Lucy Wortham James students learn about, raise money for Special Olympics

For their service learning project this year, 4th grade students at Lucy Wortham James Elementary in St. James participated in a Walk-A-Thon to raise money for Special Olympics Missouri.

Students had spent the first quarter learning about what it means to be a “great-hearted person” (both literally and figuratively). The lesson then culminated with supporting a great-hearted cause.

Students enjoyed a visit from SOMO staff and enjoyed learning more about this great organization. At the walk-a-thon, many laps were walked (and ran!) and $1,000 was raised to be donated to SOMO. Students celebrated with an assembly where the top fundraisers were honored and given prizes courtesy of Maries County Bank in St. James.

Below is a Q&A with the class’s teacher, Katie Moreland.

What kind of things did you teach them about “being a great-hearted person?” Students learned that a literal great heart is healthy and strong enough to do its job — no clogged arteries or veins, no faulty valves. They learned you can take care of your heart with healthy eating and exercise habits. Students also learned that being a figuratively great-hearted people are people we would describe as being generous, caring, heroic, inspiring and hard-working.

Why did you/the students pick SOMO?
In our read-aloud of “The Man Who Loved Clowns,” the character Punky has a disability and has the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics. Numerous other characters in the book volunteer to help Special Olympics athletes. As we read the book and learned more about the organization, we decided Special Olympics Missouri was the perfect cause for us to fundraise for.

112What did you hope the students learned by having SOMO staff come in and talk to them?
Having SOMO staff come and talk to our students was a great opportunity for students to learn more about what SOMO is and the opportunities it provides as well as let them learn what donations such as we were hoping to make are used for. It got the students asking questions, thinking about the organization and ways they can be involved, and excited to fundraise for the cause.

What did you learn about SOMO and why did you want to raise money for this organization?
Students gave answers such as: “I learned about how neat it is for people with special needs to be able to do sports and compete and I wanted to raise money to help more kids get to experience that.”
– “I learned that the (SOMO) athletes can even go on to compete in World Games. I want to raise money to help. I’d love to volunteer sometime!”
-“I learned that it is a really cool organization that helps a lot of people. I think it would be neat to help them out.”
-“This organization does good things for a lot of people and they need donations to be able to continue doing that. I want to help.”


2018 John Michael Letz Award Winner: Lynn McClamroch

The John Michael Letz Award is the highest honor given within Missouri’s Law Enforcement Torch Run. It is our unsung hero award.

The criteria for recipients include being responsible for significant fundraising results and participating in year-round support; exemplifying the Special Olympics mission and being a visionary for the Torch Run. The winner of this award is someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes and who shows sustained commitment over a period of time.

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:

  • Began their LETR career by running in their local leg of the torch run
  • Served as the agency coordinator for their agency
  • Serves on the local Polar Plunge committee and has been instrumental in growing this event to where it is today
  • Organized a leg of the Torch Run in their city, involving local athletes.
  • Has driven the torch from one city to another between runs, to ensure each route in their region had the torch for their run.
  • Although this recipient has retired from their LETR agency, they remain involved in all events within their region; helping to coordinate and by participating when possible.
  • Served first as the assistant Region coordinator for their region before taking over as Region coordinator for 4 years. This recipient remained as Region coordinator, even after retiring, to ensure the right replacement was in place before stepping down.
  • When the local LETR committee was asked to help with lunch for the area Spring Games, this recipient was instrumental in providing a free BBQ lunch to the athletes and even volunteered to do the cooking.
  • This recipient’s nominator said “It didn’t take me long to see how passionate and dedicated this recipient was to the program. Although our region has had some change, a few things have stayed constant: This recipient’s commitment and dedication to the LETR and his love for the SOMO athletes. Because of his efforts, the Flame of Hope is still burning bright in North Missouri.”
  • The 2018 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Lynn McClamroch – MO Dept. of Conservation, retired

SOMO Athletes Changing the Game

Eunice Kennedy Shriver once stated, “You are the star and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.”

The mission of Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The sports training and competitions provide the athletes continuous opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, as well as share their gifts, skills and friendship with other Special Olympics athletes, and their communities. However, it goes way beyond just sports.

Special Olympics Missouri transforms the lives of athletes every day. With initiatives to activate youth, engage people with intellectual disabilities, build communities, and improve the health of the SOMO athletes – SOMO is changing the game for people young and old.

For 50 years, Special Olympics has been spreading the message: people with intellectual disabilities CAN – and WILL – succeed when given the chance.

Derek Sandbothe and Thomas Cleek are not only Special Olympics Missouri athletes, but they are the first athletes to be employed by Special Olympics Missouri.

“Special Olympics has given me a reason to live, to be honest with you,” Sandbothe said. “When I was in school, I was never really accepted, but I’m just glad that’s over and that I can actually have something to hold onto that has been a part of my life for a long time, and now, I’m at such a level in Special Olympics that not only am I competing in sports, but I’m also volunteering and helping others. I’m learning leadership skills.”

Sandbothe got involved in Special Olympics Missouri back in 2001 when he was working at Capitol Projects. After a few of his work friends invited him to a SOMO sporting event, he saw what Special Olympics was all about and soon began playing on the Jefferson City Parks and Rec basketball team. Being a part of the team and competing in Special Olympics was an eye-opening experience for him. “I was challenged by my teammates because they are just as competitive as me and the other athletes pushed me to be better,” said Sandbothe.

In 2006, he attended the first-ever USA Games in Ames, IA, as a part of the Team Missouri basketball team. About a month after the National Games, he received the opportunity to travel around Missouri, giving speeches about SOMO, telling his story and his experiences.

Through the years, he has been extremely active with participation in assisting and volunteering for the HQ staff with fundraising efforts and spreading the SOMO message. In 2017, Sandbothe was awarded the Outstanding Athlete award in recognition of all his hard work.

In 2015, he attended the first Athlete Leadership Program University (ALPs), from which he later graduated in 2018. “For my capstone project I made a big PowerPoint on what Special Olympics is and what SOMO and ALPs has done for me,” said Sandbothe. During his time in ALPs, he learned not only about communication and giving speeches, but he learned about leadership. He decided it was time for him to take on a much larger role. In 2018 he was presented the opportunity to co-teach a Global Messenger class to his fellow athletes. “Being able to use what I learned and teach my friends was such a great experience,” he said.

He is also a member of the Training for Life Campus (TLC) charter class of athletes who made it their mission to help raise money for the campus, by raising over $5,000.

On August 20, 2018, Sandbothe was hired as the first Campus Host. “Being the first hired athlete and Campus Host is a dream come true,” he said. “It means the world to me to work for an organization that has done so much for me.” This job has provided Sandbothe many opportunities that have helped him grow and gain more confidence. “My favorite part of my job is giving tours and getting to show people what Special Olympics is all about as well as the beautiful Training for Life Campus.”

Thomas Cleek began his journey with Special Olympics Missouri through the Young Athletes Program, in the Central Area, when he was 3 years old. Through the years he played many sports including: tennis, golf, bowling, volleyball and swimming. It was through SOMO that he found his passion for golf.

Cleek has had the opportunity to compete in golf during two USA Games; one in 2014 in New Jersey and one in 2018 in Washington.

In August, Cleek, along with seven other athlete golfers from the 2018 USA Games, was chosen to travel to New Jersey as a part of the United PGA Experience at the Northern Trust Open. He had the chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and receive golf tips from PGA Tour pros.The best part of the day was I got to play three holes with professional golfer James Hahn,” Cleek says. “He was so much fun to play with and talk to too. The advice that James gave me was unbelievable advice that I never heard of.”

On October 3, 2018, Cleek was hired as the second Campus Host. He applied for this job because he loves SOMO and thought this would be a great way to get involved outside of his sports. “This job means a lot,” Cleek said. “It shows that SOMO trusts their athletes and wants them to succeed. They want to help us athletes become a leader and give us the skills needed beyond sports and competitions.” He says this job has taught him responsibility and to be more independent.

Cleek was recently accepted into the Bear POWER Program at Missouri State University. This program is a two-year, five-semester, inclusive college program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. His future goal after he graduates college is to coach golf for SOMO. He wants to work with other athletes who have intellectual disabilities because he knows what Special Olympics can do to help them succeed.

Through Special Olympics Missouri people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths, abilities, skills and success. Athletes find joy, confidence, and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life. Like Sandbothe and Cleek, athletes inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.

Derek Sandbothe and Thomas Cleek are demonstrating what Special Olympics Missouri hopes every athlete is able to do, and that is grow in confidence to be an active member within the community they live in.

It’s Official: The Training for Life Campus is Open!

Ribbon Cutting Athletes“I love this place!”

“We finally have a place to call home!”

“This is a dream come true!”

These are the declarations from our athletes that have been resonating through our new Training for Life Campus since our Campus Dedication on Nov. 1. It is official: The Training for Life Campus is open and our athletes have already began to train and utilize the facilities. Our athletes are very excited about their new home, but they are also empowered to live beyond the campus by taking what they learn from the campus and applying it to the way they live their daily lives. We all have the opportunity to help encourage, support and donate towards this incredible movement.

Arial view with shadowsAlthough the campus is open, it is not yet complete. Still needed are our outdoor fields referred to as the “Back 9.” The Back 9 will host a softball field, tennis courts, bocce courts, horseshoe pits, athlete pavilion, Law Enforcement Torch Run plaza, and a golf skills recreation field. We still need to raise $350,000 to utilize tax credits for this project.

As we begin to welcome our athletes to our campus, we will be providing camps throughout the year (previously we were only able to host one camp per year). These camps give our athletes the opportunities to learn and train on fitness equipment, receive a health assessment through our world-renown health and wellness wing, attend leadership training through ALPs (Athlete Leadership Programs), and continue to build trusting relationships with athletes from their area. We are inviting our donors to consider supporting our camps as well. Our goal is to raise $250,000 for this commitment.

Confirmed Camp dates for 2019:

  • Central Area Camp – January 25 – 27
  • Southwest Area Camp – March 1 – 3
  • Day Camps for Day Programs – April 8 – 12
  • Challenge Days – April 15 – 17
  • Day Camps for Day Programs – April 22 – 25
  • St. Louis Metro Area Camp – May 17 – 19
  • Statewide Sports Camp June 16 – 21
  • North Area Camp – August 23 – 25
  • Southeast Area Camp – September 6 – 8
  • KC Metro Area Camp – October 18 – 20

Ribbon CuttingTo help us reach our goals, we are offering naming opportunities. This is the absolute last chance to receive tax credits through MDFB (Missouri Development Finance Board). Tax credits are available until Dec. 15. These are a 50% tax credit and have a carry-forward for up to five years. All Missouri taxpayers can benefit from tax credits. Additional information about tax credits is located here.

If you have any questions or need any additional information about tax credits, naming opportunities, etc., please contact Travis Bourbon, 816.678.9670 or Laurie Shadoan, 816-806-7787.




The Future of Health & Wellness at Special Olympics Missouri

As 2018 comes to an end, we look back on the growth and future of Health & Wellness at Special Olympics Missouri.

1,792 Health Screenings were offered at three state games, two Area Spring Games and our first camp at our new Training for Life Campus.

  • Fit Feet:  3 State Games & 297 screenings
  • Healthy Hearing:  3 State Games & 303 screenings
  • Health Promotion: 3 State Game, 1 camp & 283 screenings
  • Special Smiles: 3 State Games & 2 Area Games & 513 screenings
  • Opening Eyes:  1 State Games & 102 screenings
  • Fun Fitness:  3 State Games & 251 screenings
  • MedFest:  1 State Game & 45 physicals

With the opening of our new Training for Life Campus, we will be able to offer additional screenings at our camps. We have four exam rooms:  Special Smiles, Opening Eyes, Fit Feet/Health Promotions, Healthy Hearing with a Hearing Booth. This will allow us to see new athletes and open the doors to those with disabilities in group homes and day groups. We have expanded to offer Health & Wellness education to athletes, schools, day groups, group homes.

Building Partnerships with businesses /individuals in the community & around the state to support our health mission & goals for our SOMO Athletes

There are opportunities from those in the community to partner with us to bring health screenings, nutrition, and education to the athletes. To grow, we need partners to help us sustain the program, by providing funding, resources and people. Thank you to these initial following Health Partners for their support and believing in our mission: Golisano Foundation, Jefferson City Medical Group, Jordan Valley Community Health Center, Missouri Care and The Smile Nation. Please contact Carol Griffin to learn more about how you can help us grow our program.

To excel in sports, athletes need to be healthy, so we will offer health screenings, referrals, and health education for their needs. To help grow our health training program, we will recruit medical partners to lead the screenings and health education for our athletes. Another goal is to establish partnerships with universities, schools and day groups, to educate and create a world of inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

Two SOMO athletes, Lynna Hodgson and Lynn Shuffit, attended a conference in Washington D.C. to be trained as Health Messengers for SOMO. The athletes will help spread health and wellness information to their fellow athletes and get the message out that leading a healthy life is a good thing. Read a blog post from Lynna Hodgson about the experience.

We offered three health classes during the Athlete Leadership Program Universities: Lifetime Health & Fitness, Exercise Science 101 andHealth Ambassador.

Health & Wellness

Special Olympics Missouri is excited to take health and wellness to the next level for our athletes. We want our athletes to thrive in each area of their lives and plan to help them do so by ensuring they receive inclusive health opportunities. Athletes will receive nutritional, physical, social, & emotional programs statewide.

We have fully comprehensive health and wellness curriculum and programs to work with public schools. At our TLC campus, we will not only be offering health and wellness programming during camps, but also separate classes for day programs to attend such as cooking classes, grocery shopping 101, workout Wednesdays, Mindfulness/yoga & much more.

We are on a mission to offer these programs statewide to those with intellectual disabilities and are working to develop the partnerships to do so. We also would like to take unified approaches in this is developing unified fitness clubs statewide, which would consist of those from the community partnering or developing small groups and committing to working out together at least 1-2 times a week. Six-week minimum programs are our goal as we really want to be able to educate, implement, and sustain those healthy lifestyle changes!



A look at an Athlete-Leader’s Capstone Project

D'Agostino, Allison_StaffThis blog post was written by athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino. She is an athlete-leader from Columbia. She is involved with Athlete Leadership Programs University and took her final class in earlier this year in March. In order to graduate, the final class asks the athlete-leaders to come up with a final project and complete it. Allison writes a personal blog on a weekly basis and some of her posts chronicled her work with her Capstone project. Some of her posts, including the one with her final Capstone project (a documentary about a SOMO athlete from Columbia), are included below. Allison will graduate from Athlete Leadership Programs University in May 2019 with a degree in Communications!

March 4:
Yes! ^_^ Finally. The last semester for my Communications major. I’m so excited I got to attend this particular semester for Athlete Leadership Programs University. (See; what did I tell ya? The exciting stuff always happens the first week of the month. That’s why I forget to write my weekly blogs. Lol. Nothing happens.)

Like most majors, all the majors at ALPs U have a Capstone class to finish it off. Any-who, each of us needed to come up with a project that would suit our major. One athlete-leader intends to become a mentor for this fall’s semester; another chose speeches as well as hosting a unified partners/athletes event, and there’s even an athlete-leader who plans to make a documentary on a chosen SOMO athlete, to show people we Special Olympics athletes do more than practice and compete in sports.

Can you guess who that last athlete-leader is? Yep, it’s me. ^_^ I’m so excited!

Already I’ve talked to my dad, as well as contacted the Central Area manager to make certain the athlete of my choice lives in Columbia. That way I don’t have to worry about transportation so much. (I still don’t have a license, and I plan to keep it that way. Angela Lansbury inspired me!)

Aug. 26:
I attempted to edit my Capstone project Friday and Saturday at the local access television station. Not much is done, but I got some progress.

The deadline is September 9th, but seeing as this is a documentary for the capstone, I’m desperate to turn it in this Friday. I’m so nervous. I want everything just right, but that’s clearly not happening. I overwhelm and overthink things.

There’s a word I’m searching for, but it’s not coming to me. Lol. Oh, well. I’ll figure it out. Wish me luck!

Sept. 2:
Boy, was this week a stressful one. Fun, but stressful. Ever since I took my final semester for ALPs U (Athlete Leadership Programs University), I took my professor’s advice to heart. He happens to be the PR man for Special Olympic Missouri. I look up to him so much and take what he says seriously. Except when I know he’s joking or teasing me, which he doesn’t do quite often.

I still remember the time when I was at HQ… I think it was the week we were leaving for Seattle. I mentioned to one of the employees that he’s a lovable guy. And off in the distance, while he was searching for a banner, we hear him call out — “If that’s what you think, then I’m not doing my job.” I busted out laughing.

I know he can be intimidating at times. That just shows how much he cares, which is a lot. He’s one of those people who can watch you from the sidelines and can tell almost immediately that you have potential of being a great person and influencer, if you get my drift.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted.

His advice to me was to finish my capstone a few weeks prior to the homework deadline. That way, if he has any ideas or suggestions on what I can do to improve the video before it’s finalized as my capstone assignment. Well, I finished it… with one week away. Yikes!

Only now I’m nervous of what he’ll say. I’m not happy with the opening credits, but that’s probably because I’ve seen so many movies, shows, and documentaries, that I want mine to be just as amazing. I reviewed my documentary with my mentor and noticed a flaw or two. I’m not going to do anything, though. I already sent it to my professor. I only hope he gives me enough good/bad criticism that will help me make better videos.

Oh, boy. Wish me luck!

Nov. 8:
Wow, I cannot believe how long it’s been since I posted a regular blog, and not one about my gaming channel. Haha! The sad thing is – I never gave a full recap when my prof responded to my capstone project.
First off, I want to thank everyone involved. Not just Anna McDaniel and her sister, but also Matt Rapp, Coach Chris Klepfel, CATV, HyVee, Lazer Lanes, University of Missouri (for the Stankowski Field,) as well as the VA hospital. Without them, the documentary would not be such a success.

Now, let’s talk about what happened when my professor finally responded. He definitely made a BUNCH of notes on what could’ve been done, what needed revising/fixing, and how I as a director should know what to cut out. He even said that it should be cut into separate videos, so the storyboard of it all makes sense.

I understand that documentaries have different time lengths. Shoot, he’s done plenty on SOMO’s YouTube channel. I also understand that not all people can watch 30 minute videos. Heck, the average watch span on almost the entire YouTube site is probably 3 minutes, and I’m just assuming here.

I didn’t want it in separate videos, though. As a potential director, and from memory of all the documentaries I’ve seen, I wanted to put my point across in one video. That someone with a disability can achieve anything. I’m sure you could make that point in multiple videos, but would you remember to watch the next video after such a long break?

Oh, and don’t worry. My professor didn’t give all negative comments. He also pointed out some good things, which made the director side of me quite happy. I’m almost always proud of the work I’ve done – almost.

Oh, geez. I almost forgot. I passed! ^_^ I’ll be in the graduation ceremony at the SOMO State Summer Games next year. Yay!

Editor’s note: We are very proud of Allison and everything she did for her Capstone project. Our athlete-leaders continue to prove just how valuable Athlete Leadership Programs are. People with intellectual disabilities just want to prove that they too have skills to share with the world. So many SOMO athletes want to give back to the organization that has done so much for them. ALPs is about educating and empowering our athletes to use those skills to better themselves and their communities. If you’re wanting to get involved with ALPs, visit or email

2018 Drive it Home Raffle: And the winner is . . .

On Saturday, Nov. 17, we celebrated with seven area finalists from across the state, who purchased tickets for the Drive it Home Raffle. They were all winners before they arrived! They visited the Training for Life campus, enjoyed a tour, dinner and watched our athletes participate in their very first camp at the TLC! A truly remarkable weekend in so many ways!

And now it is time to meet the winner of the 2018 Ford Explorer: Al Rodriguez! Turns out that the number 5 is lucky for Al. He was the fifth person to select a key at the Drive it Home Raffle Grand Prize Giveaway Event. He was joined by his wife and young children. His 5 year old daughter, Megan helped him pick the winning key. One of the most impactful parts of the event was watching the athletes give high fives to the winning family as they walked to their new vehicle! Congrats to Al and his family!

Raffle winner 2018



Tammy Morgan: Tammy purchased one ticket from Special Olympics Missouri athlete Derek Sandboth when she visited the new Training for Life campus on a tour with members of the Knights of Columbus. She likes to drive and works in Jefferson City. She recognizes all that the Knights do to support our mission and is excited about becoming more involved in Special Olympics Missouri. If Tammy wins the Ford Explorer, she would most like jump up and down with excitement! A trip could be in Tammy’s future. Ticket #: 011944

Kim Swanson: Kim purchased two tickets from her friend and coworker Lisa Breeden. She is very familiar with Special Olympics and our mission because Lisa has a son who participates in SOMO every year. He is involved in several sports and is always so excited to participate. Winning a new Ford Explorer would be a blessing to her family as they have children in college next year. Ticket #: 078013

Colin Welch: Colin purchased four tickets from SOMO staff member, Mary Niswonger. Colin is a member of the Knights of Columbus and has supported Special Olympics athletes for several years. He helped with Area Spring Games in high school and raises money through the Knights of Columbus Tootsie Roll Drive. When asked what he would do with a new Ford Explorer, he said that he would put his wife in the vehicle! Lucky lady! Ticket #: 013027

Floyd Deidiker: Floyd purchased 4 tickets from Bill Nichols. They were the last four tickets that Bill had left to sell. Bill is a former Grand Knight of the KOC council 9892. Floyd is the current Grand Knight for this council and has been a part of Special Olympics for the past several years. He firmly believes in our programs and in our athletes. He shared that he never wins anything and is excited that he is one of the area finalists! He would probably faint if he won the Ford Explorer. Ticket #: 018782

Terry Brown: Terry purchased 10 tickets online through Facebook or Instagram. He enjoys sports and is familiar with Special Olympics Missouri as a volunteer and donor. They are in the market to replace one of their vehicles, and the Ford Explorer would be a great fit. Ticket #: 012120

Fran Sokolowski: Fran purchased one ticket from a police officer during the Shop ‘n Save t-shirt sale at their Florissant location. She is familiar with Special Olympics, generously supporting our athlete’s through contributions. She only drives short distances and would most likely share the vehicle with her family! Ticket #: 038302

Al Rodriguez: Al purchased two tickets from an O’Fallon police officer during our Dunkin Donuts Cop on Top event in May. He understands the importance of sports and activity in the lives of children and enjoys seeing the smiles on their faces when they compete. When asked what he would do if he won the Ford Explorer, he shared that it will be an upgrade to one of their vehicles. Ticket #: 003246

Thanks to the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association for generously donating a 2018 Ford Explorer for our Drive it Home Raffle this year.