About Special Olympics Missouri

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

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.

Officer Amanda Geno Named 2016 John Michael Letz Unsung Hero

We have many who are Torch Run enthusiasts; most we don’t know. We don’t know them because they don’t do the work for the recognition – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are usually in the background working to do more.

About this year’s recipient:

 Involved in the Torch Run for 7 years
 Is involved in fundraising in both local and statewide fundraising events
 Is the agency coordinator for their department, which has raised over $632,000 in the last 7 years
 Volunteers to hand out medals at both local and state events
 Volunteers at SOMO state events as an event manager
 Organizes a Torch Run in conjunction with local school field day events
 Serves on the local Polar Plunge committee and has been instrumental in growing this event to where it is today
 Serves as a Unified Partner and athlete mentor

In the words of the nominator: “This recipient always has a positive outlook and is always setting goals for not only the law enforcement officers but the athletes as well. This recipient is one of the most positive officers I have had the pleasure of working with.”

The 2016 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to Officer Amanda Geno of Lee’s Summit Police Department.

Greater KC Public Safety Credit Union Plunges Into Fundraising

cu-in-the-water1The Greater KC Public Safety Credit Union is gearing up for its ninth year of plunging into the icy waters of Longview Lake for a good cause. Dubbed “CU in the Water,” the Credit Union’s team of brave plungers typically includes 20-30 credit union employees, friends and family. A few members of the team opt to take it to the extreme and Super Plunge (24 plunges over a 24 hour period). The team raises funds throughout the year by selling ice cream and candy bars in the Credit Union’s branches, as well as putting on garage sales and other fundraising events. This year, credit union CEO, Aaron Goff, hosted a “backyard concert” featuring Kansas City native rocker Bob Walkenhorst to raise money for the Plunge. “The Credit Union staff loves being a force for good in our community, and SOMO has been our primary charity partner for many years,” said Aaron. “We love Special Olympics, and we love the Plunge!” Aaron has racked up 80 plunges over the past eight years.

One of the team’s leading fundraisers, Laurie Clark, also stays up the night before the plunge to prepare and deliver a hot breakfast to all of the Super Plungers. When asked why she does it each and every year, Laurie’s response was “At first, I did it for fun. Now I do it for love.”

cu-in-the-water4Regular Super Plungers, Lindsey Moore and Becca Francis, both cite personal reasons for their support of SOMO. Lindsey said that, “meeting Special Olympics families and athletes has enriched my life and makes jumping into freezing water so worth it!” Becca echoed those words, adding, “I have [discovered] how important it is for everyone to feel accepted, not just in sports, but in life.”

Over the years, the CU in the Water team has managed to raise nearly $120,000 for Special Olympics and plans to keep participating for many years to come!

Registration is open for the 2017 Polar Plunge season. Find your location at www.somo.org/plunge!


2011 Letz Award: Jeff Cook

The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award.

The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after Mike because of his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept. and who died from cancer. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today raising over $140,000 since its inception. There are Trivia Nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now as a result of the one started in St. Louis.

The criteria for recipients include:
Responsible for significant fundraising results
Participates in year-round support
Exemplifies the Special Olympics mission
Someone who is a visionary for the Torch Run
Someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes


Jeff Cook, second from right, receives the 2011 Letz Unsung Hero Award

In 2011, Special Olympics Missouri honored Jeff Cook of the O’Fallon Police Dept. for the following reasons:

 Involved in the Torch Run for 9 years
 Has served as his agencies’ Torch Run Coordinator for 7 years directing his agencies’ fundraising efforts by selling t-shirts, and organizing events like Raffle sales, and Tip a Cop.
 The first year he took over his agency fundraising totals increased 10 % and have continue increasing every year of the last 6 years
 Whether it’s a high profile event like the Polar Plunge or a more relaxed effort like hosting Cops on Top, selling shirts, or raffle tickets within the agency – he is the one who gets things done.
 Has championed the agencies Polar Plunge participation growing their team’s fundraising total each year – raising $88K in the last 2 years.
 Coordinated a portion of the local route of the Torch Run running the torch personally and ensuring the event runs flawlessly
 Their fundraising has grown as a result – during his 7 year tenure as Agency Coordinator, this agency has raised over $338,942!
 Served for two years helping coordinate the law enforcement participating for the State Basketball Championship
 Attends State Summer Games each year participating in Opening Ceremonies and staying for the opportunity to present medals.
 As a member of the State LETR Committee, this officer impacts decisions at every turn.
 According to his nominator: “This person brings great credit to himself, his family, the Police Department, the regional efforts of the LETR and to SOMO.
 There is something deep inside this man that is touched by Special Olympics. He can’t help himself; his enthusiasm is evident in the personal pride he takes in conducting himself and his events with the utmost professionalism while serving the athletes with dignity and respect.
 It is my honor to present this award to a person who makes a big difference to his agency, to the LETR and to SOMO athletes in the St. Louis Metro Area
 While one legacy may be the orange visors – there are many and none more evident by the way in which he treats his “water crew” assignment at the State Summer Games.
 The 2011 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Officer Jeff Cook – O’Fallon Police Dept.

2010 Letz Award: Capt. Joe Chapman

The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award.

We have many who are Torch Run enthusiasts; most we don’t know. The reason we don’t know them is because they don’t do the work for the recognition – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are always in the background – working to do more.


Capt. Joe Chapman (right) receives the 2010 Letz Award from 2009 winner Lt. Jim McNeill

In 2010, we acknowledged Capt. Joe Chapman of the Kansas City Police Department for a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to:
 Involved in the Torch Run for 15 years
 Has served as his agencies’ Torch Run Coordinator for 6 years directing his agencies’ fundraising efforts by selling t-shirts, and directing his agencies fundraising efforts
 The first year he took over his agency fundraising totals increased 175%
 Whether it’s a high profile event like the Polar Plunge or the more subdued effort of selling raffle tickets within the agency – he is the one who gets things done.
 He also volunteers at area events especially to present medals
 According to his nominator who has heard him say: “My main motivation to being involved in Special Olympics is first the athletes and then to educate and donate.”
 His agency credits him for the significant growth in getting additional officers involved with LETR by strategically identifying new leaders.
 Their fundraising has grown as a result – during his 6 year tenure as Agency Coordinator, this agency has raised over $328,666 – that’s an average of $100K per year!
 Another legacy is that he has already identified his replacement upon his retirement later this year
 It is my honor to present this award to a person who makes a big difference to his agency, to the LETR and to SOMO athletes in the KC Metro Area
 The 2010 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Capt. Joe Chapman – Kansas City Police Dept.


Capt. Joe Chapman addressing the crowd after receiving the Letz Award.

Tim Shriver and Roy Blunt Visit SO Missouri

For some at the John Cary Early Childhood Center in St. Louis, it was just another day to play. The children at Special Olympics Missouri’s Young Athletes Program™ the afternoon of Halloween 2016 (curiously without costumes) were enthralled with the colorful silk scarves flying through the air or the daunting obstacle course set up in the hallway.

Sure, there may have been a few more people there than normal. The cameras and the reporters? Maybe they were new, here to capture the program on film or see the adorableness for themselves. Two men in suits, with groups of people following them and hanging on their every word? Seems awfully warm to wear a jacket in here, but maybe they’re here to play too.img_4616

The young athletes, ages three through seven, did not let any extra commotion get in the way. Maybe they did not realize that the men in suits were the Chairman of Special Olympics Dr. Tim Shriver, and a United States Senator, Missouri’s own Sen. Roy Blunt, who were visiting the program as the last stop of Shriver’s global inclusion tour. Or maybe they were too focused on throwing their beanbag into the hula-hoop.photo-oct-31-10-29-03

Shriver visited this particular program as part of his aforementioned tour of seeing how Special Olympics impacts the world, ranging from the Vatican, to Austria, to Montreal and, finally, Kansas City and St. Louis. He wanted to visit Missouri to focus on examples of Healthy Athletes®, which provides people with intellectual disabilities free health screenings, and Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, which uses sports, youth leadership and engagement to create inclusive school environments.

Missouri was chosen mainly because of the partnerships in health and education that have allowed SOMO’s Healthy Athletes® program to blossom, as well as collaborations with schools throughout the state and a 25 year partnership with the Missouri Association of Student Councils (MASC).

photo-oct-31-08-48-08-1Shriver started the day with Sen.Blunt, a supporter of Special Olympics programming during his time in Congress, in Kansas City to speak with a panel about inclusion and youth engagement. The panel featured representatives from MASC, school teachers, SOMO athletes, coaches, unified partners and SOMO Board of Directors Chair and Superintendent of School in Carl Junction Dr. Phil Cook. The panel was highlighted by a story from Spencer Cantrell, a golfer for SOMO and student at Park Hill South High School, who shared that when he’s golfing, it’s more important to think about the next shot than worry about the previous shot.

After the morning in Kansas City, Blunt and Shriver were in St. Louis by lunchtime to visit the Young Athletes Program™. Since 2007, Special Olympics Missouri has taught children with intellectual disabilities that are too young for participation in the official program, but still focus on basic skills essential to cognitive development. These include physical activities that improve motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and how to apply these skills through sports programs.img_4610

Shriver and Blunt got to see the application of this program first hand, with 18 young athletes working in groups with 25 volunteers from Mehlville High School. The groups moved through five stations that allowed the young athletes to build their motor skills by tossing a beanbag into a hoop, catching a scarf on different parts of their body, playing “Red Light, Green Light”, conquering an obstacle course and bowling down the hallway.

It didn’t take long for the Special Olympics Chairman and U.S. Senator to drop their
formal titles and embrace their inner young athlete. The athletes’ infectious joy spread to Shriver and Blunt, who cheered them on as they made their way through the obstacle course and tried to keep up in intense rounds of Zombie Red Light Green Light. They shared in struggles, discovering how difficult it is to toss a scarf in the air and catch it on your stomach.
img_4629In 30 minutes that felt like five, everyone moved through the stations, each one more fun than the last. After it was all over, the group marched out of the room with Shriver gleefully bringing up the rear of the line, where he presented Blunt with a gold, silver and bronze medal from the 2015 World Games, and thanked everyone for a wonderful day in Missouri.

Having Shriver and Blunt spending their day visiting SOMO programs was a great honor, and extremely exciting for everyone involved. It was amazing to share the joy that our athletes provide on a daily basis to visitors and see them buy into the program almost immediately was an awesome sight.

In what should go down as an important day for Special Olympics Missouri, the most important part is that everyone got to play. photo-oct-31-14-57-50

-Harrison McLean