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 deserves 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 raising over $100,000 since its inception. 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 22 years ago. When I read previous recipients, I’d like them to stand to be recognized as a group: Ralph Biele, Rich Banahan, John Cira, Mary Branstetter, Randy Boehm, David Pudlowski, Janelle Waterman, Graham Burnley, Jim Moran, Jim McCart, Zim Schwartze, Tim Goebel, Randy Werner
The criteria for recipients include:
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
We have many who are Torch Run enthusiasts; most we don’t know. The reason we don’t know them is because they don’t do the work for the recognition – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are always in the background – working to do more.
About this year’s recipient:
Involved in the Torch Run for more than 15 years
Has served as his agencies’ Torch Run Coordinator for this same period directing his agencies’ fundraising efforts by selling t-shirts & hats & organizing their fundraising efforts
Has served as the Region Coordinator since this position was created in 1994
Serving on the State Torch Run Committee and coordinating other agencies involvement
In 1996, he increased participation in his region by 133%
He organizes his route of the Torch Run each year in May – making it seem effortless by handling every aspect of it from media, runner recruitment, food for runners, and escort vehicles,
He recruited 5 agencies into the Torch Run family that continue strong today
According to those who work close to him, “He is the face of LETR in our Area.
He believed in the Plunge when very few people would. After 5 years his work has paid off – now there are several very active officers and agencies on the committee. This little project is now the signature fundraiser in our Area and one of the largest in Missouri.
Whenever this person is needed, he is there or has someone there to fill the need.
His style is to work hard, get the job done and step back so others see the spotlight.
It is my honor to recognize a special man who makes a huge difference in our Torch Run family.
The 2008 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Capt. Don Spears with the Belton Police Department.