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 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.
The Robertson family — KC Metro Area
Veronica Robertson knew it was going to be hard to find opportunities for her son, who was born with a rare genetic disorder which caused intellectual disabilities along with dwarfism and speech delays. But when they joined SOMO for the sports experience, being there for Brett became so much more for her and her husband, Rob! Even Brett picked up more responsibility by helping the team. They came off the sidelines and offered to help at team practices. They became chaperones and certified coaches. They signed up for the Unified Partner jobs, decorated and planned the homecoming float and again continued that after Brett was off the team. They became equipment helpers; this is where Brett really took his job seriously. Veronica signed on to be a Polar Plunger in the second year of the KC Plunge and has plunged every year since. She became our Fan Club representative which led to her involvement in Miles for Medals. They have been involved with our Mantels and Martinis fundraiser and every other event where we sell tickets, go eat or just plain ask for money! When Brett aged out of the school team, all of their efforts were then focused on founding and supporting the new Lee’s Summit adult team. Without the Robertson/Nelson family, this adult team would not happen. They have been key in making sure the teams’ opportunities continue for all the graduating students. All the hard work they did on the school team has been transferred over to grow the adult team.
The Hulett family — Central Area
The Huletts lived in Moberly until mother Doreen was transferred to Florida. During their time in Florida, they found swimming and how it helped Logan with his autistic behaviors. Once the family came back to Moberly, they found SOMO and a swim program in Columbia. In 2013, Logan’s coaches nominated Logan to attend the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey. Moberly is not a large city, but the Huletts took on the challenge to raise the $1,500 to attend. They sold mums, wrote letters to ask for donations and solicited businesses in town. Logan raised the $1,500; in fact, they exceeded this amount. The Huletts raised a total of $3,367 – enough to help another athlete who was struggling to reach their goal. Logan went to the 2014 USA Games, as did his mom, dad and sister. It was not only a chance of a lifetime for Logan, but his family as well because it was their first vacation together!
The Leitterman family — North Area
The North Area has a family that has made an impact on SOMO’s program for the past several years. Greg and Janet Leitterman saw potential for growth with a fundraiser and they took the event and ran with it. They took a golf tournament that was making $1,500 to $2,000 per year and grew the participation and the sponsorship with results netting more than $7,000 in 2014. They start about six months out in preparation of the Brooke Leitterman Memorial Golf Tournament. They are raising the funds in memory of their granddaughter Brooke, who had Down syndrome and was active in Special Olympics. They wanted the golf tournament to raise enough funds to provide the programing for the athletes in their hometown of Cameron. They have made this event something to be a part of. They secure all door prizes, items for the golfers, meals, goody bags, facilities and hole sponsors. They have grown this golf tournament on their hard work, determination and persistence. They secure all the media sponsors as well for this event.
The Busken family — St. Louis Metro Area
SOMO is a family affair in the Busken family. Julie Busken is the Special Olympics program coordinator in the Warren County School District and her involvement in and passion for the program has spread like wildfire! Eldest daughter Brittany is right beside her mom, helping to coach at every event. Son Tyler recently officiated at the St. Louis Metro Soccer Tournament. Daughter Emma is a soccer, basketball and volleyball Unified Partner. Julie’s husband Greg has been recruited on multiple occasions to lend a helping hand at an event, move equipment between venues and coordinate rides for athletes. Julie and Brittany attended the 2014 USA Games — Julie as an athletics coach and Brittany as the volleyball sports manager. Both helped coordinate multiple fundraisers for this event. Julie even recruited extended family members to work a concession stand at the Edward Jones Dome. As every event passes, you can see the passion and dedication in this family grow. In addition to leading their Warrenton teams, they volunteer to help at every event they attend or just pitch in when they see a need.
The Gardner family — Southeast Area
Logan Gardner participates in Special Olympics Missouri programing year-round. He participates in basketball, bowling, softball, athletics, tennis and any type of dancing that is available. He also participates with the Sikeston Guns N Hoses team in the annual Polar Plunge. As you can tell he is a very busy guy! Logan joined Special Olympics many years ago and his family travels at least once a week from Sikeston (about 30 miles to Cape Girardeau) to ensure that he gets all the training he needs. This is quite an accomplishment in itself for this very busy family. The Gardner family is always ready and willing to do whatever is necessary for Logan and the other athletes. Melody (mom) has been delegated the team historian. She takes all types of photographs at all of the events, documenting the history of sports and good times in the Southeast Area. She is also very willing to share with the all fans of Logan and Special Olympics as she posts the accomplishments of all on social media. Logan’s sister Malory is also very active in Logan’s life and in the lives of all the athletes in the Southeast Area as she attends most competition and is their biggest cheerleader. Logan’s father, Tim, most recently became a Unified Partner in tennis and competed locally and at state with Lucas Blattel, another Southeast Area athlete.
Seth Dye and Melissa Reese — Southwest Area
Melissa Reese and Seth Dye are the perfect mother and son duo. They are both so friendly and caring. They have truly made Special Olympics a part of their lives. Seth is described by his coaches as kind, helpful and hardworking. Seth and his mom have become a great asset to the area. Not only does Seth participate in sports, he attends fundraisers such as the World’s Largest Truck Convoy and promotes the Polar Plunge by helping in the Maple Leaf Parade. Now Seth is becoming a Global Messenger so that he and his mom can continue to raise awareness for Special Olympics in the Southwest Area. Most recently, they teamed up to help with the Unified Bocce Tournament fundraiser. At the time, Seth didn’t know how to play, but thought it would be fun to learn a new sport and to help raise money. Melissa helped other staff and volunteers serve drinks and food as well as run the carnival games. They are both eager to help more in the future. The Southwest Area is lucky to have such a wonderful family.