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. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today raising over $120,000 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 25 years ago. I was last year’s recipient. 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 ,Rick Hayes.
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 8 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 – scheduling them for his days off most of the time. He even selects holidays to take advantage of prime sales opportunities.
Has served to coordinate local routes in his region bringing new agencies into the Torch Run and keeping long time agencies connected to the Torch Run
He and fellow agency members challenged themselves to do the plunge in their Area. They didn’t reach their challenge goal, but they raised new money and spread the word about the Plunge when it was still a new event.
He thinks to recognize others for their support – whether it’s a personal phone call, a certificate or a request for a special letter of commendation.
He has told his co-workers on numerous occasions that Special Olympics is one of the things in his career that has been the most rewarding.
A huge testament to his support of SOMO can be seen in his decision to plan his retirement around Special Olympics so that he can participate one last time before retiring in 2009.
He’s concerned enough about continued support that he has already selected his replacement for agency coordinator for LETR.
It is my honor to recognize someone who makes a huge difference
The 2009 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Lt. Jim McNiell with the Mo State Highway Patrol – Troop E.