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 Jan. 16 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 Summit.
NORTH AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: GREG & PAULA BURNS — STATEWIDE WINNER!
This husband and wife duo has volunteered for Special Olympics Missouri for more than 15 years. They started out as day-of volunteers at local events. Staff noticed a great potential with both of them, so they were asked to be on the Polar Plunge committee, then venue coordinators, and the relationship has grown from there. Paula and Greg are key members on the Polar Plunge committee, being there from the first committee meeting to the day of the event to set-up, tear down and wrap-up meeting. Paula is the head volunteer at the Plunge in the registration tent. Greg is always right beside Paula at the events doing whatever is needed behind the scenes. Paula has served on our Ladies Night Out committee for three years and has contributed so many ideas to grow this event, which doubled in its second year. Greg is there right along Paula, setting up tables, moving chairs and ladders, bringing in our decorations and then he is a celebrity waiter for the evening.
Paula and Greg also travel around the state attending state games as venue coordinators for track & field, softball, basketball and bowling. They are at the celebrity softball game selling tickets, working gates, etc. They help staff all think outside the box and make the program grow each time they are involved. They volunteer for whatever is needed; whether it is loading the truck, selling souvenirs, raking the long jump pits, serving lunch or handing out medals, they have done it all.
CENTRAL AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: LISA HOMCO
Lisa Homco is one of those volunteers who doesn’t come along very often. Lisa has traveled from the St. Louis area to volunteer annually for the Central Area events of basketball, softball, bowling and the Polar Plunge in Columbia. She gives her time to Central Area wherever and whenever needed. She puts miles on her car to come and volunteer. Lisa does this all besides her full-time job (which often is well over 40 hours a week), volunteering for the St. Louis Metro Area, being an event coordinator for the state events and spending time with her family. Having Lisa around is very uplifting. She is enthusiastic and being around her it becomes easy to catch the feeling. She is a volunteer that “wants to get it right.” She asks questions and makes sure she knows the rules of the sport ahead of time. Lisa is also a volunteer who finds ways to help SOMO through matching grants and find others who would be interested in Special Olympics.
HEADQUARTER’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: JACOB CONKLIN
A long-time volunteer of Special Olympics both at the state and national level, Jacob Conklin is as dedicated of a volunteer as they come. He travels around the state several times a year training Global Messengers and has long been a proponent of starting an Athlete Leadership Programs University. His hard work and persistence in this aspect finally paid off in 2015 as we held our first ALPs University in November. We couldn’t have come even close to accomplishing this without his guidance and staunch support over the years. While he isn’t a coach of a team in his area, in 2015 he helped recruit 10 brand new coaches in an area that we’ve historically had trouble with recruiting coaches. He has served on our Games Management Team for our State Summer Games the past two years. Jacob has played a tremendous role in our Youth Activation Committee. He recruits youth to be involved and serves as a mentor. He values the importance of youth engagement in our area schools and communities. Jacob was also an asset to the overall restructure and planning of YAC in 2015.
KANSAS CITY METRO AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: DAVID RING
David Ring is an exceptional volunteer in the KC Metro Area. He stepped into the role of being the main contact/lead for the Walmart Distribution Center about three years ago. In this role, he also serves on the Area Spring Games GMT. He has worked hard to make sure the transition from the previous contact was seamless on the SOMO side and that the Walmart volunteers always knew what was happening. The Walmart group runs the field event awards area. This past year they were asked to also take over the throwing events awards area, which almost doubled the amount of volunteers needed for them. David didn’t think twice and just said yes they would do it. David also serves on the GMT for our area basketball tournament and runs the 3-on-3 gym all day for this competition. He not only does this but also recruits and trains all the volunteers for this gym on event day. Each year, David and his team look for additional ways they can help with this event and make it easier for staff. He is working with staff to help provide lunches for more than 500 athletes, coaches and volunteers at the KC Metro basketball tournament in 2016.
ST. LOUIS METRO AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: PHIL MCHENRY
Phil Henry is an outstanding volunteer because he is always willing to give his time to be an event manager not only at the St. Louis Metro Area events but also at state events and fundraising events as well. Just this year, Phil served as an event manager at the area basketball tournament, Area Spring Games, area bocce tournament, regional softball tournament, State Summer Games, State Outdoor Games and the area bowling tournament. He also volunteered his time at one of the bigger fundraising events, Over the Edge. He not only donated his time to make the event happen, he asked his friends and family to donate as well. He raised more than $1,000 and faced his fears to rappel down the 19-story building for Special Olympics athletes. Beyond donating his time at SOMO events, he planned his own golf tournament to raise money for Special Olympics Missouri. The golf tournament raised more than $6,000! Phil is the type of person who will make friends with every athlete and volunteer he encounters, making everyone feel welcome and excited to be there.
SOUTHEAST AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: CHUCK HASTY
Chuck Hasty is about as enthusiastic of a volunteer as they come. He would also be considered one of the most enthusiastic school superintendents out there. Chuck is the very proud superintendent of Bismarck of Public Schools. As many volunteers get their start, he attended a track meet in Cape Girardeau with his students, where he was immediately hooked. He became relentless in wanting to get more of his students involved and he felt many of them could not attend in Cape because of the length of the travel. He approached staff about bringing the track meet up north to the Mineral Area Conference.
In April of 2015, SOMO hosted the MAAA Local Track Meet. The volunteers, coaches and sponsors were on fire that day as everyone could feel the energy in the air. Hasty has made a commitment to help his students and to help Special Olympics. He not only was the chairman of the planning committee, he also chaired the fundraising committee, raising more than $5,000 in fewer than three months just to get this event started. He made a commitment, he made a plan and he was very diligent in seeing it through. He has sacrificed a lot of personal time and work time to do this. He gives to us because of a love of the program, a love for his students and a pure desire to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics competitions.
SOUTHWEST AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: ANDREA GREEN
Andrea has been involved in Special Olympics since high school and was part of the Jeff City Youth Activation Council. Andrea is more than just a volunteer, she is an exceptional person. She also coaches and helps with anything that staff asks her to do, including Price Cutter Charity Championship. Andrea also helps with Victory Village at state events. She is a great asset to Special Olympics Missouri, not just to the Southwest Area. Andrea always has a smile on her face and truly loves the athletes. Nothing seems impossible for her. This year, she coached softball for the first time and was an amazing coach and role model for the athletes. She was a bit nervous, but everyone learned from each other. She had the time of her life. There are not enough words to describe her and enough ways to thank Andrea for what she does for Special Olympics Missouri and the Southwest Area.