Bernard Simons, Melissa Vighi, Marty Willadson Join SOMO Board of Directors

Special Olympics Missouri is proud to announce that three new members have been named to the SOMO Board of Directors.

SIMONS BERNARDBernard Simons
Director, Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities
Jefferson City 

Bernard (Bernie) Simons is the Director of Missouri’s Division of Developmental Disabilities and has worked in the field for 40 years. He started his career as a direct support professional working in a center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was through his work that he became aware of Special Olympics in Rhode Island. Over the years Bernie has seen many, many, people with various disabilities proudly participate in their states’ Special Olympics.

As the Director of Missouri’s Division of Developmental Disabilities for the past six years he has worked to redesign and strengthen the Developmental Disabilities Division in the face of numerous budget constraints. He has redesigned the regional structure, increased local case management to 88 counties (53 percent of the state), strengthened the quality enhancement system, improved communications with community providers, state associations and county boards and sponsored regional presentations on the accreditation process.  In addition, he was instrumental in developing the Partnership of Hope waiver. More than 32,000 Missourians receive services and support through the Developmental Disabilities system and almost 600 people have transitioned from the Habilitation Centers to community supports and all admissions to the Centers have been discontinued.

In addition to serving on the SOMO Board, Bernie also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disability Services (NASDDDS) and has done so for more than four years.

His prior experience includes being a Regional Director, Assistant Regional Director, Superintendent and direct support staff. He also worked as a consultant with numerous states on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and U.S. Department of Justice issues.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Our Lady of Providence and his master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Boston University.

Bernie and his wife, Janet, have been married for more than 33 years. Janet also works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurse. They have three daughters and four grandchildren, living in Maine, North Carolina and Rhode Island. In their free time Bernie and Janet enjoy traveling, reading and walking.

VIGHI MELISSAMelissa Vighi
Attorney at Law, Lashly & Baer, P.C.
St. Louis 

In 2011, Melissa Vighi began providing pro bono legal services to Special Olympics Missouri for leasing and bylaw governance matters. While working with SOMO’s administration and cheering on athletes at area games, she was moved by the courage, commitment, dedication, enthusiasm and energy of the SOMO organization. Melissa has since been inspired to lend her skills and experience to SOMO’s mission by serving on the Board of Directors.

Melissa graduated with a B.S., magna cum laude, in Business Administration from Marquette University and was initiated into the Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society. She received her J.D., cum laude, from Saint Louis University where she was initiated into the Order of the Woolsack, served as Lead Articles Editor of the Saint Louis University Public Law Review and received an American Jurisprudence Award in Antitrust Law.

Melissa’s law practice at Lashly & Baer in St. Louis focuses on the representation of public entities and charitable institutions to foster real estate development, economic opportunities and tax-exempt financing and participation in governance, business, management and operational matters and contract negotiations.

Melissa has volunteered with the Junior League of St. Louis and served as a deacon with the Glendale Presbyterian Church, participating in numerous service and community outreach projects. She has been active on the membership committee of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) St. Louis. She provides pro bono legal services to non-profit and governmental organizations in need of her transactional experience.

Melissa is married to Pete Gullborg, a commercial litigator at the law firm of Pitzer Snodgrass, and together they enjoy taking care of their rescue dogs and learning how to ballroom dance.

Marty WilladsenMarty Willadsen
Vice President of Operations and Administration, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame 
Battlefield 

Marty Willadsen spent the first 15 years after graduating from Missouri Valley College as a high school teacher and coach. From there Willadsen was hired as an estimator/ salesman for a steel fabricator in Springfield, Mo. He spent 10 years there, the last seven as a project manager. In 2004, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame offered Marty employment as Associate Director of Sponsor Development. Two years later he was named Director of Operations and on Jan. 1, 2008, he was promoted to Vice President of Operations and Administration. In that capacity, Willadsen oversees the day-to-day operations of the Hall of Fame and the administration of its employees. He is also instrumental in the planning and execution of the many events which the Hall of Fame hosts throughout the state.

His first experiences with Special Olympics came in 1978-79 when he served as an on-field volunteer at Special Olympics events while attending college in Marshall, Mo. His long-term relationship with SOMO started with his participation with the Price Cutter Charity Championship in 2004, coinciding with his employment at the Hall of Fame. Says Willadsen, “While I had very little interaction with the athletes themselves, it was the cadre of volunteers that impressed me. This was a group of people who were willing to do whatever necessary for the benefit of their athletes.”

Marty and his wife Lori, reside in Battlefield, Mo. and are very active in their church, where Lori is the Day Care Director and Marty plays bass guitar in the praise band. He enjoys golf, hunting, picture framing and St. Louis Cardinals baseball. They have one son, Andy who also lives in Battlefield.

The Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors is responsible for setting the direction of the organization. They formulate and establish policies and oversee the President/CEO of the organization. The Board also protects the assets and resources of the organization and develops goals to meet our financial needs to ensure the long-range financial stability of the organization. You can meet the rest of our Board of Directors on our website

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