About Special Olympics Missouri

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

2015 World Games: Day 4 — An Experience They’ll Never Forget

This is the fourth blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

Competing at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games and representing the red, white and blue is something that all 13 Missouri athletes (12 softball and one tennis) will never forget, but I think it’s the off-field/off-court activities that our guys are going to remember more than anything. Today the softball team was afforded on such opportunity — to attend a Los Angeles Dodgers game and be on the field during batting practice.

But before they could do the fun stuff, they had business to attend to — a match-up vs. Bharat (India).

DSC_0778 (2)This team is nothing if they aren’t consistent and they have consistently (from scrimmages vs. Arizona and Southern California earlier in the week and throughout the first three games against Australia, Canada and Mexico) been a slow-starting team. In divisioning, teams bat through their entire order in the first inning, so organizers can get a good look at everyone to make sure they end up in the right division against comparable competition.

So far, the guys have consistently been behind teams following the 1st inning because of fielding/throwing errors and untimely hitting. They were down 11-4 vs. Canada, 7-3 vs. Mexico and 7-4 vs. India again on Tuesday. Then they’re forced to try and claw their way back in it and it’s worked out pretty well against everyone but Canada so far. That trend continued Tuesday with India scoring 7 in the first inning and leading 7-4 at the end of the 1st.

The guys had great pitching and defense in the 2nd inning and forced India to go three up, three down. Then at the plate USA scored eight straight runs to begin their half of the inning and they were able to hold onto a huge 12-10 win.DSC_0773

Coaches mentioned that they’ve noticed their team starts out flat, but they’re kind of at a loss as to how to change it at this point — “it’s just who they are,” said coach Stan Smith with a smile. “We just need to fight through it.”

“I really do think their heads were elsewhere today, especially with them going to the Dodgers game following their game,” coach Dana Griesinger said. “It’s all they talked about this morning.”

Following divisioning play, they’ve now been placed in the 2nd division with Canada and Mexico. They will play Mexico at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and Canada at 10 a.m. Thursday.

We’ll get to their Dodger Stadium experience in a bit, but first, how did Bobby fare on Tuesday?

Bobby and his doubles partner Jeff Scott from California lost both matches vs. Costa Rica and Belgium. His mom said that she missed nearly all of the matches because they were stuck in traffic for two hours. Have you ever heard people talk about LA traffic? Yeah, it’s that bad.

She got the rundown from the coaches who said Bobby and Jeff also got off to a slow start on Tuesday and while they did a good job of finishing strong, it put them in a hole that was too hard for them to dig out of completely. Bobby and Jeff are set to begin their competition schedule today now that divisioning is completed. They play at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the UCLA Tennis Center. Good luck Bobby and Jeff!

Immediately following the win vs. India, the softball guys hurried to the locker room to change and hop on the bus that was arranged for them. Because they had plenty of time, the bus took the long way and traveled all the way down Sunset Boulevard where guys could ooh and ahh at the multi-million dollar homes. A few freaked out when they saw some guy from the TV show Storage Wars driving an old car in front of us. I’ve personally never seen the show to tell you one way or another, but Tim Kunz was adamant it was him and was really excited.

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Mark McGwire talks to the guys

Mark McGwire talks to the guys

High fives with Joc Pederson

High fives with Joc Pederson

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly with Allen Cameron

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly with Allen Cameron

Group photo with Billy Butler

Group photo with Billy Butler

Group photo with Andre Ethier

Group photo with Andre Ethier

Once we arrived at the stadium, we took a few photos and then headed inside where we were met by Dodgers PR/Marketing staff and two people from a TV crew who mic’ed up Jason Parrish for the experience. He was a little hesitant at first, but we couldn’t have picked a better athlete and all-around person to be on camera representing USA and Missouri.

You know the guys are in awe of what they’re experiencing when the most talkative guys on the team who NEVER shut up are silent. As soon as we stepped on the field most of them just stood there, not saying a word, just soaking it all in. So many of them knew the players (from both teams) that were in front of them and could tell you their statistics for the year. Again, it’s just another way to show that sports as a whole means so much to them. Sure it’s nice to compete and win, but it’s more about that shared experience and they can relate to a lot of what professional athletes deal with just on a smaller scale.

Several players and coaches came over to greet the team and take photos with them including Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, Don Mattingly and more. The two guys who got the largest cheers though were former Cardinals great Mark McGwire (hitting coach for the Dodgers) and former Royals player Billy Butler (now with the Oakland Athletics). They were SO excited when they saw them and kept yelling their names until they came over to say hi. No matter who it was that came over to see them, it wasn’t a quick photo and then they left, they were genuinely interested in how the softball games were going, asking who the hardest hitter on the team was (Jason Parrish), the fastest player on the team (Tyler Scott), etc. It was a ton of fun getting to see them just be like anyone else and forget about everything else that’s going on in their lives right now and just be able to talk athlete-to-athlete.

I was really hoping that Joc Pederson (one of the best young players in the game and probably leading candidate for National League Rooking of the Year) would come over because he could relate even more to the guys than most because his older brother has Down syndrome and competes in Special Olympics. You also might remember him from this touching moment during this year’s Home Run Derby. Of course, some of the guys already knew this and instead of “talking shop” and asking him about hitting or fielding and getting tips, they asked more questions about his brother. I think Pederson appreciated that the guys were genuinely interested him his story.

I know I’ll never forget that moment, not because it was cool for me to be down on the field and meet the players (which it totally was :-) ) but because the looks on all of their faces were priceless as they took the field and player after player came over to meet them.

The game itself was meh with the Dodgers losing 2-0 and only getting three hits, but our guys were treated like royalty and I know it’s an experience they’ll never forget and we’re all greatly appreciative of Justin Turner and the Dodgers staff making this happen.

This post is already more than 1,300 words, so I’ll end it here and just to let you know, Thursday’s post is going to be a little light because we’re taking the day off to do some touristy things, but we’ll still have information on how Bobby and the softball team fare on Wednesday.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 13 & 14

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Friday, July 24
US Bank BuildingJuly 24
Los Angeles City Hall
The Hall of Justice
Griffith Observatory
A couple of nice short runs this morning in downtown LA. We had impressive crowds and the energy in the city surrounding the Games continues to grow. We had several team members selected to go on the roof of the US Bank Building this morning with the torch. This is the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

We got a great view of the valley and the Hollywood sign. Bob Cormier did a great job at the Hall of Justice, speaking on behalf of his fellow superheroes!

Santa Monica Pier
(setting of Three’s Company)
We had our loudest run in and everyone gave it their all for this final run in Santa Monica. Nigel Davis did a great job sharing a personal story of violence in his life and how Special Olympics helped him build the courage be to stand up for and defend himself from bullies in Jamaica. A good final run.

We had one of our last meals together after our final run today. LAPD had a nice dinner set up at City Hall for us. Team 5 was blessed to have Allen Ronaldo Jones back and free from the hospital. Due to the wonderful world of technology we used FaceTime to call and get Claire Hawthorn on the phone for a good team picture.

All of the athletes had an amazing time dancing and proving how far each of them can come in a short time with support.

Saturday, July 25
July 25 - 84 TorchLA84
Breakfast this morning hosted by the LA84 commemorative Olympics library and historical venue. The grounds were very nice and the display of past Olympic torches was very cool. An eternal flame and 84 Olympic Torch was available for photographs.

ESPN – turn it on
We are headed to the Opening Ceremonies at the Coliseum right now. For my local support, I will be the 10th officer from the stage along the corridor, right side facing the stage.

I am a Guardian of the Flame!

Dressed and headed to the Coliseum for Opening Ceremony to kick the Games off and bring in our coveted torch and athletes.

The 124-member of the 2015 Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg will be finishing our journey and our mission shortly by delivering the Flame of Hope for the 7,000 athletes filling this stadium.

(And Rocco even showed up with Mom and Dad)

July 25 - Team 5Any journey has its trials, however, we did our job tonight and delivered the Flame of Hope with dignity, respect and honor for the athletes of these Special Olympics Games.

This has been revered at the largest sports and humanitarian event in Los Angeles since 1984. I represented my family, my department, Special Olympics Missouri and myself with great pride this evening.

LETR Final Leg – Thank you

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 11 & 12

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
July 22 at ABCUp at 4:30 this morning and headed to ABC 7 – LA Studio.
We did several live shots and a few interviews were filmed for later.

Host City – Burbank
Team Zimbabwe
Team Botswana
FANtastic celebration to run into. The speeches were great by Josh and Azeem. The energy from the athletes was really needed this morning. It was an early day and this was the spark we needed.

El Cañada Flintridge
The weather has stayed a little cloudy today and there have been no complaints. We got our fill of sun running the beaches yesterday. This was a very nice community who proudly accepted the Flame of Hope.

July 22 - BurbankNigel and Bruce Felton shared their stories for the crowd. Nigel did a great job again, he rolled up his speech and spoke from the heart again. It was moving.

Pasadena
Beautiful town with a great downtown area. The city hosted a great event and is actually a host city for Team Singapore, Team Tanzania and Team Namibia.

Thursday, July 23
Arcadia
Glendale
We wrapped up the day with our last two cities and my second speech, accompanied by Dale Smit. It was a humid run in to a great local crowd at both locations. Dale and I spread the word of awareness at Arcadia and Joshua and Russell carried the Torch in Glendale. It is exciting to see so many athletes at these events as we draw closer to the games.

Chatsworth
The ride on horse training and therapy program hosted us this morning with a great welcome and light breakfast.

The long days, weather and schedule are slowing a few folks down. We are keeping our spirits and energy up when it’s time to run though. We have to treat each one like it was the first one to motivate the communities and do the job we are here for!

Receda
(You know it from Karate Kid)
This stop brought us to one of the coolest entertainment sessions yet. A gentleman has a band that he leads with four special needs guys as his vocal back ups. Great ceremony and turnout. The LETR Final Leg Team keeps knocking down those miles, getting city to city along the way. We’re in the home stretch and the Games are getting so close!

Van Nuys
They did us a solid by making this a shorter run in before serving us lunch. First ceremony where we were provided and instructed to take seats. It was in the shade and under a tent.

Many political officials had aides present and helped celebrate the Torch Run.

July 23Lakeview Terrace
This community had set up quite a vehicle and vendor display in a local park for us. The music was bumping and the cheers were loud from the athletes of Team Hellas (Greece.) Julie Tilbury and Nigel Davis did a great job.

I have become so amazingly proud of Nigel Davis the past two weeks. Nigel has gone from reading right off the script to taking the microphone with a stage presence of an entertainer. He speaks each time now from the heart and tells his story of struggle and success in his life. Nigel could have very easily been just another special needs person left inside at his families home and generally isolated from his community like many had been prior to Special Olympics and the funding that LETR helps provide.

Nigel is not just an athlete, he is also a father. He loves his daughter and her mother, who is also a special needs athlete in Kingston Jamaica. Nigel works at a soap factory that produces the soap for hotel resort guests. He runs or rollerblades/skates to work every day. He is an Olympic speed skater and figure skater. He runs and skates to work to train and he never stops training.

Nigel embodies one of the greatest, all-inclusive, examples of what Special Olympics can do in our world. He is a valuable and productive member of society and lives independently. Nigel, Dale, Joshua and Grazianno have reminded me of the importance of being a Guardian of the Flame.

Studio City
A good run in to a warm reception. Our hosts had great a great Mexican dance performance set up for us and the crowd. They topped it with ice cream and the Minions!

Route 1 / Root 1 had a pretty good day so far. We’ve had a couple setbacks, however, it’s amazing how just a few minutes of camaraderie in a park can really bring the Team spirit up.

Today at lunch, we were given a Frisbee from Panda Express. We had a little time to kill and someone brought up playing a little Frisbee. My stomach finally felt a little better so I figured why not. As soon as I got up, Grazianno hopped up and started heading off the bus too. He was eager to to get it in the grass and horse around and have some fun.
Grazianno has come out of his shell so much since the first day. We have been more protective of him and more aware on when he interacts. He does not speak English, however he understands a little. Claire Hawthorn took the first couple steps to work with him and I made sure that I followed that lead. We worked to to include, acknowledge, encourage and communicate with him when Stefano was and was not around.
It kept paying off each day. Grazianno started to initiate hugs, smile with great pride and actually danced out in the open in the middle of ceremonies. Today’s he actively played Frisbee with us all and was so happy. I was a witness to a great day of inclusion. A great day for Route 1.

July 23 - LAXLAX
We literally shut down the traffic coming through/past the iconic LAX airport sign. Five lanes of traffic for 20 minutes so we could line up everyone for a great shot. These adore the times when police officers like to block traffic, when its for their brothers and sisters and the athletes!

It was followed by a very nice outdoor dinner and DJ at the base of the flag pole and famous lighting structures. The colors have been changed to mimic the colors for these World Games.

2015 World Games: Day 3 — A tale of two halves

This is the third blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

Monday was a tale of two halves for our Missouri boys — there was the first half of the day where the softball team zombie-walked their way to a 9-15 loss vs. Canada and Bobby Williams lost two nail-biters 8-10 and 10-12 vs. Venezuela and Chile respectively. Then there was the second half of the day were the boys clobbered Mexico 13-5 and Bobby won both of his doubles match with his partner Jeff Scott from California 10-7 vs. Italy and 10-8 vs. another SO USA team.

Let’s just chalk these morning games up to them still being on Missouri time. Yeah, that sounds good.

Allen Cameron pitching vs. Canada

Allen Cameron pitching vs. Canada

It was an early start for the softball team vs. Canada at 9 a.m. at UCLA and it certainly showed. The bats were rather silent to begin the game and the defense was suspect throughout. It was close after one inning, but Canada was able to string together multiple hits, while our guys couldn’t answer. Personally, I think they can beat Canada if given another chance, but it just wasn’t their time this morning.

Arthur Murphy celebrates a double and asks for some applause from the crowd vs. Mexico

Arthur Murphy celebrates a double and asks for some applause from the crowd vs. Mexico

The second game vs. Mexico went a lot better as pitching, hitting and defense all showed up in front of a pretty big crowd. They won 13-5 and really, it wasn’t even that close. Every player had a hit (except for four players who had walks in their only at-bat) and while there weren’t many extra base hits, the team did exactly what coach Dana Griesinger has been preaching for months now — hit line drives! Another thing that I noticed was that our guys aren’t scared to get thrown out on the basepaths. They are always looking as to how they could take an extra base here or there and forced Mexico into several throwing errors. One final aspect that was good to see is how patient they were at the plate. They had multiple walks in the game (SEVEN total), a few of which forced in runs with the bases loaded. The coaches have done a great job of preaching patience and telling them not to let the moment get the best of them. It’s looking like that mindset is really paying off. We hope the momentum continues tomorrow as they’ll play against Bharat (India) at 1 p.m.

Players who went 3-3 on the day between both games:
– Nick Short
– Tyler Scott

DSC_0612Bobby’s singles matches early in the morning weren’t necessarily “shakey,” but something was just a little off about Bobby’s game. I love watching Bobby play tennis because he moves so gracefully around on the court and makes every shot look effortless. He was moving really well in both of his losses (to Venezuela and Chile), but his serves didn’t have his usual spark to them — he admitted as much in his postgame interview. He played pretty well in both matches, but it just wasn’t enough today.

Bobby guards the next during his doubles match with Jeff Scott from California

Bobby guards the next during his doubles match with Jeff Scott from California

The doubles matches with Jeff Scott from California, while they were close from beginning to end, were never in too much doubt because Bobby and Jeff never trailed in either match. Despite not knowing each other just a few months ago before meeting in Indianapolis for training camp, Bobby and Jeff do a great job of moving together as one on the court. They work really well together and I’m looking forward to see them progress throughout the week. Bobby and Jeff have more doubles divisioning at 10 a.m., but right now it’s not looking like he’ll have any singles matches Tuesday.

Some other fun things that happened today:

We're kind of a big deal!

We’re kind of a big deal!

– We went to the big festival area where we collected pins, visited sponsored tents, tried an Oculus virtual reality thing, looked at merch and MADE THE COVER OF ESPN THE MAGAZINE! ;-)

– Michelle Kwan was spotted in the stands watching Bobby and other athletes compete on Court 3 at the UCLA Tennis Center

– Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was at the afternoon softball game vs. Mexico and met with the team prior to the game for a pep talk. He stayed the whole game to cheer on the guys and then took a group photo at the end before letting them know the big surprise that they are going to attend the Dodgers/Athletics game Tuesday as special guests of Turner. They will be able to go down on the field for batting practice and everything. Despite being a team full of Royals and Cardinals fans, the guys are SO excited for this opportunity.

Coach Dana Griesinger, Justin Turner and Coach Susan Shaffer

Coach Dana Griesinger, Justin Turner and Coach Susan Shaffer

– Following the game vs. Mexico, the guys were greeted by adoring fans both young and old who wanted their autographs. It made for a really cute moment between fans and athletes.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 2 — Missouri 3-0 on the day

This is the second blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

It’s pretty hard to find a place that has perfect weather, but Los Angeles has to come pretty close. Although it was pretty warm today, there was an almost constant breeze that helped keep things mostly cool.

Enough about the weather and onto the more important things… how’d our Missouri boys do on Sunday in competition? Well, they went a combined 3-0!

Bobby Williams played two divisioning matches today and beat an athlete from Paraguay 10-8 and later beat an athlete from Israel. Sadly, we weren’t able to get over to watch Bobby play today, but we’ll make sure to get there on Tuesday. The two matches were pretty even and if Bobby were even slightly nervous, he didn’t really show it as he was never behind in either of his matches. His game times for Monday, July 27 are still up in the air and we will update the webpage with the times and post to social media (Facebook & Twitter) as soon as we get the word.

Jason Parrish high-fives his teammates after he scored a run vs. Australia

Jason Parrish high-fives his teammates after he scored a run vs. Australia

Coach Shaffer does her best to keep the guys loose during the game

Coach Shaffer does her best to keep the guys loose during the game

While we were unable to get to Bobby’s matches this morning, the late start for the softball team gave us plenty of time to catch their game vs. Australia. The first inning was a little shaky for the guys (chalk it up to nerves in front of a decent-sized crowd and the first game of the tournament), but they came out of that rough first inning (both at the plate and in the field) with a 4-3 lead. Then that’s when they really came out of their shells. They started to be a lot more patient at the plate and it paid off with two walks and a MAMMOTH LASER homerun from Jason Parrish in the second plating four more runs and two walks and six runs in the third inning before the game was called for the one-hour time limit.

Three of the guys were lucky enough to be selected to participate in the Unified Sports exhibition with other world-class athletes and celebrities following their game. Allen Tobin, Arthur Murphy and Tyler Scott all took part in the exhibition while their teammates and fans filled the bleachers behind them cheering them on.

Arthur Murphy receives congratulations from actor Ed Harris after reaching first base during the Unified Sports exhibition

Arthur Murphy receives congratulations from actor Ed Harris after reaching first base during the Unified Sports exhibition

Overall, it was a great day for the Show-Me State and we’re looking forward to see what they can do tomorrow!

Sports Schedule for July 27 —
Softball: 9 a.m. vs. Canada & 3:30 p.m. vs. Mexico
Tennis (Bobby Williams): TBD

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 1 — Opening Ceremony

This is the first blog post in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

More than a year in the making since teams were announced, the 2015 World Games kicked off yesterday in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles. It’s been a long time coming for the athletes, coaches, families and staff who have worked so hard to put the best possible teams together to represent the USA.

DSC_0009 (Copy)The softball team and Bobby Williams, our tennis delegate from Kansas City, have been practicing in LA for a few days now and are more than ready to actually start competing. But first things first, we needed to kick off the games with the Opening Ceremony!

As a “media member” this week, I was lucky enough to be allowed down onto the field to take photos of the parade of athletes. We got there early enough that we could pick out the exact spot we wanted and made sure to tell our delegates via text which side I was located on so I could get the best photos possible.DSC_0088 (Copy)

Being a huge sports nerd, just being in the LA Memorial Coliseum was a real treat for me. Knowing that it has hosted the Olympics (1932 and 1984), several international soccer matches, unforgettable University of Southern California football games and much more, it was really cool to finally see it in person.

It was hotter than blue blazes in general yesterday, but standing around on the field waiting for the festivities to begin made it even worse. Once the parade did start and the first country (Greece) kicked it off, all that other stuff faded away.

Knowing I was really only there to take photos of Special Olympics USA, and even more specifically our guys from Missouri, I still couldn’t stop myself from taking shots of as many countries as possible as they walked down the red carpet (would you expect anything less glitzy in LA?). Everyone was having such an amazing time and it felt like every other delegation had someone famous marching in with them (Justin Bieber, Colin Farrell, Dikembe Mutombo, Michelle Kwan, Apolo Anton Ohno, Oscar De La Hoya, Paula Abdul, Jamaal Charles and more).

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Michelle Kwan

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Colin Farrell

I’ll admit it was a little slow and boring and quite crowded at times down on the floor as photographers jockeyed for position on the red carpet, but I had the chance to talk to two professional photographers from Getty Images, which passed the time a bit. I’d nudge them as celebrities started walking down the red carpet and they’d take their shots and then they’d ask “Uh, who was that again?”

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Apolo Anton Ohno

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Oscar De La Hoya

After an hour and a half of standing, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, sitting, stan… (you get the idea), the moment had arrived for the home delegation to enter the stadium. It was rather impossible to not get chills as the crowd noise grew from a low murmur to a thunderous applause as our US delegates came through the tunnel. I was barely able to scream loud enough at Bobby so I could take his photo. A few seconds later I saw Susan Shaffer (softball coach and SOMO staff member) locked arm in arm with one of our softball guys Ronald Tetreault. I yelled at them loud enough so I could grab as many photos of the whole team as possible. It looked like every one of them was having such an amazing time. I am just so glad that I could be a part of this experience for them and help document their trip.

Everyone then took their seat on the field and I went to sit with some other Missouri folks in the nosebleeds. The show itself was pretty good (with performances and appearances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne, First Lady Michelle Obama and more), but the lighting of the torch was by far my favorite moment of the night. The torch came in the stadium and was passed to and from athletes and coaches from other countries on the walkway until it was eventually touched to the cauldron and declared the games open. Fireworks went off around the stadium and the cauldron that was set ablaze to open the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, was now lighting up the southern California sky not just for the 6,500 athletes competing this week, but the millions of people around the world with intellectual disabilities.

Bobby Williams

Bobby Williams

Softball team from Missouri

Softball team from Missouri

Being on staff only a little over 2 1/2 years, I’ve been able to experience a lot with Special Olympics, but nothing compares to this moment. Standing there and watching as country after country (165 total) and delegate after delegate (6,500+) walked through that tunnel, it showed me what was so hard to comprehend before — that this is truly a worldwide phenomenon. It’s so easy to think you know what Special Olympics is all about — just sports, right? — but until you see all of the participating countries’ athletes marching in with their native and flamboyant apparel chanting and screaming with smiles on their face and sometimes tears running down their cheeks, the real meaning of it all isn’t seen until that very moment — inclusion.

So many of the speakers (President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama, SOI Board Chairman Tim Shriver, Maria Shriver, athlete Global Messengers and more) talked about exactly that — this week is about proving to other people what you’ve known as an athlete, as a coach or as a family member have known about people with intellectual disabilities — that they belong. Whether it’s on the field of competition or in the classroom or in the community or in the workforce, no matter where it is, you belong.

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Brandon’s awards for the evening:
Best Dance Routine: Samoa
Best Outfit: Korea
Loudest Applause/Cheer for non-USA team: Cuba

Korea's outfits were A+

Korea’s outfits were A+

Sports Schedule for July 26 —
Softball: 3:30 p.m. vs. Australia
Tennis (Bobby Williams): 10 a.m.

Sports Schedule for July 27 —
Softball: 9 a.m. vs. Canada & 3:30 p.m. vs. Mexico
Tennis (Bobby Williams): TBD

For more photos from the Opening Ceremony, visit our Flickr album or our Facebook page.

Also stay tuned on our Twitter account and website as we’ll post live results as they come in.

I promise the following posts won’t be so long :-)

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 9 & 10

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Disneyland —
Mother nature struck again and though it rained in southern California, the show must go on. We got about 90 minutes of free time to wander around downtown Disney. We spent time spreading the word to a group of 8th grade girls from Oregon who were here for a soccer tournament. We talked about Special Olympics and the Torch Run.
The torch was run, during a slight drizzle, and welcomed by a cheerleading team and several hundred guests of Disney. A little time for goofing around helped the aches and pains of the day.
Disneyland 1

IrvineLagunaNewport Beach

Irvine, Laguna, Newport Beach 
Up early and rolling again this morning. This will be the lamest post yet. We have been hitting stops back to back and they have been awesome. Good receptions at each with some amazing little guys that stole the show.

Huntington Beach —
The new Huntington Beach Bad Boys and Girls just took the beach. An amazing reception in Huntington Beach that will be repeated. They are a host city for the athletes coming to the U.S. from Australia and the Netherlands. The excitement is building in the communities around L.A.Torance

Huntington Beach

Torrance —
Toyota welcomed the LETR Final Leg team with an amazing setup, concert, ceremony and lunch.

Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach —
Here we ran along the beach. We had a gorgeous weather day and the event pulled in several people along the way to a large outdoor ceremony at the pier.

El Segundo (Mattel HQ) —
The employees of Mattel had a quality set and we’re ready to receive the Flame of Hope. They had great area set up and the LA Lakers Girls standing by. Another dance party broke out, you can’t give this crew a DJ and ice cold Gatorade because a party is bound to break out. Even Graziano danced tonight.

LongBeachEl Segundo