ceremonies, awarded medals, and the list goes on. Without hesitation, Lou is one of the most extraordinary advocates we have ever had for SOMO and is the epitome of what it means to live your life for others. Lou is lovingly known as the “anchor” of the Knights of Columbus, a “workhorse,” and an “angel on earth.” One thing that everyone agrees upon is that Lou pours his heart and soul into everything he does and SOMO is at the top of that list. Our partnership with the Knights of Columbus would not be what it is today without Lou Holtmann. He never asks for recognition, but wholeheartedly deserves it. Missouri Knights of Columbus State Deputy Bob Hawkins said, “Lou is a selfless volunteer that has always gone above and beyond in his duties. This has been the case for the roughly 25 years that I have known him. His endless driving around Missouri promoting the SOMO Training for Life Campus has helped us immensely as we near our $1.2 million goal. He has spent thousands of hours doing this and never asks for anything in return. I could not think of a better person to receive this honor.” SOMO athlete and friend of Lou, Brock Guseman said, “Lou is always there for us when need him. He’s helped with SOMO for many years. He’s always talking to us athletes and kidding around with us. He would do anything for us, I’ll tell you that.”

Derina Shelton — Central Area
Derina Shelton is a volunteer who does not know how to say no.  Can she help with our local event?  Yes.  Can she help with a state event?  Yes.  Can she help with the Polar Plunge?  Yes. Derina has been helping Central Area with events for several years.  She does it for the love of the athletes.  Now Derina is passing her passion on to her son, Nathanyl.  She originally was in the banking business, but has since moved to a job where she can serve individuals with special needs in the Columbia Public Schools.  It is noticed by individuals how well she interacts with the students she serves.  When asked about her background, she gives credit to her volunteer duties with SOMO.  Now Nathanyl shares in the compassion by being the student who notices those with special needs and no one sitting with them at lunch. Central Area has some key volunteers who are the “go to” for help.  Derina is one of those volunteers.  She has served on the registration team at the Central Area Plunge since the first year.  The expert for the “day of” line, Derina greets the plungers with a smile. Central Area is grateful to Derina (and Nathanyl) for always coming out to share their smile and enthusiasm with the athletes.

Jeremie Ballinger – Kansas City Metro Area
Jeremie Ballinger has been with SOMO for 14 years.  He began with SOMO as a staff member.  After he changed jobs in 2011, Jeremie stayed highly involved as an event manager and has helped with several of the Kansas City events as well as state level events.  In 2019, Jeremie has been at basketball, aquatics, track, bocce, golf and State Indoor Games.  He plans to be at State Outdoor Games as well as KC area bowling.  He also participates in the Polar Plunge most years. Although his wife is on staff, Jeremie helps at events even when she is not scheduled to work. He is always a smiling face, willing to do anything he is asked, and upholds the integrity of the competition for the athletes.  His general knowledge and experience of SOMO competition is always so useful! In his most recent career, Jeremie maintained the area partnership with Kansas City Corporate Challenge, making sure the relationship grew to its potential.  He helped provide volunteers from KCCC for SOMO events as well as loaning other KCCC resources to make SOMO events run smoothly. On top of being an event manager, Jeremie has also participated as a Unified Partner in several sports. Most recently, he has been a unified partner in tennis and softball.  He has also worked to recruit his two oldest children to be involved in SOMO.  His oldest son, Dalton was an event manager at the State Indoor Games and Unified Partner for softball.  His daughter, Payton, attended sports camp as a junior counselor, sang the national anthem at the Kansas City Area track meet and served as Shiver Bear at the Polar Plunge.  Jeremie was also part of the “moving crew” when the KC office had to move from Lee Company to their new office space.  His connection to the landlord is what led us to the space for the new office. As you can tell, Jeremie has played just about every role in SOMO and continues to be a huge supporter of the program.  His attitude and willingness to help are unmatched and we are so lucky to have him in the Kansas City Area!

Lindsay Bernard — North Area
Lindsay Bernard has been a volunteer in some capacity with Special Olympics for 10 years now.   She has helped with local events by helping recruit volunteers to run the events.  She has participated in several fundraisers over the years including our Celebrity game, Ladies Night Out, Sponsorship campaigns, Making A Change event.  Lindsay was instrumental in working with the City of St. Joseph to place a bid to host the State Indoor Games for 3 years.  Securing facilities, funding, volunteers, meals etc.  She served as the Chair of the State Indoor Games GMT (Games Management Team) the last two years.  We are all aware of how many hours it takes to put on State games, Lindsay put in place a strong volunteer GMT and delegated jobs to everyone involved.  Lindsay has truly stepped up and has been a leader that other volunteers and business leaders look could depend on.  She is always there to ensure the games are running as they need to, helping to secure entertainment for Opening to making sure meals were delivered on time.  She took great strives to ensure that the games were the best for everyone and especially the athletes involved.  She stepped up to make sure the 2nd year of State Games in St. Joseph were better than the year before, securing better, bigger facilities, acquired more contributed services to offset costs and recruited more volunteers.

Sarah Wichern — Southeast Area
Sarah approached our office about a year and a half ago to get more information about volunteering with Southeast Area Special Olympics and since then has become a great asset for our area.  She does not have an athlete in the program or any experience with this organization; she just has a desire to make things better for others.   She is the President of Kappa Beta Gamma and encourages their involvement also.  Sarah was “all-in” from the first event and continues to take on new tasks.  She was our Polar Plunge Intern and helped us make a connection with many schools we had not connected with before.  She and her sorority created a new fundraiser for the Southeast Area. They volunteered at a booth for a week at the SEMO District Fair raising over $500 just by setting up a selfie station and requesting donations.  She donates many hours in the area office. She quickly taught herself GMS and has spent countless hours entering athletes into events and recording results as well.  In addition to being present at events in Cape Girardeau, she has travelled to competitions in other areas in our region to assist at those events. Sarah volunteer work does not end with hours of data entry!  She has helped file physicals, worked Special Olympics tables at area events, cleaned our office, sold Drive it Home raffle tickets and has signed on to serve on the 2018 Cape Girardeau Polar Plunge committee.  Sarah quickly came to be friends with many of our athletes. Sarah truly recognizes that her behind the scenes dedication is very important in providing great programs for our athletes and we are very thankful to have her support.

John and Julie Clarke — Southwest Area
John and Julie have been volunteers for the Southwest Area for many years and have helped with several events in the area as well as State events. If you want an event to be successful, you call the two of them. They were instrumental   in making the Bartender’s Charity Ball a success in the past and have recently come on the Polar Plunge Committee in 2019 and helping to make it one of the best ever plunges. John and Julie are willing to help in any way possible to help with events and raise money.   They have great ideas and contacts.  They think outside the box and make things happen.   It is a privilege to have them on our team.   Words cannot describe how blessed we are to have this package.




Berryhill/Dinkins family of Southeast Area wins SOMO family of the year, others honored

All of the families below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Oct. 19 in Columbia. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Awards Luncheon.

The Berryhill/Dinkins family — Southeast Area

DSC_9564 Berryhill
Lisa Berryhill, has been participating in Special Olympics for the past sixteen years.  Her entire family quickly realized the magnitude of the program and what it has meant to their daughter / sister/ niece.  The Berryhill Family jumped right in and has been involved in nearly every activity that has taken place in the Southeast Area as well as in Missouri.  Special Olympics has become a major part of Berryhill’s family. The Berryhill’s family literally will help in any way they can to ensure the quality of the program.  They serve as a chaperones, Unified Partners, and coaches.  Peggy volunteers as the bowling and bocce coach and she is involved with Family Outreach and in the Fan Club.  She has been very influential in getting the family involvement in Southeast Missouri.  The Berryhills love what the program and what it has done for Lisa and their entire family.  It has created a closeness in their family that is indescribable.  They have a passion for what participation in Special Olympics does, not only for Lisa, but for all the athletes.   Their entire family is athlete advocates. Both Peggy (mother) and her other daughter (Lisa’s sister, Amy) and Amy’s husband Billy truly exemplify an outstanding Special Olympics family. Most recently, Peggy’s sisters (Lisa’s Aunts) now are Unified Bocce Partners and are team chauffer’s.  The entire 40+ Cape Independent Team know and love the Berryhill Family. The Berryhill family truly shows commitment in that they work to secure sponsorships. Their family members all are involved as unified partners, filling in when they are called upon to do so.  In addition, Peggy has taken the time to get certified to coach two sports to further broaden her capabilities of providing assistance. Another commonality that this family shares is the fact that they are dire St. Louis Cardinals fans.  But as much as they love attending those Cardinals games…they love attending Special Olympics competitions even more!

The King Family — Central Area
Annette (mom) has served as a volunteer coach for a number of years within two different groups in Columbia.  She gives tireless hours to helping make sure that the athletes are at training and competition.  She does not come to an event without offering help in between what her responsibilities are for the team at that competition.  Annette is an individual that rarely says no when asked and this gives the area office much peace.  She is coming to competitions with such a positive attitude and when she sees something offers solution rather than just a complaint. Howard and Lena are both athletes.  However, just like their mom, they rarely come to an event without asking if we need any help.  Howard likes to use his muscles to help set up and/or carry in boxes.  Lena is very helpful with awards and likes presenting awards to other athletes. The King family are also present in assisting with fundraisers as needed.  They support each other, the athletes and SOMO as a whole.

The Hodgson family – Kansas City Metro Area
The Hodgson family is the epitome of a Special Olympics family. The entire family is involved; not just in sports, but in health and leadership programs as well. When there is a need for a family, the Hodgsons are there. Whether selling Raffle tickets, supporting Polar Plunge participants or giving a speech to spread awareness, we can count on the Hodgson family to show up.  Rand and Darla will transport Lynna and Jesse wherever they need to be so that they can help. Lynna is everything you want a Special Olympics athlete to be.  She is a role model, ambassador, competitor, and most importantly a friend in the SOMO family.  She participates in athletics, basketball, bowling and softball.  She also attends annual baseball, flag football, and soccer clinics.  Lynna is a great advocate for Special Olympics; she is a certified Global Messenger and recently became a certified Health Messenger through Special Olympics, Inc.  She is particularly fond of speaking to the Knights of Columbus chapters to inspire them to get involved with the Training for Life Campus fundraising efforts. Lynna has raised more than $5,000 for the Training for Life Campus herself, earning a letter jacket. Lynna will graduate from our Athlete Leadership Program this fall with a major in Health, and she will complete a second degree in Technology next year. Rand is her mentor, attending classes and helping ensure she stays on track with her practicum. Rand and Lynna traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in Hill Day this winter, speaking to legislators about the importance of Special Olympics in their community. Lynna is also extremely active on social media, encouraging other Special Olympics athletes, sharing health tips and celebrating earned medals. Jesse is also a model athlete. He is always ready to give helpful advice to any of his coaches, help his teammates and is always the biggest cheerleader on the sideline.  Even though he finds challenges because of his limited vision, he has never failed to try to find a way that he can compete.  He will do what it takes to play for his team and when he isn’t playing he is asking whoever is near him for the play by play so he can cheer for his team.  When he decided to try track and field this season and we talked about different events, his answer was always “I want to be challenged, Coach.” Before one sport season ends, he will be asking “When does the next one start?” Jesse and Lynna were both selected for Team Missouri at the 2018 USA Games. The whole family traveled to Seattle, and extended family met them there to cheer on Mo Magic. With Rand and Darla’s help, both Jesse and Lynna exceeded their fundraising goals and shared some of their funds with other team members who needed help. Lynna and Jesse both worked hard to get into shape ahead of the USA Games. Each of them lost at least 40 pounds, and Jesse worked so hard on the treadmill that they had to purchase a new one. Darla works hard to ensure that both Jesse and Lynna thrive within their own environments. Rand is knowledgeable about any disability benefits and is willing to help any parent understand and fight for the benefits they deserve. The Hodgson family is truly an asset to the KC Metro Area and SOMO as a whole.

The Ferdig family — North Area
The Ferdig family has two athletes that participate in Special Olympics Missouri events, Josh and Justin. They participate on Coach Esther Pfieff’s team, Tri-Cahp! Their parents, Lynisa and Carl, help Esther in a lot of ways to ensure that Tri-Cahp is good to go. They are at practices helping no matter what sport it may be. Carl and Lynisa also travel to regional and state events to volunteer as chaperones for the Tri-Cahp team(s). They are always willing to help Esther in any way they possibly can. This includes taking on extra responsibilities that ensure they can coach if they need to. Carl and Lynisa are really part of the Tri-Cahp family and they strive to make it the best team they possibly can for their sons as well as the rest of the athletes that participate on that team.

The Maupin Family — Southwest Area
New to Missouri but not to Special Olympics, the Maupin family joined Team SOMO in 2018. Sandy, and her daughter, Dusty visited our office to bring her SOMO paperwork and mentioned their willingness to help with events or whatever we needed.  They probably do not realize how grateful we are for that visit! Sandy and Dusty help with the Truck Convoy – making goody bags, loading/unloading and helping at the event.  Dusty is an absolute delight and can socialize with anyone! Dusty participates with the Community Support Services Team and Sandy is a dedicated supporter of their team.  At Area events, Sandy always jump into help where needed.  Sandy sees what we need help with and gets it done and any family who have come to watch Dusty, jump in with her.  Whether it is helping at registration, helping on a lane at bowling or driving a cart at golf, the Maupin Family does it with a smile.  They respect and engage with all the athletes at our events.  It is always a pleasure having the Maupin family at our events.

The Lance, Wells, Gregg family — St. Louis Metro Area
Robbie was an Edger in 2018, will be returning with his mom, Jaimie, to rappel in 2019 from the roof of Bank of America Plaza (31 stories). When SOMO needed to find a new venue for OTE, Jaimie was instrumental in connecting SOMO with Jones Lang LaSalle, the management company for BOA Plaza. Both Robbie and Jaimie sit on the OTE committee. Robbie has become the athlete voice for OTE, giving on-air TV interviews and encouraging everyone he meets to register and go Over the Edge. Robbie is a SOMO athlete, Zach is a Unified Partner. Robbie, Jaimie and Zach attended the Tip A Cop and Spare Change event at Cardinals vs Cubs game at Cardinals Nation on August 1. They were enthusiastic about making the event a family outing and a bonding experience. Robbie did a great job at engaging the customers and fans at the game and encouraging them to donate to Special Olympics Missouri to help athletes like himself. It was wonderful to see Robbie’s family support him that evening.  It shows their commitment to Special Olympics Missouri and our mission. Robbie and Zach were on team Missouri’s Unified basketball team that went to Seattle for the USA Special Olympics games. Not only did they help out in anyway, but Jaimie and Pat were both very involved in the year long process leading up to the games and during the week in Seattle.