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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Robertson family of KC wins SOMO family of the year, others honored

All of the families below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 17 in Branson. 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 the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Leadership Conference.

The Robertson family — KC Metro Area
Veronica Robertson knew it was going to be hard to find opportunities for her son, who was born with a rare genetic disorder which caused intellectual disabilities along with dwarfism and speech delays. But when they joined SOMO for the sports experience, being there for Brett became so much more for her and her husband, Rob! Even Brett picked up more responsibility by helping the team. They came off the sidelines and offered to help at team practices. They became chaperones and certified coaches. They signed up for the Unified Partner jobs, decorated and planned the homecoming float and again continued that after Brett was off the team. They became equipment helpers; this is where Brett really took his job seriously. Veronica signed on to be a Polar Plunger in the second year of the KC Plunge and has plunged every year since. She became our Fan Club representative which led to her involvement in Miles for Medals. They have been involved with our Mantels and Martinis fundraiser and every other event where we sell tickets, go eat or just plain ask for money! When Brett aged out of the school team, all of their efforts were then focused on founding and supporting the new Lee’s Summit adult team. Without the Robertson/Nelson family, this adult team would not happen. They have been key in making sure the teams’ opportunities continue for all the graduating students. All the hard work they did on the school team has been transferred over to grow the adult team.

The Hulett family — Central Area
The Huletts lived in Moberly until mother Doreen was transferred to Florida. During their time in Florida, they found swimming and how it helped Logan with his autistic behaviors. Once the family came back to Moberly, they found SOMO and a swim program in Columbia. In 2013, Logan’s coaches nominated Logan to attend the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey. Moberly is not a large city, but the Huletts took on the challenge to raise the $1,500 to attend. They sold mums, wrote letters to ask for donations and solicited businesses in town. Logan raised the $1,500; in fact, they exceeded this amount. The Huletts raised a total of $3,367 – enough to help another athlete who was struggling to reach their goal. Logan went to the 2014 USA Games, as did his mom, dad and sister. It was not only a chance of a lifetime for Logan, but his family as well because it was their first vacation together!

The Leitterman family — North Area
The North Area has a family that has made an impact on SOMO’s program for the past several years. Greg and Janet Leitterman saw potential for growth with a fundraiser and they took the event and ran with it. They took a golf tournament that was making $1,500 to $2,000 per year and grew the participation and the sponsorship with results netting more than $7,000 in 2014. They start about six months out in preparation of the Brooke Leitterman Memorial Golf Tournament. They are raising the funds in memory of their granddaughter Brooke, who had Down syndrome and was active in Special Olympics. They wanted the golf tournament to raise enough funds to provide the programing for the athletes in their hometown of Cameron. They have made this event something to be a part of. They secure all door prizes, items for the golfers, meals, goody bags, facilities and hole sponsors. They have grown this golf tournament on their hard work, determination and persistence. They secure all the media sponsors as well for this event.

The Busken family — St. Louis Metro Area
SOMO is a family affair in the Busken family. Julie Busken is the Special Olympics program coordinator in the Warren County School District and her involvement in and passion for the program has spread like wildfire! Eldest daughter Brittany is right beside her mom, helping to coach at every event. Son Tyler recently officiated at the St. Louis Metro Soccer Tournament. Daughter Emma is a soccer, basketball and volleyball Unified Partner. Julie’s husband Greg has been recruited on multiple occasions to lend a helping hand at an event, move equipment between venues and coordinate rides for athletes. Julie and Brittany attended the 2014 USA Games — Julie as an athletics coach and Brittany as the volleyball sports manager. Both helped coordinate multiple fundraisers for this event. Julie even recruited extended family members to work a concession stand at the Edward Jones Dome. As every event passes, you can see the passion and dedication in this family grow. In addition to leading their Warrenton teams, they volunteer to help at every event they attend or just pitch in when they see a need.

The Gardner family — Southeast Area
Logan Gardner participates in Special Olympics Missouri programing year-round. He participates in basketball, bowling, softball, athletics, tennis and any type of dancing that is available. He also participates with the Sikeston Guns N Hoses team in the annual Polar Plunge. As you can tell he is a very busy guy! Logan joined Special Olympics many years ago and his family travels at least once a week from Sikeston (about 30 miles to Cape Girardeau) to ensure that he gets all the training he needs. This is quite an accomplishment in itself for this very busy family. The Gardner family is always ready and willing to do whatever is necessary for Logan and the other athletes. Melody (mom) has been delegated the team historian. She takes all types of photographs at all of the events, documenting the history of sports and good times in the Southeast Area. She is also very willing to share with the all fans of Logan and Special Olympics as she posts the accomplishments of all on social media. Logan’s sister Malory is also very active in Logan’s life and in the lives of all the athletes in the Southeast Area as she attends most competition and is their biggest cheerleader. Logan’s father, Tim, most recently became a Unified Partner in tennis and competed locally and at state with Lucas Blattel, another Southeast Area athlete.

Seth Dye and Melissa Reese — Southwest Area
Melissa Reese and Seth Dye are the perfect mother and son duo. They are both so friendly and caring. They have truly made Special Olympics a part of their lives. Seth is described by his coaches as kind, helpful and hardworking. Seth and his mom have become a great asset to the area. Not only does Seth participate in sports, he attends fundraisers such as the World’s Largest Truck Convoy and promotes the Polar Plunge by helping in the Maple Leaf Parade. Now Seth is becoming a Global Messenger so that he and his mom can continue to raise awareness for Special Olympics in the Southwest Area. Most recently, they teamed up to help with the Unified Bocce Tournament fundraiser. At the time, Seth didn’t know how to play, but thought it would be fun to learn a new sport and to help raise money. Melissa helped other staff and volunteers serve drinks and food as well as run the carnival games. They are both eager to help more in the future. The Southwest Area is lucky to have such a wonderful family.