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


‘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.

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

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.

Blog post picture- 1

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.

Blog Post picture-2

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.














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.