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 Jan. 17 in Branson. 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 Leadership Conference.
Allison D’Agostino, NAMED BEST IN STATE
Allison D’Agostino doesn’t seek the limelight everywhere she goes, but somehow it finds her. It’s the nurturing way she shares her skills and knowledge with the other athletes she trains and competes with that sets her apart. It wouldn’t be odd to find Allison working with another athlete to help them understand a swim stroke or retrieving their bowling ball. She is a very giving person. At 25 years old, Allison has been able to build up her confidence level through Special Olympics. This confidence brought her from just training in aquatics to competing and gaining in her skill. This same confidence has allowed her to live alone for four years and start not one but two media outlets on her own. Allison has her own YouTube Channel called The Esperanza243 and conducts a radio show on BlogTalkRadio.com called Show Time, Radio Time. These experiences led her to be selected to be trained as a Global Messenger and she had her first speaking engagement at the Polar Plunge in Columbia. As part of a new communications project at SOMO, Allison was selected to be the first host of the brand new SOMO TV Show (SOMO.org/TV). All these things that Allison does are on top of holding a full-time job at Wendy’s. She is a model employee and shows her independence by making sure she gets to and from work on time. She is also one to help with the Central Area through fundraising, speaking in front of groups or whatever is needed.
Michael Lunceford is a quiet and unassuming young man who has been participating in Special Olympics for six years. In that time, Michael has grown as a person who is willing to learn, work hard and do everything he can to help his team. Michael plays several sports including basketball, track & field, golf and bocce. His favorite by far though is bowling. Michael is very diligent about coming to practice and working hard. That diligence paid off when Michael was selected for Team Missouri for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey. While there, he received two gold medals and a 4th place ribbon. Michael’s perseverance in Special Olympics has paid off in other areas of Michael’s life. While in high school, he won several state awards for his wood working projects. He loves to play the drums and got to play them in a special education production of “The Lion King.” Michael is currently a part of a transition program between his school and a local medical center where he is working on job and life skills. He is also currently working with his father volunteering for Missouri Town, an historic village in Jackson County, as a “tin smith.” He is able to talk to visitors and tell them exactly what it is they are making and the methods they are using. Special Olympics has given Michael the self-confidence to work hard and be as independent as possible. It has not only taught him athletic skills but also life skills. It has taught him what it means to be a part of a team.
Becca Tincknell — St. Louis Metro Area
Becca Tincknell has been contributing to Special Olympics Missouri since she first joined the program at the age of seven. She currently competes in bowling, basketball, softball, flag football, athletics and bocce – an all-around athlete! But she is always willing to try new sports: When asked to fill a tennis slot for the 2003 World Games in Dublin, she had never played the sport before but took a year’s worth of lessons and returned home with a gold medal. She was also proud to represent Team Missouri at the 2014 USA Games, winning a gold, silver and fourth-place ribbon in bocce. She is trained as a Global Messenger and is a reliable and entertaining speaker and volunteer at events and fundraisers. After competing in the 2014 USA Games as a bocce player, Becca is now participating in bocce practices with her team as an official, allowing her to focus more closely on the game. She not only shares her strategy with her fellow players, but also learns more about the game in the process. She was recently featured in the Jefferson County Leader as its “Athlete of the Week” and was selected as one of two athletes to be on a billboard with Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams, promoting their partnership with Special Olympics Missouri.
Lonnie Thornton — Southwest Area
Lonnie Thornton has been participating in Special Olympics for 13 years, and this past year has been an incredible one for him. Last summer, Lonnie attended the USA Games in New Jersey. He competed in bocce and earned gold, silver and bronze medals. Don’t challenge him to a game of bocce unless you are prepared to lose, because he is very good! While at the Games, Lonnie was able to do something he has always wanted to do — see the Statue of Liberty. He said this was the best time of his life since the accident that left him with a disability. Lonnie was also featured on a billboard in his community for his achievements as well as led the Athlete’s Oath at the State Outdoor Games. Lonnie previously competed at the 2006 National Games in Iowa. He also competes in basketball, bowling and softball. Lonnie is well known at SOMO and in his community. Staff, coaches, volunteers and other athletes enjoy being around him because he is always friendly, smiling or cracking a joke. Go anywhere with Lonnie in his community and someone he knows always stops to chat or ask how he is doing. He is never shy to express how much he appreciates and loves Special Olympics.
Brianne Chavez — Southeast Area
Brianne Chavez has participated in Special Olympics sports since graduating high school in 2005. She has played softball, basketball, soccer, track and powerlifting. In 2008, Brianne received the Southeast Area Outstanding Athlete award along with the discovery of powerlifting. Not only has she done well at State Summer Games competitions, Brianne has set APA (American Powerlifting Association) national and world records for the Special Olympics women’s division in 148 lb. and 165 lb. classes as well as 22-23 year old women’s division in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, she earned a spot on Team Missouri’s USA Games Unified Softball Team. In 2014, she qualified as a powerlifter for Team Missouri, excelling in many events. All her time in the gym training paid off as she achieved two personal best weights in the squat and the deadlift. She received state and national attention as she received four gold medals in the following lifts: bench press, squat, deadlift and combination. Brianne is one dedicated athlete and never misses an opportunity to train. She is a great person and definitely leads by example.
James Ross — North Area
James Ross is an athlete who has an outstanding personality; he always finds the good in any situation. One of James’s main assets is that he has the ability to get the most out of those around him by being himself and showing his wonderful positive attitude. He does this by being a team player. James currently participates in basketball, bowling, bocce, softball and track and field. He is known in the community as a go-getter and will volunteer for the local fundraisers helping his teammates. James will offer to help load a truck, move tables and chairs and lend a helping hand to anyone. He has the knack for seeing what needs to be done and doing it. He also has a knack of reading people and knowing when they need a pat on the back, an encouraging word, a smile or just someone to listen. James likes to spend time watching sports with his fellow teammates; he is an enthusiast when it comes to sports. James is a positive role model to his teammates and other athletes and a great advocate for Special Olympics. He is constantly recruiting his friends to play on a team or recruiting people to sponsor or volunteer for Special Olympics. He just recently took the Global Messenger training so that he can tell his story of what Special Olympics means to him. He currently serves as a team captain and an assistant coach to his team due to an injury that keeps him from playing basketball and softball. James never misses a meeting or an event and is there to cheer on his teammates and other athletes.