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 2006, Sgt. Randy Werner received this award for his continued efforts in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Polar Plunge and organizing a weekly pick up softball game with Special Olympic athletes. Below is the speech given prior to his accepting of this award.
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 $80,000 for SOMO. There are Trivia Nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now as a result of the one started in St. Louis.
The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 20 years ago. When I read our other 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, Zim Schwartze.
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
Directs his agencies’ fundraising efforts by selling t-shirts & hats, and hosting a successful Cops on Top event raising unprecedented publicity and funds
Works with the local media to gain publicity for this event and the local run
Has participated as a runner forever & coordinates a local leg
Serves on the State Torch Run Committee serving as the Region Coordinator
Was Missouri’s representative to the Final Leg
Has plunged in all 11 Polar Bear Plunges at the Lake of the Ozarks
About 3 years ago he organized officers from his agency to play a weekly pickup game of softball with local Special Olympics athletes, giving the athletes some extra play time and experience. What developed – was much more than sports skills – friendships were formed between police officers and athletes that continue off the playing field. Now 2 of the officers have become certified Special Olympics coaches for the group of local athletes. Our award recipient is one of those coaches.
According to the nominator, “This person’s devotion to Special Olympics is something that just is. He quietly looks for ways to bring Special Olympics to the table. After presenting medals at the State Summer Games he said it was his favorite SO memory, because he presented a medal to an athlete who had no competition in his event. He realized that rising to the challenge and being recognized meant more than competing.
He went on to say, my kids and I are constantly humbled and always inspired by being involved – directly with athletes. It keeps us clear and makes us feel that together, as a family, we’re making a difference in someone’s life.
By now, some of you may know who I’m talking about. It is my honor to recognize a special man who makes a huge difference in our Torch Run family.
The 2006 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Sgt. Randy Werner with the Jefferson City Police Department.