Each week until the unveiling of this year’s winner, we will feature the past winners of the John Michael Letz Award for service, commitment and contributions to the Law Enforcement Torch Run. In 2005, Zim Schwartze received it for her devotion to the Torch Run and raising awareness and funds for the program. Below is the speech given prior to her receiving this honor.
The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award.
The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after an individual who serves this distinction from his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept. and who died from cancer in 1994. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today generating over $75,000 for SOMO. There are Trivia Nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now.
The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 20 years ago. When I read the previous years’ recipients, I’d like them to stand: John Cira, Rich Banahan Tim Goebel, Mary Branstetter, Randy Boehm David Pudlowski, Janelle Waterman, Graham Burnley, Jim Moran, Jim McCart
The criteria for recipients includes:
- Responsible for significant fundraising results
- Participates in year-round support
- Exemplifies the Special Olympics mission
- Someone who is a visionary for the Torch Run
- Someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes
About this year’s recipient:
There are many names involved in the Torch Run in the early years. Names like Ralph Biele, Red Lair, Ira Copeland, Carl Wolf, & Gary Kempker…to name a few. Since then there have been many who have joined the ranks of Torch Run enthusiasts most of whom we don’t know. The reason we don’t know them is because they don’t do the work for the fame – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are always in the background – working to do more.
Let me tell you a little about this year’s recipient:
- Involved in the Torch Run for more than 10 years
- Co-directs the agencies’ fundraising committee
- Sells t-shirts, raffle tickets and hosts various agency fundraisers – including trivia nights & tip-a-cop raising over $14,000 so far this year
- Has participated as a runner for all 10 years
- Serves on the State Torch Run Committee.
- Coordinates the Run each year in May.
- According to the nominator, “This person’s devotion to the mission of the Torch Run has resulted in continued significant fund raising both locally and statewide. She is an inspiration to other officers and she herself is clearly motivated by the elation and pride that she instills in the athletes and all those who benefit from participating in Special Olympics.”
- By now, some of you know that I’m talking about Capt. Zim Schwartze. If you don’t know her by name, you’ll recognize her contagious smile.
- Please welcome the winner of the 2005 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award- Capt. Zim Schwartze.