About Special Olympics Missouri

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

Radio DJ Conquers Fear of Heights for SOMO

Brad Hildebrand

Brad Hildebrand rappels down the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch

In 2011, Brad Hildebrand took his first journey rappelling down 20 stories in downtown St. Louis. Why? To go Over the Edge for Special Olympics Missouri.

Over the Edge is a one-of-a-kind yearly event where participants raise a minimum of $1,000 so they can rappel down a multiple-story building. Participants not only get an adrenaline-pumping adventure but also raise money to help fund Special Olympics Missouri athletes.

Brad works for KSLQ in St. Louis and promotes a variety of different charities on his radio show. Back when he first started, Brad joined another radio station’s team to go Over the Edge so he could conquer his fear of heights.

“Quite honestly, the first time I ever did it, maybe I had a selfish motive; I wanted to raise money for Special Olympics but I also have a fear of heights. So I tried to overcome my fear of heights,” said Brad.

Much like how Brad conquered his fear of heights, Special Olympics athletes are conquering their fears and are smashing the stigma that many have associated with intellectual disabilities every time they compete in Special Olympic Missouri events.

This year’s event will mark Brad’s seventh year straight going Over the Edge for Special Olympics Missouri. Now, he is part of KSLQ’s own team that has been participating together since 2013. Every year, they are helping to make the event bigger and better by recruiting more people to join their team and raising more money for the cause.

Over the years, Brad has personally raised money by doing a lot of on-air fundraising. He also raised money by promoting the event on his social media outlets. At one point in time, he offered an advertisement deal that advertisers would buy a fundraising package that would benefit the cause.

His team has been able to raise money by talking about the event on-air since some of them are radio hosts as well. Others fundraise through networking with people they know.

Last year, his team was able to set a new personal record by raising over $11,000 and recruiting eight people to rappel on their team. This year, they are have already started their fundraising efforts for the event and are looking to double what they did last year by raising $22,000 and recruiting 16 people to rappel.

Brad enjoys the camaraderie he feels with his Over the Edge team and likes to feel like he’s making a difference in the lives of others.

“People will say ‘My cousin is a Special Olympian or my kid is a Special Olympian and thank you so much for doing what you’re doing,’” Brad said. “It’s always sort of a nice feeling you know, to have that feedback that you’re making a difference hopefully and people are appreciating it as well too.”

This year, Brad and his team will rappel down the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch on October 7. People also have the chance to raise money and rappel down the Jefferson State Office Building in Jefferson City on October 14.

To learn more and sign up to have your own thrilling and fun adventure, visit http://www.somo.org/edge

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State Summer Games through the eyes of an intern

Sarah Schroll is a communications intern in the KC Metro office. She is a senior at the University of Central Missouri majoring in Public Relations.

When I first started my internship with Special Olympics Missouri in the beginning of May, I did not really know what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would be writing some, helping with tasks, and working on various projects throughout the summer, but I certainly did not know that I was going to have such a rewarding and hands on experience.

Earlier this month (June 2-4) I was able to attend my first State Summer Games. I had no idea what to expect except I knew that I would be watching as athletes throughout the state went to Springfield, Missouri to compete in a state wide competition. I did not know that I would have such a great time talking to and getting to know athletes, volunteers, and staff members.

I arrived at the State Summer Games on Friday afternoon to work on setting up the opening ceremony with my internship supervisor and Director of Marketing and Communications for Special Olympics Missouri, Mandi Steward-Ballinger. Before the games, I was able to help with some of the behind the scenes work and I was excited to see how the ceremony would turn out.

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The opening ceremony was a lot of work and I was on my toes consistently, but when the ceremony started I got to see how all of our hard work paid off. I watched as all of the athletes came into the stadium during the parade of athletes and noticed how excited and happy they were to be there. I looked around the room as the band played and saw the joy they had dancing with their families and teammates. Finally, during the torch lighting ceremony, my face lit up with a smile as I looked around the stadium as it filled up with excitement.

On Saturday, I was able to work with athletes first hand by being an event manager for turbo javelin. I was able to talk and help the athletes as they were waiting to compete and was able to see them do they best they could do in competition. It was amazing to see the athletes cheer each other on even if they were directly competing with those they encouraged. The sense of love and compassion for everyone competing was evident throughout the day. That night I was able to attend the dance and watch athletes, coaches, and families have fun and dance together.

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On the final day I was able to help check in volunteers and direct them to where they are needing to go. I then took a walk to the track and field competitions where I was able to watch more athletes compete.

My first State Summer Games was one that I will not soon forget. The excitement from the athletes was electrifying and seeing the impact that Special Olympics Missouri makes on so many people’s lives truly showed me the importance of this organization. I am excited for the next coming months while I continue to work with SOMO and I can’t wait for the next fun adventure that I will have at State Selection Camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri Residents Honored at Annual Awards Banquet

The Blattel family, Robb Eichelberger, Genice Fisher and Esther Pfeiff were all recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon March 25 at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Lake of the Ozarks. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and these overall winners were announced at the SOMO Summit.

DSC_0852 (Copy)OUTSTANDING FAMILY: The Blattel Family, Chaffee
The Blattel family is a perfect example of the impact one family can have on Special Olympics. They are involved on multiple levels, from athletic participation to coaching, volunteering to Unified Partners and raising money.

Wanda coaches multiple sports, which her son, Lucas, participates in. Lucas is a multi-sport athlete, who is well known for training hard and earning gold medals. He has participated in more than 200 events in more than 100 competitions. In addition to playing he helped coach the Cape Tornados with his mom.

He is a strong leader: Whether encouraging and supporting his teammates in practice and competition or making sure athletes are ready to go on time or get to the right spot, Lucas supports and guides his teammates.

The Blattel family is “all-in” when it comes to being Unified Partners. Both immediate and extended family members have participated in a variety of events and games as Unified Partners over the years. This year Lacey and Colton both participated at State Summer Games as Unified Partners in tennis.

They actively support fundraisers such as Drive it Home Raffle and Polar Plunge. The Blattel family has come together to host one of the Southeast Area’s biggest fundraisers – Wagon Trail Ride Kitchen. They cook two meals a day for three days at a makeshift kitchen at the McDowell South campground for the Wagon Trail Ride. The entire family bands together to make meals for more than 40-80 hungry campers. This year the annual event raised more than $13,000, making a significant impact for area athletes.

 

DSC_0846 (Copy)OUTSTANDING ATHLETE: Robb Eichelberger, Boonville
More than 20 years ago, Robb Eichelberger started his journey as a Special Olympics athlete. Through¬out those years he has truly grown to broaden his role in our organization. Robb has gone above and beyond to advocate for SOMO and to rise up to become a voice for our athletes. He is the second athlete in the history of SOMO to serve on the SOMO Board of Directors for four two-year terms. He fulfilled all the requirements for being on the board and came to every board meeting fully prepared.

The SOMO Board presented him with the “Robb Eichel¬berger Award,” which is now an annual award for other board members with perfect attendance; he never missed a meeting in his eight years on the board. Robb is also part of the Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) University and is currently major¬ing in communications. He was one of the first athletes to sign up for this program. He chose to major in communications so he could face his fear of public speaking in front of a large groups. This is an example of how Robb is always trying to find ways to expand his leadership skills, face his fears and share his message with the world.

He is an incredible fundraiser and has raised more than $5,000 for TLC to earn a Charter Class ring and letter jacket. Robb continues to compete in golf, which he and his golf partner have been competing in together for more than eight years. He also volunteers at area and state competitions and fundraising events. Robb is a true leader. He is always looking for what is best for the athletes and wants their voices to be heard.

 

DSC_0850 (Copy)OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: Genice Fisher, Fulton
Volunteers are the backbone of our organization and Genice Fisher is definitely proof of that. There are so many events within the Central Area that we truly couldn’t do without her. Genice also serves as the volunteer sports commissioner for athletics.

She also an active fundraiser and has Plunged and participates in our Drive it Home Raffle sales every year. Even beyond that, she helps work several other fundraising events. She is the gal you can call even at the last moment to come help if we’re short of volunteers!

Recently she has stepped into a new role as becoming a mentor for our Athlete Leadership Programs University. She continues to work and meet with her athlete-leader beyond the classroom to ensure that all assignments are completed.

She also regularly serves as a venue/event manager for state events and volunteers at SOMO’s headquarters office to prepare for state games.

 

DSC_0849 (Copy)OUTSTANDING COACH: Esther Pfeiff, Purdin
Esther Pfeiff coaches for Tri-County Association for Handicapped Persons and is one of the founding members of this organization and team of parents whose children have intellectual disabilities.

Esther took over the role as head coach in 2012 and has kept the team going with the help of other families ever since. Esther is one of those coaches that every staff person loves! She always has her scores in on time, she comes to events with a smile on her face and most importantly, she always makes sure the athletes are having fun.

Esther has been a coach for 30 years and is certified in bowling, track and field, basketball and bocce.

Esther helps raise money for SOMO and encourages her athletes and families to help as well. Esther even sold the winning Drive It Home Raffle ticket one year!

Through the years the recognition has never been about her, but she continues to do an amazing job promoting our program and giving SOMO’s athletes in the North Area great coaching wisdom and advice.

Special Olympics Missouri Breaks Ground on Training for Life Campus

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) enjoyed a historic day for our program, Jefferson City and Missouri as a whole, as we officially broke ground on the construction of the Training for Life Campus. This one-of-a-kind facility will serve as the headquarters for Special Olympics Missouri, as well as provide our 15,312 athletes throughout the state a place to convene, train, and further their development both on and off the playing field. It will be the first facility of its kind in the world built for the sole purpose of improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by having athletic training and Healthy Athletes screenings in the same place.

The groundbreaking ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 4. With the future site of the campus on the northeast corner of US Highway 54 and Missouri Highway 179 in Jefferson City serving as a backdrop, The program featured speakers including Chair of the Training for Life Capital Campaign Committee Gary Wilbers and SOMO athlete Derek Sandbothe, SOMO President/CEO Mark Musso and Jefferson City mayor Carrie Tergin as well as photo opportunities with athletes and significant contributors to the Training for Life Campus.

“It is going to make me grow as an athlete and as a human being in every day society. That is why I am so proud to be a part of the Special Olympics and what the Training for Life Campus will do for us,” Sandbothe said. “It will give us a chance to make ourselves, to make ourselves accepted in the community and loved by others.”

Construction will begin soon after the groundbreaking, and is expected to be complete in the fall of 2018. The $16 million that has been raised to date is enough to construct the 34,000 square foot main building and multi-purpose outdoor sports field. SOMO is still looking to raise $2 million to complete the remaining outdoor training fields, including tennis courts, bocce courts, a softball field, horseshoe pits, golf skills areas, donor recognition areas and a wellness trail surrounding the campus.

In addition to athletics training, the campus will provide enrichment opportunities for new and existing SOMO programs, including free health screenings in our Healthy Athletes Program, life skills training, and our Young Athletes Program for children as young as three. These programs are specifically designed to improve health, fitness and socialization among our athletes.

“We know that the Training for Life Campus will have a great impact on our community and we’re excited about helping Special Olympics Missouri reach its goal to make this project a reality,” said Randy Allen, President and CEO with Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. “The campus will truly be a vibrant hub for our community.”

From an economic impact standpoint, the SOMO Training for Life Campus is expected to bring approximately $350,000 per year to the Jefferson City economy. It is estimated that 1,200 athletes, along with coaches and volunteers, will take advantage of year-round training opportunities each year, which will in turn bring approximately 1,950 room nights and 7,500 meals annually to Jefferson City hotels and restaurants along with 30 permanent jobs in the Jefferson City area.

“The Training for Life Campus will be transformational for our athletes,” Wilbers said. “Our very deserving athletes will have opportunities to train, get health screenings and develop skills at the campus facilities. They’ll finally have a place to call their own.”

The site of the campus was announced in January 2015, as Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, developers, healthcare providers and business leaders came together to bring resources and support to make this project a great win for the Jefferson City area and Special Olympics Missouri. The 16.5-acre property where the campus will be built was donated by Farmer Holding Company and Twehous Excavating of Jefferson City, announced during a press conference held January 2015, and is valued at $3.2 million.

Brandon Schatsiek’s World Games Blog: Part 2

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. Read Part 1 of this blog series here.

Now that it’s been more than a month since I returned from Austria, I figured it was as good of a time as any to FINALLY write my second blog post about my experiences with Special Olympics USA at the 2017 World Winter Games. After all, I always say better so-late-that-everyone-forgot-and-no-one-really-cares-anymore-late than never, right?

I could use the excuse that I wanted to wait until it was all over to give me real perspective on the trip, but I’ll be honest and say it’s because I was tired and lazy.

Now that I’ve confessed to my crimes, let’s get to what happened the rest of that week in Austria and give some overall thoughts before I go find something better to do around the house.

I found a way to get over my little (not-so-little) Opening Ceremony photography snafu (see blog post No. 1) only because there was so much work to do the rest of the week that I really didn’t have time to dwell and feel sorry for myself.

With all of the video work that I have been doing for SOMO, I really wanted to do something similar for all of our SO USA athletes and coaches so their family and friends back home could feel like they were in Austria with them. Photos are great, but being able to actually see their athletes moving and competing and talking about their experiences through video brings a different perspective.

I knew they’d have to be super short videos (because I didn’t have a lot of free time to spend editing), but I made a commitment to try and put one together every night. They weren’t going to have a high production value or have a lot of fancy effects and transitions because I still had to edit the day’s photos and write a text recap every night, but it was at least something.

Despite the Games being in Austria, we had quite a bit of media coverage from ABC, ESPN and other outlets. While those pre-determined athletes did a great job on their media tours, there were SO many other athletes who had great stories, but no outlet to with which to share them. I figured these videos would give other athletes some face time as well.

I was using a new editing program, so the first few videos were pretty rough around the edges, but I had a lot of fun bringing something new and different to the team.

The middle of the week was my only opportunity to go to Schladming where they were having the outdoor competitions (snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing). It wasn’t just a short road trip, either; it took more than two hours each way. Lucky for us, we had a couple of dedicated drivers that made the trip a lot more bearable. They even had WiFi so I could try and get work done on the way; I napped instead, BUT I could have worked and that was cool.

096A3318096A3318The drive between Graz and Schladming might have been my favorite part of the whole experience. Tunnel after tunnel, village after village, mountain after gloriously majestic mountain made the time fly by.

Unfortunately for all the athletes competing that week, the weather didn’t cooperate. It was either raining or it was far too warm, both of which left the snow (what little there was to begin with) more like the consistency of a Squishee at the Kwik-E-Mart.

Yes, the conditions were the same for all athletes, so the playing field was at least level in that sense, but I just felt so bad for all the athletes who had trained and competed for years to get to the world stage and have to deal with incredibly subpar competition conditions.

I was able to arrive just in time to catch one of Andrew Baswell’s runs down the mountain, which was exciting, but it didn’t end as well as we would have hoped – disqualification. I saw him later that night and he was really down on himself. I hadn’t known Baswell that long, but I felt like the three of us from SOMO (Andy Martinez included) bonded between Training Camp in December and our flights together.

A couple of us were able to sit Baswell down and explain that this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for him to be competing on this stage and that if he gave up right then and there – with one more event to go – he’d regret it forever. I told him I was proud of him for even getting this far and for trying his hardest despite the awful conditions. I walked away not really knowing if the message was well-received or not.

I planned on watching Martinez compete at the snowshoeing venue, but unfortunately they moved up his competition by 90 minutes and I was over getting video at cross-country skiing at the time. I grabbed a couple of video interviews and we headed back to the hotel in Schladming.

The only real disappointment I had in this whole experience was not being able to spend more time in Schladming. The delegation’s hotel was right in the middle of everything the little skiing village had set up for the World Games. If you closed your eyes and tried to imagine the quintessential Austrian village nestled in the Alps, this fit the bill perfectly.

Seeing as this would be the only time the whole communications team was all together, Amie took us out to an incredibly fancy restaurant right down the alley from our hotel. We enjoyed a very nice dinner with European beverages (J) and went back to the hotel to finish editing photos, videos and the newsletter.

Before I left on this trip, I knew I had two main tasks from SOMO’s perspective: 1. Represent our organization well 2. Don’t come home without “proof” you were there.

For those of you who have been to our headquarters office in Jefferson City, you have probably seen what graces the walls of our hallway back to the copy room – “proof” of past SOMO volunteers at World Games. Seeing as the Graz venues were downtown, it was going to be incredibly difficult to procure something to take home. I knew it had to be the night that I spent in Schladming.

Without trying to implicate myself in any illegal goings-on, you’ll have to come to the office to see if I was successful in my not-so-secret mission or not.

The next morning I was set to head back to Graz, but I knew Baswell was going to compete in another event, so I headed back to the mountain to try and find him. While he fell on this run too, he wasted no time in getting up, putting his skiis back on and finishing strong.

096A3591096A3591While I ran down the mountain from the media section to try and catch him before he headed back up for his second run, I was worried he was going to be upset that he fell again. I tapped him on the shoulder and he whipped around with a big smile on his face and gave me a hug.

“Did you see that I fell, but I got right back up?” he asked.

He was in much better spirits that morning. That gave me the little extra push to get through the rest of the week. I hated seeing how upset he was the night before. He could have easily quit and no one would have blamed him with the way his week had been going to that point.

But he said, “No, I’ve got this,” and stuck it out. Both Baswell and Martinez, even though they didn’t come home with as much hardware as they probably wanted, represented their hometowns, their state, their Special Olympics program, their families and themselves incredibly well and I couldn’t have been more proud of each of them.

The rest of the week was a lot of the same as before — long days and nights and early wake-up calls. They all kind of run together anymore and while I have plenty left to write, including:

  • How both of our floor hockey teams (Unified New York and regulation Southern California) overcame adversity and REALLY tough competition to win bronze medals,
  • Speed skater Cornell Gray DOMINATING the competition on his way to two gold medals and numerous personal records,
  • Making friends with Sebastian and Andreas from SO Germany on our 45-minute daily commutes to the competition venues in Graz,
  • Trying broker trade deals with volunteers for their volunteer garb in exchange for SO USA items,
  • Running around Closing Ceremony trying to do the same as above, but for sweet Special Olympics swag (hoodie from SO Austria, sweater from SO Switzerland, beanie from SO Norway),
  • Somehow (I’m not admitting to anything) potentially/maybe/possibly securing another piece of “proof” at Closing Ceremony as people were pouring out of the stadium and armed guards (not kidding) were walking the streets,
  • Running into Dikembe Mutombo at the Frankfurt airport during a flight delay, having the younger athletes on the team ask me “Who’s that?” and me subsequently face-palming because they made me feel old,
  • And last but certainly least, somehow barely making our connecting flight out of JFK to O’Hare even though boarding had ended minutes prior and the gate was technically closed.

Needless to say, I had a great time from beginning to end. It’s a TON of work getting these athletes ready to compete at this level and everyone needs to understand that these athletes truly are the best in the world at their sports.

I’m incredibly honored to have played even the smallest of roles in telling their stories and I’m grateful to them for letting me do so.

To everyone who helped make this possible for me, from athlete Allison D’Agostino for writing one of my recommendation letters to my bosses and co-workers at Special Olympics Missouri for pushing for me to go and covering for me while I was gone and to my wife, Sarah, for being okay that I leave her for two weeks and spend countless nights at home working on SO USA items, thanks to each and every one of you.

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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!

Read Part 2 here.

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.