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. 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.
KANSAS CITY METRO AREA’S OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: DWYER FAMILY — STATEWIDE WINNER!
The Dwyer Family has been involved with Special Olympics Missouri for more than 10 years. They have served on planning committees, been Unified Partners, supported athletes and been amazing volunteers. Danny and Sue both serve on the Miles for Medals planning committee and Danny has been the chair for the past few years. Many of our agencies rely on the success of Miles for Medals for much of their year-round fundraising dollars. Not only do Danny and Sue help organize Miles for Medals, but their daughters have become members of the planning committee. They run the Facebook page, help recruit riders and help on event day. Danny is also on the Polar Plunge committee. Danny and his company, Epic Electric, provide all the electricity needs on Plunge weekend. Danny and his co-workers spend two days working to make the beach and tents ready for the Super Plungers. Sue is part of the Super Plunge tent support crew and makes sure all the Super Plungers have plenty to eat and warm clothes as they plunge for 24 hours. In the past few years, the Dwyers have taken one of our area athletes under their family wing. They, along with civic groups they belong to, have helped him with fundraising efforts for USA Games and World Games.
CENTRAL AREA’S OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: WAMPLER FAMILY
Originally starting in the Kansas City Area, the Wamplers moved to Higginsville and started a program called PAL (Progressive Alternative Living). And, let’s just say the rest is history. Sharon and Jim both became certified coaches so that the residents of PAL could participate in bowling, basketball and bocce. They even became Unified Partners to be able to expand the program as needed. Through the years, some of the PAL athletes became older in age and were unable to participate, so they joined sports such as basketball and bocce with the other local program, Lafayette County, so they could continue to compete and share the coaching responsibilities. This family is not unfamiliar with fundraising and supporting various events, most especially the Drive it Home Raffle. They also worked with another local program to do a trivia night for the two local programs in Higginsville. This family is always ready to help wherever needed.
NORTH AREA’S OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: HUFFMAN FAMILY
The Huffmans have been involved with Special Olympics in almost every way possible. Cary and Deanna are always available, if needed, to help at fundraising or program events.
Although they have been long-time event managers, they recently started coaching the Predators flag football team when the previous coaches stepped down. They took the team on as if it was their own family. The time and effort put into making this team the best it could be was unbelievable. Jake Huffman, the son of Cary and Deanna, is a Unified Partner and a member of the regional Youth Activation Committee. Not only is he a partner on the field, but he has been extremely influential in promoting inclusion in his school community. They recently hosted a Unified football event at Savannah High School to raise funds for their team to go to state and to raise awareness for Special Olympics.
The Huffmans have served as volunteers in almost every program and development events held in the North area. On top of that, they have been involved in the growth and development of the Young Athletes Program in St. Joseph.
ST. LOUIS METRO AREA’S OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: HAMMOND FAMILY
The Hammonds are a model family when it comes to advocating for their child with Down syndrome and SOMO is so lucky to learn from their example. Son and athlete Bret has been in the Francis Howell School District throughout his entire school career, and every school year, parents Jim and Shelley offer to educate his classroom about living a life with Down syndrome. The family is incredibly involved with Special Olympics Missouri, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis and the Pujols Foundation, not only enjoying the benefits and events offered by each, but giving back to each community in a big way. Within SOMO, Bret has been trained as a Global Messenger at a young age, ready and willing to speak about the organization at opportunities as varied as school assemblies to this summer’s Unified Relay Across America kick-off. Bret participates in basketball, golf and softball with SOMO. For each of those sports, Jim now helps coach, gives rides to athletes, and has helped outfit the team with uniforms and equipment. The family volunteers at almost every event in which they are not directly participating. Jim, Shelley and Bret are a young family that has thrown everything behind supporting Bret’s abilities on and off the playing field and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them!
SOUTHEAST AREA’S OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: GARDNER FAMILY
Son 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. 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 competitions and is their biggest cheerleader. Logan’s dad, Tim has been a Unified Partner and competed locally and at state with Lucas Blattel, another Southeast Area athlete. As if what they do is not enough, most recently the Gardners have taken on coaching a tennis team in Sikeston. This gives those athletes in that community another sport to participate in. They have also worked very hard on the Training for Life Campus campaign, increasing awareness and raising hundreds of dollars. This family is very willing and committed to Special Olympics and is very deserving of this most prestigious award.
SOUTHWEST AREA’S OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: DUNLAP FAMILY
Special Olympics truly is a family endeavor for the Dunlap family with Marci and Brett (parents), Ashley (athlete), Emily (volunteer), Mary (grandmother and volunteer), Ashley’s aunts, uncles and cousin who are all involved in fundraising and volunteering at the many Southwest Area events.
This family helps in all aspects of the Nevada Special Athletes team along with competition at all levels. They fundraise, volunteer at events with all athletes and are huge supporters to athletes across the board. When asked to help, they are one of the first to say “yes.”
With volunteer time, they have raised money through 3M for the Nevada team.
Special Olympics is truly a family affair for the Dunlaps.