About Special Olympics Missouri

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

Guest post: Athlete-leader Lynna Hodgson explains her love of SO

My name is Lynna Hodgson. I’m a Special Olympics Missouri athlete. My whole family is involved with Special Olympics. I have two brothers who are also athletes. The younger brother is involved in Special Olympics in his high school. I recruited my uncle to be in Special Olympics. My other brother, my uncle and I are involved in Lee’s Summit Adults team.

My dad is a 3-on-3 basketball coach and my mom is a big supporter! We’ve been with Lee’s Summit for six years. Before we got involved in Special Olympics, we were “couch potatoes,” that is what my mom called us, those were her own words. She was exactly right! All we did was watch TV, play video games, eat and just sit and be lazy. Now we have weekly practices, we go to tournaments and we travel to different cities in Missouri. We both are going to the 2018 USA Games in July. I never imagined I would get the chance to go in my lifetime.


Lynna (middle) poses for a photo with her father, Rand (left) and her brother, Jesse (right)

Special Olympics has changed our lives for the better! We both are more social, more active and we are both aware of other people with disabilities. Jesse and I were always aware, but since we got involved in Special Olympics, we are more aware of people who have disabilities. We always look forward to practices, and seeing our friends; anything that involves Special Olympics, we love it.

Special Olympics has given us a happier and healthier life. We both are very thankful to Special Olympics. They have given us hope, laughter, friends, independence and a place where we can call home. We are very proud to be athletes of Special Olympics Missouri.

If we didn’t get involved in Special Olympics I think we would be very unhealthy. Special Olympics is really good for my health because I have asthma and allergies. It’s also good for our depression; it helps us to be less depressed. So this is really good for me and my brother. I’m so grateful and honored to be in this great organization.


Lynna and her brother, Jesse, are excited to on Team Missouri for the 2018 USA Games in Seattle. They are both on the track and field team and have been training hard to be the best athletes they can be for the competition.



West County Special Olympics and Marquette High School Hooping it up, building friendships, and putting on a show

Mark Bussen HOF

This story was written by SOMO Hall of Fame member Mark Bussen. Bussen, a longtime coach and volunteer, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 for his coaching with West County in St. Louis, tireless fundraising and dedication and connection to the athletes of Special Olympics Missouri. Bussen witnessed this story firsthand and was inspired to share it with us.

The Marquette High School Mustangs and the West County Special Olympic
basketball team have developed a “Special” bond together. For many years,
the Marquette Mustang’s Varsity basketball team has hosted us for a New Years
Clinic in early January, followed up by hosting us to play an exhibition game before their Varsity takes the floor for one of their league games in February.

This year, the clinic was held on January 13th. The Marquette players and coaches
gave up their Saturday morning to host us in a fun, fast paced, but relaxed atmosphere where we got to interact alongside their players. Their players and ours, mingle together in fun drills and games, all the while building friendships and raising awareness of the talents of both teams. The clinic was followed up with a pizza party luncheon compliments of Marquette, and each one of our players was presented with a “Mustang Made” tee shirt that our athletes wear with pride.

On February 9th, Marquette played Seckman High School, but the real show began before their game as the West County Special Olympic team took the floor before
a big, boisterous crowd. Prior to our game, each player was introduced to a thunderous starting lineup ovation. The crowd really gets into it, which revs up our players, spurring them on to maximum excitement and elevated levels of play.

West County’s Scott Carron, also a Marquette alumni, is an extra favorite of the Marquette team. As Scott received a pass, the Marquette players shouted in unison for Scott to shoot a long three pointer. Scott buried the three pointer, and immediately ran off the court into the arms of the Marquette players. The crowd and players all went crazy. A Marquette coach said “I knew Scotty wouldn’t let us down”!

There is more to it than just making a long shot. Scott developed a friendship with
former Marquette star player, Chris Lenzen. Chris tragically lost his life in an automobile accident several years ago. Marquette presented Scott with Chris’s #22 jersey, and said they knew no one would be more honored to wear it than Scott, and I will promise you that is correct! After Scott made his shot, he pointed to the heavens, and I know Chris was smiling back at us. The Lenzen family has been a major donor to the Training for Life Campus, and the basketball court will be named in Chris’s honor. On top of the wonderful experience for all involved, Marquette also donated $1,900 to Special Olympics Missouri that night.

I swear they should make a movie about these kids, you can’t make this stuff up.
“Magic” just happens, and touching lives is what we do!

Guest post: Responsibilities of Athlete-Leader PR Assistant

This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino (public relations assistant). It was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission. It has been edited by SOMO for content and length.

To make sure I know what to do when we reach Seattle, Brandon and Harrison give me goals and little missions to do. I wholeheartedly don’t mind. This gives me something to do. This actually forces me to control my internet-watching intake, which is a huge amount of time.

For the deadline, which happened to be January 15th, I had to complete five videos, as well as the Team Missouri Spotlight Interviews scheduled posts for February. I love Columbia Access TV in this situation, not to mention my oldest sister. She managed to give me a Mac thumb drive in my Christmas stocking. I was able to format it and use it for some of the footage I received. They needed fixes for the lighting. (My editing software does have some effects that help with lighting. I did not realize this until I fiddled with it last night.)

Three of five videos were Spotlight interviews. One of those happened to be of me. How fortunate I am! I can keep in the bit where I praise Brandon. ^_^ Hopefully, when I send in the videos and this blog, he won’t take out that bit. The unfortunate thing is he has one photo I can’t insert. I find it weird, though, considering it’s used in every USA Games video that gets uploaded to YouTube.

The remaining videos are of athletes training, doing water bottle flips, and poetry reading. I don’t know how I’m going to incorporate the water bottle footage into the training, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Ed note: Keep an eye on our YouTube channel and Facebook page over the next few weeks for when we post the videos Allison worked so hard on.

Guest post: Athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino makes Team Missouri!

This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino (public relations assistant). It is posted here mostly as it was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission.

D'Agostino, Allison_StaffDuring August or September, my mom and I did a road trip to Connecticut, New York, and then St. Louis. My second sister’s second travel for her travel nursing position chose a quaint city on the east coast, coincidentally near the ocean. (I managed to swim in the Atlantic Ocean for at least half an hour, almost got used to the cold water, and swam like a mermaid. Mermaid dream almost complete!)

Before the road trip, I found out from the central PR team of Special Olympics Missouri that a position opened up. And it’s for an athlete only. YES! I applied immediately, despite the fact I might have to do an interview during the road trip.

There were two rounds of the application process. I managed to get through both. Seeing as I knew some of the people in this interview, which happened the day I returned from the trip, I had a good feeling about it. (I did, however, learn that one of my athlete friends applied as well.) I don’t remember all the details, but I believe that towards the end of the interview, I was asked how I would feel of taking the position. Basically, they were saying, “Congratulations. You have the job.”

I got the job! 😄 Ever since then, I’ve been assigned a few things to do. I made sure to step up when it seemed like the PR team needed help. A family meeting occurred for all the athletes, coaches, Unified Partners, and staff that made it to Team Missouri for the USA Games 2018. Not only did I help the PR team with whatever they needed, I also had to attend a few things required for athletes. The same thing happened last week when we had a training weekend.

I still hesitate at times, on whether I should be doing something, or confused, or even just speaking my thoughts. I guess I still have some of that shyness when I first entered Special Olympics a little over ten years ago. At least I’m being brave in the attempt of this difficult, overwhelming, amazing position. I somewhat look forward to all the other challenges ahead. Since I am the first athlete to do this, either in Missouri or USA, I intend to make the first footsteps for those to follow.

Guest post: Dec. 8-9 Team Missouri training

This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete Lynna Hodgson (track and field). It is posted here exactly as it was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission.

On Friday my dad picked up TJ (Power Lifting athlete) we carpooled to team meeting, when Dad came back from picking up TJ, jesse and I load our suitcases and we were on our way to Jefferson City! We only made one stop. Once we got to the hotel, we checked in, they checked our weight and wanted to see our picture ID. Once we got done with that process we found out our room and went into a room where the rest of Team MO  were, had pizza for dinner, while we had dinner we watched everyone’s interview and then we had input counsel. I went to bed around 9pm.

On Saturday  woke up at 6:30am, packed up and made sure I got everything and didn’t leave anything. Went for breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage links and biscuits and gravy. After breakfast everyone loaded up and went to a middle school, we all met there, and we congratulate everyone on their fundraiser efforts, and after that talk we went to the gym (track and field) we jogged around the gym four times. Fast walked a couple of times. Did stretches, practiced shot put and softball throw. Ate lunch, went outside and went on a walk. It was cold..brrrr…thank goodness I brought my heavy coat, and I’m so glad I did!! Came back inside and did some activities. Such as team building, interviews, healthy eating and trying on uniforms. TJ’s Mom picked us up and we were on our way home. Got home around 7pm. I learned so much this past weekend: new stretches, met some new people on the team, and found out if we fill out our training logs every time we train and we turn it in the next meeting we will get some MO bucks!! Come on team Track & Field, we can do it!! Go team MO!!

TJ (team MO athlete power lifting) and I
Celebrated Allison’s 29th Birthday🎈🎁🎂
Coach Michelle and I
Team MO athlete Allen (softball) and I


Tristan Holmes wins 2017 Drive it Home Raffle

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Tristan Holmes on the field at the Mizzou football game after the grand-prize giveaway.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who purchased a ticket for Special Olympics Drive it Home Raffle. Your support of this event directly benefits more than 15,300 athletes across the state. It is our pleasure to introduce you to our Area Finalists. The winner of the 2017 Honda Pilot Elite, donated by Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, was selected at the Grand Prize Giveaway Event at the Zimmer Tailgate party before the last Mizzou home game on November 11.

Grand Prize Winner
After three people tried their keys unsuccessfully, this young man step up to take his turn. He only purchased one ticket (#106981) and was thankful to be an area finalist. He never expected to select the winning key and was surprised when the key worked! As we stood on the sidelines before he went on the football field for the announcement, he shared that he was not sure what he was going to do with a brand new vehicle, but he was definitely planning to purchase a lottery ticket on the way home! Congrats to Tristan Holmes, from Piedmont MO (SE Area) who was the winner of the 2017 Honda Pilot Elite!

Eric Vonce: Eric purchased four tickets from Amanda Castetter. He is from Tennessee (a Titan’s fan!) and was attending the game with some friends. He has volunteered for Special Olympics in the past and said that if he won the car, he would donate it back to Special Olympics! He is a true fan of our athletes!

Lt. Charles Boykin: Lt. Boykin purchased 20 tickets from Mr. Harn during a fundraiser at Culver’s that was held by the Military Police Regimental Association. Lt. Boykin has helped train prison guards, dog handlers and is currently with Ft. Leonard Wood and is responsible for police training. 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. If Lt. Boykin wins the Pilot, he plans to enjoy driving it.
Ticket #: 000699

Janice Rothganger: Janice purchased four tickets from Special Olympics staff member Melody Prawitz. She is very familiar with Special Olympics and our mission. Her sister was an athlete, her mom was a coach and she has known Melody for a long time. For about 15 years, Janice helped coordinate law enforcement torch run events in the area and participated in them as a member of law enforcement until she retired. She plans to replace her 10 year old car with the Honda Pilot Elite and drive the wheels off of it!
Ticket #: 088459

Tristan Holmes: Tristan purchased one ticket from George Bullock – a teacher at Clearwater High School during a high school basketball game. Tristan has a friend named Trenton who participates in Special Olympics sports and has won several medals in track and field events. Tristan hopes to volunteer at sporting events in the future. When asked what he would do with a new Honda Pilot Elite, he said that he really likes the car, and if we doesn’t win, he would probably purchase something like it one day.
Ticket #: 106981

Kevin McClellan: Kevin purchased 40 tickets from Monty Anderson. Kevin and his wife Debbie have participated in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy benefiting Special Olympics Missouri athletes for seven years. They believe in and enjoy supporting Special Olympics athletes! The Honda Pilot Elite will be a great addition to their collection of vehicles and they would enjoy driving it.
Ticket #: 103719

Mike Mallett: Mike purchased 10 tickets from Special Olympics staff member Laurie Shadoan. He is familiar with Special Olympics because of his connection to Laurie and this is the first time that he purchased tickets for the Drive it Home Raffle. His wife is a retired teacher and his daughter is a teacher. They have always focused their community support on helping children, especially those with disabilities. They are in the market to replace an older vehicle and the Honda Pilot Elite would be a great fit.
Ticket #: 069048

George Foster: George purchased 60 tickets from Mark Bussen, who is our top salesperson for the Drive it Home Raffle across the state! George purchases tickets from Mark every year and has been an area finalist in the past. Mark is a Special Olympics coach and holds holiday parties and annual picnics for his teams. George enjoys connecting with Special Olympics athletes at these events and is a true fan of our mission. He has been looking to purchase a new vehicle and would enjoy the Pilot if he is the winner!
Ticket #: 061948

Joyce Hill: Joyce purchased one ticket from Dana Fulton from St. Louis County Police Department. She works with Dana at St. Louis County Government Headquarters and has been with the County for 21 years. She believes in our mission and purchases tickets for the Drive it Home Raffle every year. When asked what she would do if she won the Honda Pilot Elite, she said: “I would drive it!”
Ticket #: 016804

Drive It Home Raffle made possible thanks to:

2014 MADA Logo with name spelled out-black-outlinesLETR_Mark_Missouri_ColorShopSave_Color


Thanks to our 2017 Raffle partners!

Rolling Hills Auto
Greater KC Public Safety Credit Union
Mema’s Bakery
Chop Tops Hair Company
Simon Oswald
SM Wilson
Shop ‘n Save
Knights of Columbus
East Hills Shopping Center
LO Profile
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
Mix 92.7/Cool 102.7 (Benne Media)
Columbia Missourian
Columbia Access TV
Hyatt Regency Downtown at the Arch
Downtown Association (North Area)
Jackson KC Picnic
Don Wessel Honda of Springfield
Equine Assisted Therapy
RPM Car Care
St. Louis Special School District – Pattonville High School
Comprehensive Chiropractic & Sports Performance
Capital Plaza Hotel
Elks of Joplin
West County Honda
Ride -N- Drive Motorsports LLC
Golden Corral in North Area
Bliss Associates LLC

‘I felt left in the dark and all alone’

Koch, Amanda_BocceThis is a guest blog post from Special Olympics Missouri athlete Amanda Koch. She is a member of Team Missouri and will travel to compete in bocce at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle.

Four years ago, I did not have anything. I felt left in the dark and all alone. I had no one to talk to. I did not have a social life of friends, nor Special Olympics. I did not know about communication skills. I have always been quiet. I did not have any independence, nor have a boyfriend who i can share my life with.

My life changed when I moved in with my dad and stepmom, Debbie. I now ride horses and volunteer my time at Exceptional Equestrians, which is a therapeutic program.

Now that I am out on my own, I have everything I want. I have support from my dad and stepmom. The two of them have given me a second chance to live my life the way that I want.

On Mondays, I volunteer my time at Exceptional Equestrians. On Wednesdays, I am involved with Developmental Services of Franklin County Life Ops. We volunteer at Willow Brooke Assisted Living, learn how to cook, work on social skills, work on assertive communication, and much more. On Thursdays, I have a personal assistant that assists me with things that I don’t learn at Life Ops.

Koch, Amanda_BocceI have a job at Walgreens. I have been employed there for two years. I help in cosmetics when needed, stock shelves, and run the cash register. I mostly work in the photo lab. I can make wood panels, posters, canvases, and much more.

I get to experience my own life with a boyfriend, whom I love.

For more information about Team Missouri athletes set to compete in the 2018 USA Games, click here.