About Special Olympics Missouri

Promoting acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities through sports.

Brandon Schatsiek’s World Games Blog: Part 1

Brandon Schatsiek is SOMO’s Multimedia & Athlete Leadership Manager. He is serving on Special Olympics USA‘s communications team at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria. 

I was able to attend the World Summer Games in 2015 in Los Angeles as a working-vacation following SO Missouri’s softball team and tennis athlete around while visiting friends in Southern California. I had a little taste of that World Games experience and wanted more.

I was lucky enough to be selected to serve as a communications assistant for Special Olympics USA at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria.

The first leg of our trip took us to Washington, D.C. where we met up as a team for the first time since training camp in December in Vermont. We were treated to a nice dinner and evening program that included traditional Bavarian folk music to get us in the spirit of what we’d experience while in Austria. Check out my video.

We left the next afternoon on what was my first international flight. We left late enough that we flew most of the night and while I expected to pop a few Dramamine and zonk out for the whole trip, I found myself wide awake for most of it. I don’t know if it was the nerves or what, but I hate-watched a couple of C-list movies and we made it to Vienna at 8:30 a.m., which equated to 3:30 a.m. in D.C. We boarded the bus for Graz and arrived at out Host Town around 11 a.m.

The next day we were treated to tours of a local Riegersburg Castle and Zotter Chocolate Factory. For a recap of everything the teams did that day, check out the video I put together on their one full fun day away from practice and competition.

Even as I sit here and type this out on Sunday morning, I can’t really remember a lot of what’s already happened as the days are running together already and competition has only barely begun.

floor hockeyI am housed in Graz, which is where the floor hockey, figure skating and speed skating competitions are being held. As much as it pains me to be away from our two Missouri athletes (Andy Martinez in snowshoeing and Andrew Baswell in alpine skiing), I’m relishing the opportunity to see some of the best regulation and Unified floor hockey teams in the world because I’m a Unified Partner on the Jackson County Parks and Rec Unified team. Both our regulation team from Southern California and our Unified team from New York are really, really good and they’ve already established themselves as two of the top teams at World Winter Games.

During any World Games — and on some level at the USA Games – part of the fun where you get the “good feelings” are seeing people of so many different backgrounds together, either during competition or just around Olympic Town and at the venues. My first moment at these World Games happened early during speed skating practice when you saw the United States sharing the ice with Russia, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Nippon (Japan) and more.speed skating

That day we shared a bus back to the hotel with the German national team and I was lucky enough to chat with Sebastian most of the way. He told me all about his past World Games experience (this is his fourth), his cycling trip across America (I too love riding my bike) and how good his floorball team is (VERY good, apparently, haha).

Saturday brought the Opening Ceremony in Schladming, which was a 2 ½ hour bus ride away from Graz. The countryside between Graz and Schladming is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen mountains before, sure, but the way these small villages and houses butt up against the base of the mountains creates the most beautiful backdrop I’ve ever seen.

opening ceremony raincoatsThe weather forecast called for rain and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I knew what being out on the red carpet during Opening Ceremony was like because I took photos from the media section in Los Angeles in 2015, but being able to walk in with the delegation was something I’ll never forget.

Even just sitting in the parking deck across the street waiting for the ceremony to begin, it was hard not to get goosebumps as Sweden, Switzerland and the United States went back and forth chanting to see who could be the loudest, most passionate and most patriotic delegation. There was a short period of time where a couple of athletes stepped forward and I thought we were going to have a “Step Up: Special Olympics-style dance competition” but it didn’t come to fruition. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed, haha.

Missouri 4 Opening CeremonyI met up with Andy and Andrew at that time and traded as many pins as possible with countries staged around us before we had to head toward the entrance into the stadium. Seeing not only the athletes but the Unified Partners from the New York floor hockey team get geeked out for something of this magnitude was my favorite part of the evening. If you aren’t following the backstory of that team, you need to ASAP. The Unified Partners and athletes from that team couldn’t be more different (race, economically, socially, etc.) and it finally felt like the UPs changed from thinking they were giving this experience to the athletes to experiencing it WITH them.

Everything happened so fast that it felt like we were livestock being moved from one holding pen to another until we were finally set free to walk down the red carpet. I took one side of the group for photos, while Aaron Mills (communications director of our team) took the other and it quickly turned into me just standing in the middle of the group walking backwards with my right index finger firmly planted on the button, clicking at rapid fire. Mandi told me the day before to be sure and take a moment to just look around the stadium and soak it in before it was over. I remembered this just in time before the parade was finished (they said it was the shortest distance in World Games history). While the rain was something we all worried about most of the day, it actually made for a great atmosphere and added another element to the experience.

Unfortunately, I messed up pretty badly during Opening Ceremony and didn’t account for exactly how bright it was during the Parade of Athletes, so every single one of my photos during the parade was washed out (too bright). I was so focused on getting as many photos of as many athletes as possible during the parade that I didn’t take an extra two seconds to look at the screen and make sure I had the right settings. I whisper-yelled a few curse words and sulked for the first 20-30 minutes of the actual entertainment, not because I missed out on great photos for me, but because now those athletes won’t have photos of their experience.

096A2858When I make mistakes, I have the tendency to dwell on them longer than I probably should. I’ve been trying to be better about this, but it’s something I’m working on. After Opening Ceremony, we boarded the bus for our long trip home and I got to work on this blog and editing some of my other photos from the day. I think I found a way to salvage maybe a half dozen of the parade photos in a way that makes them look a little more artsy than usual, but it’s better than nothing. Most people will probably think that was the effect I was going for anyway, so it could work out okay after all, haha.

Our skaters are taking to the ice now, so I have to get going, but I’ll try to check in at least one more time during the week. Danke schön!

Eichelberger, Schwartze Inducted into SOMO Hall of Fame

On Jan. 1IMG_50537, Special Olympics Missouri announced that Central Area athlete Robb Eichelberger and Zim Schwartze, Director of 911 Emergency Communications and SOMO volunteer, would be inducted into the SOMO Hall of Fame this year. Eichelberger was surprised at the Boonville C & R where he works by family, friends and SOMO staff with the news. Schwartze was surprised at her office following a Games Management Team meeting for SOMO’s State Summer Games.

SOMO can induct up to two athletes and two non-athletes into the Hall of Fame each year.

Eichelberger and Schwartze were recognized alongside the newest inductees to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Jan. 29, including St. Louis Cardinals speedster Vince Coleman, Kansas City Royals outfielder Amos Otis, Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney, the Voice of the Missouri Tigers, Mike Kelly, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane (University of Central Missouri baseball), and former Mizzou football coach Warren Powers, among others.

Robb Eichelberger, Athlete
Robb got his start in Special Olympics Missouri when he was in high school in 1998 playing 3 on 3 unified basketball. He was one of the first athletes in Missouri to participate in unified sports. He helped recruit his younger brother, Adam, to be a unified partner. This was really the first time the two had done anything together and through unified sports they were able to form a stronger bond as brothers. From there, Robb grew his participation in sports and eventually became a National Champion in tennis in 2006 at the National Games in Ames, IA. Robb was chosen to compete at the 2011 World Games in tennis, but due to a back injury could not attend and now can only participate in certain sports. He and his golf partner, Ryan Brimer, have been competing together for more than 8 years.

IMG_4982Robb was elected to the SOMO Board of Directors in 2007. He fulfilled all requirements on the board from giving annually to SOMO to volunteering at events. In fact, he was the first SOMO board member in history to have PERFECT attendance. Mark Musso, SOMO President & CEO, created an award in his honor called the “Robb Eichelberger Perfect Attendance Award” which will be given from this point forward to a SOMO board member who has perfect attendance upon completing their term on the Board.

He was one of the first athletes to sign up for the Athlete Leadership Programs University in November 2015 so that he could expand his leadership skills. He chose the communication major so he could face his fear of public speaking in front of large groups.

If you go anywhere with Robb in the Boonville community, he knows everyone and everyone knows him. He has worked at the local grocery store for 16 years, is an active member of the Knights of Columbus, working bingo on Friday nights and is an active member of his church. He was awarded the 2016 Knight of the Year from his council.

Robb has set the bar for other athlete board members and is a true example of what Special Olympics Missouri does for our athletes.

Zim Schwartze, Volunteer
Zim began her passion for Special Olympics Missouri in 1995 through the Law Enforcement Torch Run. She has served in numerous leadership roles within SOMO including Games Management Teams and Plunge Committees. While her love for SOMO began in Columbia she didn’t let her move to Springfield stop her passion/need to be a part of SOMO. She jumped right in as the Games Management Team Chair for the State Summer Games held at Missouri State University and as a member of the Springfield Plunge Committee. She has worked to build a more prominent athlete program in Springfield.

IMG_4986She was recognized as the 2005 Letz award winner – the highest honor in Missouri’s LETR program – and her nominator couldn’t have said it any better when they said “Zim’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 the 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.”

Zim was chosen among her peers to be the final leg runner at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece. Then in 2015, she was selected as a route runner for the Unified Relay Across America, running the torch from St. Louis to Colorado for the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles.

Zim’s spirit is contagious and she passes that along to those around her. SOMO athletes are Zim’s #1 priority, and they love her just as much as she loves them. There is nothing better than watching Zim squeal with joy when the athletes come up to give her a hug or a high five. She makes Missouri proud on a daily basis and SOMO is blessed to have her in our family.

For more information or to learn how you can support Special Olympics Missouri, contact Harrison McLean at mclean@somo.org. Information about the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Enshrinement can be found at www.mosportshalloffame.com.

Healthy Athletes Training: Pierce Rash

Pierce Rash, 35 has participated in Special Olympics since he was 8 years old and living in Las Vegas, Nev. He and his family moved to Missouri in 2004. In 2013, Pierce was selected to Team Missouri to compete in bocce for the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey.
He trained very hard and was thrilled to attend all of the events surrounding the USA Games! Pierce came home with four awards for his efforts and set his sights on the next games in 2018! In 2016, Pierce decided on his own that he needed to lose weight and get in better shape in order to try out in 2017 for Team Missouri. Shortly thereafter, Pierce implemented his workout plan.

Since a very young age, Pierce has worked out with Richard Simmons’s “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” He added a treadmill for the 2014 USA Games training because he knew he may need to walk up to five miles per day while in New Jersey. 13458771_1147115122018457_2255665629168221542_o

To train for the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, Pierce has become even more serious about his training and told his mother that he wanted to focus on losing weight. The plan is to eat less, eat something healthy every three hours, drink more water, add an elliptical regimen and perform two workouts per day.

Pierce looked over every DVD at Wal-Mart for work outs and made the decision to go with Billy Banks’s “Taebo.” Pierce’s parents tried to discourage that DVD since it seemed very high energy and fast paced, but Pierce was insistent he wanted to try. His parents have been amazed with his dedication and performance!

Over the months, Pierce saw the pounds dropping and his body shrinking! He became obsessed with his workouts and sees this as fun and something he looks forward to every day. Pierce’s parents became amazed with his commitment to getting into shape and made sure he knew it was okay to “treat” himself with something he gave up (cookies, French fries, etc.) every once and a while.

As of his last check up in January, Pierce has lost 51 pounds without the help of any pills or powders and has gone from a size 40 pant to a 32. Pierce does one workout in the morning and then again around 3 p.m., which helps keep his metabolism burning off the pounds.
Pierce has been working hard on his form in bowling which is the sport that he wants to try out for at the Special Olympics Missouri Selection Camp. He is looking forward to the State Indoor Games in Ft. Leonard Wood where he is hoping for a gold medal which will allow him to try out for the team.

Healthy Athletes Training: Tanner Hrenchir

Tanner Hrenchir, of Special Olympics Missouri’s North Area, started participating in the sport of powerlifting two years ago and it has since became his favorite sport.  We believe he truly adores the individual aspect of it and the fact that each week he can see how much stronger he has become from the last week.

After state last year, Tanner created a new goal for himself– to work as hard as he ever has to hopefully be selected to participate on the next nationals squad for Team Missouri in the sport of powerlifting!

For more than 22 weeks now, Tanner has been meeting with Olympian, Pete Kelly, at 8 a.m. every Saturday  morning to train in his garage.  Pete gave him nightly exercises/lifts to perform and he has kept those going for 22 weeks as well! He has sheets to prove it where he has checked each one off.  My mother says he often spends another couple of hours per night on his exercises and lifts alone.  After Saturday powerlifting practices with Pete, Tanner then attends Special Olympics Missouri bowling practice as well.  He has even started in on cardio, which isn’t a strong suit for him.  It’s fascinating to see how much determination this guy has–he inspires me to get out there and get fit, to be kind and to love life.tanner

One of the greatest parts is Tanner is starting to see his own body change.  Every few weeks we have been upping the weight of his dumb bells at home and he sees his muscles getting stronger and stronger.  He is so proud of himself as he should be!  He is working so hard towards this goal, however he knows that if he does not get selected, there is always next time!

Tanner inspires me every day.  He has held a job since he was 18 (he is now 34) and has participated in SOMO for almost 25 years.  Of the 25 years, I can say I have never seen him more determined to meet a goal.  Through SOMO Tanner has found a HOME; our entire family has found a HOME.  SOMO is what our family does!  It’s our life and we wouldn’t be the same without it.  Thank you SOMO for giving Tanner opportunities such as this to strive for.  What an amazing life he has.

 

Written by: Katie Lyle, Tanner’s sister and coach

Healthy Athletes in DC, by Allen Tobin

The following is written by Special Olympics Missouri athlete Allen Tobin, who recently traveled to Washington D.C. with SOMO staff member Carol Griffin to attend a Healthy Athletes leadership conference. Healthy Athletes provides athletes with free health screenings in six different disciplines: Fit Feet, Special Smiles, Fun Fitness, Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion and Opening Eyes.

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I had the honor and the privilege to get to go with Carol Griffin, the Healthy Athlete Coordinator, to Washington D.C. for a conference in training to be an Athlete Leader in the Healthy Athlete program. I met Carol at the airport on December 6th to fly out to Waimg_1629shington D.C. We went to our hotel to check in for the conference and training. We got to see see and talk to Heather Hammer, the Healthy Athlete Director for Special Olympics International & Kristen Srour, who works for Healthy Athletes Special Olympics International.

On Monday evening the 12 athlete leaders and mentors had training to be a Healthy Athlete Leader. After our meeting and training we got taken out to dinner at a Greek restaurant which was a lot of fun. I got to try some new foods that I’ve never had, after dinner we came back to the motel and relax and get to know each other.img_1619

On Tuesday the conference started. We had breakfast and got to talk to the other people that came in for the conference. The meeting started at 9 and then we had a breakout session at 9:30 to 10:45. Four athletes got to do the breakout session. We gave speeches and answered questions. Then we took a break and had sessions and meetings all day. We had a healthy lunch with a few snacks and fruits and yogurt. We had different meetings all week with topics from ranging from new physical fitness programs, healthy diets and different things like that.

I enjoyed meeting other athletes from all over the country and even Canada and the District of Columbia. On Thursday night we had free time for dinner and got to go on a on a night tour of the different monuments in Washington Dimg_1936C. I had a lot of fun going to see things like the Capital, White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, and Martin Luther King Monument. On Friday we had our final day of conferences, meetings and training sessions. We flew back back home on December the 9th.

I learned many important things at the conference. Statistics show that compared to people without Intellectual Disabilities (ID), people with ID:
*died 16 years earlier on average
*are at more unhealthy weight
*are more overweigimg_1704ht or obese
*tend to have a higher blood pressure

It is important to learn how to be a Healthy Athlete because the healthier I am the more energy I have and the better I can be at my sports.

-Allen Tobin
Special Olympics Missouri Athlete
Healthy Athlete Leader

How I Started Special Olympics: by Brittany Selken

The following story was written by SOMO athlete Brittany Selken as part of her practicum for the social media class in our Athlete Leadership Program University. Enjoy!

 

Picture the year 2000. I had just started my Special Olympics career with my mother school Trails West State School. The main reason why I started Special Olympics in the first place was to make friends because at a young age I did not have that many friends because I was shy person and with my learning disability and the school kids making fun of me. At the age of ten you just want to make friends and be accepted in school and that was not happing for me at that time. My mother thought it would be a great idea to join Special Olympics because it would be a great place for me to make a lot of friends that I can have in my life for a long time and they would treat me like a normal person.

When I joined Coach Linda May’s team I was welcomed with open arms and I started making friends right away. I thought it was so neat that these athletes were just like me and I can be normal and not be shy when I’m around my teammates. The first sport I had ever competed in was skiing and I had never done skiing in my life so at first I was so scared that I was going to fail in this sport and that I was not good in enough to do this type of thing. I did not want to let my mom/teammates/coaches down when I was competed in this sport. I was so happy when I went to our area competition in Snow Creek, Weston Missouri. I had gotten my first gold medal and I was so excited that my mom and teammates were there to watch me get my first medal. The other sports I did with Linda May was skiing, floor hockey, basketball, track and field and soccer.

 

Then in fall/summer in the year 2004 I went to another team called Jackson County Parks and Rec whose head coach was Coach Bea Webb. Bea Webb went to my mom at this time and asked if she could have me part of her team to do more sports and help me grow up into a young lady. My mom said yes I could join her team. I asked Linda May if she was okay with that and she was fine with it because she knew that Bea Webb could take me to another level at the time. The first sport that I had competed in was track & field. To this day I’m still on Bea Webb’s team going from the time I was 12-years-old from being a bad little kid to become a young lady. Bea Webb has taught me to become a better athlete with all the sports that I had competed in with her over the 15 years since I had been a part of this team.

I had gotten to go to National Games three time because of Bea Webb who nominated me to be a part of Team Missouri. The first national games that I went to was in 2006 in Ames, Iowa for track & field.

Then I was blessed to be a part of the next two National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska in 2011. I received second place with my partner Tina Jones and in single I got first place. Then I got picked again in 2015 for National Games in Los Angeles again for tennis but with my unified partner Ashley Wurst. I got second in single competition and Ashley and I took home the gold medal in Unified tennis.

John Owen Wins Drive It Home Raffle

Congratulations to our 2016 Drive it Home Raffle winner, John Owen of the St. Louis Metro Area! John purchased one ticket from staff member Jennifer Krumm at a walk in Old St. Charles. John has a disability and understand the impact that living with challenges holds. He and his wife, Karen are professional clowns. They have been to Special Olympics area games in the past and create balloon animals and do face painting. They have also been foster parents. John purchased the ticket because he dreams of having a new truck. They currently drive a 2003 Toyota Tundra. Winning Ticket Number: 043560

John was selected at the Tiger Tailgate, sponsored by Zimmer Communications Group, prior to the Mizzou vs. Arkansas football game on Friday, Nov. 25. Each of the eight finalists selected a car key in a random order, only one of which would be the correct key to open the door. John was the final person to select a key, so after watching the seven finalists’ keys fail to open the door, he knew that he would select the winning key. John was extremely excited to win the truck, and says he has never owned a new car before and plans on driving this truck until it can’t drive anymore!

Each finalist received $500. They are:

Southwest Area: Janet L. Johnson: Janet purchased 5 tickets from Phil Cook. She enjoys attending Area Spring Games, watching our athletes compete and the joy that they share with everyone. She especially enjoys when one of our athletes sings the National Anthem. She works with some of our athletes when they participate in adaptive P.E. classes and her husband officiates at some of our basketball competitions. She is thankful for the many opportunities she and her family have to connect to our athletes. She shared that one of their vehicles needs repairs that exceeds the value of the vehicle, so they are starting to search for a new one. If she one the truck, it would certainly help. Winning Ticket Number: 005895

KC Metro Area: Molly Bachand: Molly lives in North Carolina and purchased 4 tickets from her sister Sarah Bachand. She is the Equipment Director at Wake Forest for men’s and women’s basketball. She loves hearing about how inspiring the Special Olympics athletes are from her sister. She hopes to be able to volunteer at an event when she is back home for a visit! She is excited to be one of our finalists and shared that she plans to drive doughnuts in a field to celebrate if she wins the truck! Winning Ticket Number: 078550

Southeast Area: Paul Brewer: Paul purchased one ticket during the SEMO District Fair. Paul’s mom worked in the Special Education field at Texas State School as a nurse. He spent time with the students during the summer. He shared that he seems to know more and more people with intellectual disabilities and is happy to support our athletes. Paul shared that he had to sell his F-150 truck about a year ago and he misses it. He and his four boys will definitely enjoy the new truck if he wins. Winning Ticket Number: 115257

North Area: Maria Schoepke: Maria purchased her tickets from the parent of a Special Olympic athlete. Leah Shoemaker is the athlete. Maria works for the Health department and lives in St. Joe. She enjoys the area and is thankful for the opportunities we provide to athletes like Leah, who participates in several sports. Maria and her husband currently have a mini-van. She would really like a truck because they are useful for transporting things. If she is a winner, she is going to keep the truck and let her husband drive the mini-van. Winning Ticket Number: 083978

STL Metro Area: Kathleen Carapella: Kathleen purchased one ticket from Mary Wheeler at the Wentzville Flea Market. Her husband’s aunt has an intellectual disability and she used to participate in Special Olympics. When Kathleen was in high school she volunteered as a basketball coach and participated in basketball at the State Games in Fort Leonard Wood. Kathleen shared that the current truck they have is 13 years old and it would be great to have a new one! Winning Ticket Number: 053033

Central Area: Jason Crane: Jason purchased 2 tickets from a member of the Knights of Columbus, Wendell Quick. Jason works with Wendell at Continental Casting. He is a veteran who enjoys doing for others and giving to charity. While he doesn’t have a connection to Special Olympics he believes in our mission and is thankful for the work that we do to support individuals with disabilities. Jason is confident that most of our athletes can run faster than he can. Jason has never owned a new vehicle before and is not sure what he will do with a new truck, if he is the winner. Winning Ticket Number: 049706

The Drive It Home Raffle is a signature event of Special Olympics Missouri. We are honored to work with our statewide partners to make this event a success: Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, Shop ‘n Save and Law Enforcement Torch Run. Everyone can sell raffle tickets: law enforcement, athletes, coaches, family members, constituents, board members, auto dealers, etc., with several sales incentives available. Special thanks to Missouri Automobile Dealers Association for donating the F-150 truck that is the Grand Prize for this year’s raffle. Proceeds benefit SOMO’s 15,000 athletes who participate in sports year-round across the state.