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.

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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.

Player Profile: Richard Scott

Special Olympics has partnered with the University of Missouri and University of Arkansas to create our own Unified Rivalry series. The idea is that Special Olympics teams play each other just before the college rivalry games. SOMO will be playing a flag football game against Special Olympics Arkansas athletes on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 2 pm at the Walker Pavillion on the Arkansas campus. The team which raises the most money leading up to the game will earn a 3-point advantage. Help Missouri win by donating here!

Richard Scott DSCN0588What makes Richard Scott, a 34-year-old Lee’s Summit resident, an outstanding athlete? Maybe it is his incredible record that spans over two decades in sports such as bowling, bocce ball, flag football, tennis, golf, basketball and softball for Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO). Maybe it is his dedication and love for his teammates that makes him great. Whatever it is, there is no denying Scott is unstoppable and ready for any challenge.
Scott credits his parents for helping him get involved in one of the best commitments that has added so much more value to his life. Before getting involved with SOMO, Scott recalls not having any drive to even play outside as a kid. When he was eight years old, his parents encouraged him to participate in SOMO to create a fun, social and athletic outlet for his free time.

The first sport Scott participated in through SOMO was softball. Once he started softball, Scott explains, “I never stopped. I kept getting involved with others.” Evident by his incredible record, he has mastered several sports. Since getting involved with SOMO in 1989, Scott has gone on to place fifth in tennis at the 1999 World Games in Raleigh, North Carolina. More recently, he won the bronze medal at the 2010 National Games in Unified Golf, a team composed of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.

Mark.Alan.Richard.friends w flairOver the years, he has accumulated more than awards; he has also gained many memories and experiences. His favorite part of being involved in Special Olympics Missouri is, “Getting to know teammates, meeting new players, spending time with younger kids, messing with the younger kids, and watching them in sports having a wonderful time.” He is looking forward to working with his teammates this Sunday for the Unified Rivalry flag football game against Special Olympics Arkansas.

Scott is extremely excited for the upcoming game against Arkansas. He is playing center for his flag football team and has been practicing very hard for the game. He just wants to “Get out there and win this thing!” Scott said, “We’ve just got to beat these guys for flag football! I look at the team, they look at me, and we know we have the plays and the strategy to beat them. I told them, we can always mix the plays up if they get confused.” Scott is confident in his team’s ability to beat Arkansas. He knows their practice and strategies have prepared the team for the big game.

richard s bocceScott has evolved since joining Special Olympics Missouri. He is not the same eight-year-old boy who did not want to play outside; he has become a proud athlete, role model and so much more. In addition to competing with SOMO, he is a loving brother, an involved uncle to a nephew and niece, and a hard worker at a Toys ‘R Us warehouse. Scott strives for excellence in all aspects of his life, not just sports. He works 52-60 hours a week and makes time for his other hobbies. When he is not working, spending time with his family, or playing sports, he is spending hours and even days on his artistic hobby, making artwork and framing them for loved ones. Scott says he even surprised his flag football coach with one that matched the colors of her house.

Richard Scott is undoubtedly a man of many talents and interests. He is considerate, hardworking and gives his best on and off of the field. Scott is a team-player, leader, and most importantly he is always ready to win!

Young Athletes Program

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Renee Sherman is a Young Athletes Program parent from the Northwest Area.

I spent 14 years of my life playing T-ball and girls fast pitch softball. Before that, I was a bat girl for the fast pitch teams that my dad used to coach. Every late spring and early summer, my family and I lived and breathed softball. So, as an adult, when I had the opportunity to be assistant coach for girls fast pitch team 12 & under, I jumped at the chance and thought I would love the opportunity to pass on my love of softball to a new generation. The world of competitive sports was very different from an adult’s vantage point. The girls were great, but the ugliness of competitive sports at such a vital young learning age, turned me off of organized sports.

Years later, my son was born. What was supposed to be a wondrous moment, turned into that of fear, confusion, sadness and dread upon learning that he was born with Down syndrome. It took a lot of time to know that our family outlook was a positive one (that however, is another story). This story is realizing that my son could partake in an organization called Special Olympics! What a glorious moment for me to know that he would be able to participate with a group that would support his every accomplishment, attempt and failure. He would be surrounded by individuals who see an opportunity to compete, not to berate the competition, but uplift those whom would challenge themselves. I understood that the parent base (many of whom had a rough bout dealing with diagnosises, hospital stays, the outside world’s perception of their child) would protect my son as a pride of lions protect their own. They would be there to support all individuals involved in the activity, not slinging mud at umpires, coaches, other parents or young competitors. Some parents may see Special Olympics as another reminder of their child’s disability, but after my short time as assistant coach, I relished the thought of being involved with Special Olympics. And then I learned a hard lesson: My son would have to be eight years old in order to compete.

Eight years is a long time for someone who understood the value of organized activities at a young age: strength, coordination, patience, teamwork, self confidence, persistence – all those skills that make us stronger individuals. Boy, was I relieved to learn from our First Step Therapists about a new Special Olympics program called YAP, Young Athletes Program, for children with disabilities age three to eight! Let the games begin!

Liam has been enjoying the Young Athletes Program for almost three years now. He has grown cognitively, physical, and socially. He also participated in the Northwest Area Little Feet Meet last spring, where he earned a certificate of achievement.