Health & Wellness at the TLC

What does it mean to have a sound mind, body and spirit? For Larin Bryant-McCanse, these are the key elements to becoming a healthy athlete.

Larin is an active athlete from Kansas City, Missouri. Through Larin’s involvement with Special Olympics and competitions in area and state games, he has had the opportunity to participate in multiple Healthy Athlete activities.  Special Olympics has been able to assist him with resources to improve his hearing, physical therapy and overall health.  “It has given him peace of mind. Larin is growing each day by talking more and more with his friends and family,” said Britani Harrelson, Larin’s sister.

Larin’s insurance does not offer assistance for hearing aids and his severe hearing loss has been a barrier to his overall personal growth on and off the playing fields. Through the Healthy Athletes initiative, Larin’s family was linked to Dr. Jennifer Shoemaker, who helped them explore the opportunities in obtaining hearing aids.  Dr. Shoemaker was able to connect with the Starkey Foundation to secure not one, but two hearing aids for Larin.

“We cannot begin to express enough gratitude for the assistance and support we have received from not only Special Olympics, but from Healthy Athletes, and Dr. Shoemaker,” said Tammy Harrelson, Larin’s sister-in-law. “This past year has been a game changer for Larin and his overall growth for a sounder mind, body and spirit.”

This process has helped change Larin’s life and it continues to provide a more positive and healthy future for him. “Healthy Athletes has given Larin the opportunity to be himself once again and shine as an amazing individual,” said Tammy.

The Training for Life Campus, located at 305 Special Olympics Drive, is a facility that will serve current and future Missouri athletes with intellectual disabilities. It is the first facility of its kind in the world, with the purpose of enriching the lives of our athletes. The campus will function as a lifelong community hub and center, and will inspire a new drive in our athletes so that they may continue to develop the physical and social skills they need to be as productive and independent as possible. Not only will our athletes learn the lessons of sport and life that inspire each one of us, but they learn to adopt a whole new lifestyle centered around health and wellness. The campus is designed to accommodate training, practice and competitive events for some of SOMO’s most popular sports programs, including a track, wellness trail, basketball court, soccer field and multi-sport training areas. It will offer year-round training opportunities for athletes, coaches and volunteers from throughout Missouri.

In addition to the multi-sport activities, the campus will also provide athletes free healthcare screenings in the new clinical screening rooms through our improved Health and Wellness program. The four rooms consist of: Healthy Hearing, Special Smiles, Opening Eyes and Fit Feet. Each room is designed and equipped to give the athletes a true experience of a visit to the doctor’s office, but in a welcoming and fun environment. Everything from a receptionist desk and waiting area, to a fully equipped dental chair, an eye exam refractor and a brand new sound booth is provided for our athletes at the Training for Life Campus.

The Healthy Hearing program is changing lives in communities across the globe by providing free hearing screenings and other medicals services, such as: ear wax removal, swim molds, hearing aid maintenance and minor repairs for people with intellectual disabilities. The amount of ear problems and hearing loss among Special Olympics athletes is greater than that found in the general population. Most athletes’ hearing problems are previously undetected, unserved or under-treated. Hearing loss negatively impacts communication ability, quality of life, social interactions and health. The purpose of the Healthy Hearing screenings is to increase access to hearing care for Special Olympics athletes, as well as individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Special Smiles is the dental health discipline that provides athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to take charge of their oral health. This program provides comprehensive oral health care information, offers free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques, as well as, providing preventative supplies like toothpaste and a toothbrush. The Special Smiles screenings have found that a large percentage of Special Olympics athletes are unaware of the condition of their oral health.

The Opening Eyes program is making a wide impact throughout communities by providing free eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to Special Olympics athletes. The goal of this program is to collect and analyze screening data in order to raise awareness and to advocate for improved eye care for people with intellectual disabilities. Springfield coach, Kristin Knapton, expressed just how helpful the Opening Eyes program is. “A lot of our athletes really benefit from the free eye exams and getting free glasses. Many of them do not get this opportunity due to their backgrounds and family situations, so this definitely provides a need that is there. It’s an amazing opportunity that you just don’t see anywhere else.”

Fit Feet offers podiatric screenings to evaluate ankles, feet, lower extremity biomechanics, and proper shoe and sock gear to athletes. Many athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain, or deformities that impair their performance. The mission of Fit Feet is to improve the quality of life and the long-term health of Special Olympics athletes as well as people with intellectual disabilities and to increase access to foot care.

The screening rooms will be staffed by volunteer health professionals as a part of our Health & Wellness program to promote our athletes’ overall health and educate our athletes, coaches and families. We are always working hard to grow our group of referral/follow up care providers. As a provider we encourage you to reach out.

In 2015 there were 437 total screenings provided, 2016 there were 1588 screenings and in 2017 there were 1811 screenings provided. You can see the number of screenings has increased steadily over the past three years. With our new health screening rooms, we look forward to growing this and are excited to be expanding our Health and Wellness program. The free screenings will be offered not only at all three of the state games but during the year-round training camps as well.

In addition to the four screening rooms, we offer MedFest. The goals of MedFest are to provide free sports physicals and other health screening services to people with intellectual disabilities and to recruit new athletes to Special Olympics. There are more than 15,400 Special Olympics Missouri athletes who participate each year. Before they can step on the field, they are required to have a comprehensive sports physical. Therefore, MedFest was created to offer the physical screenings the athletes need prior to participating. It is sometimes the first exposure these athletes have to medical care. In many cases, life-threatening conditions have been found and treated thanks to MedFest.

Another part of our Health and Wellness program is Health Promotion, which uses interactive educational tools and displays, motivational literature and demonstrations to raise the awareness of Special Olympics athletes about the need to improve and maintain an enhanced level of wellness and self-care. Through this program, athletes are interviewed to assess their health habits, and conducts health screenings in the following areas: BMI (body mass index), BP (blood pressure) and BMD (bone mineral density). Health Promotion provides a positive, interactive and engaging environment to help athletes learn how small changes in their behavior can help them improve and maintain good health and sports performance.

We are excited to be able to take our health education to the next level and provide a comprehensive all-inclusive Health and Wellness program for our athletes. The Special Olympics Missouri Health and Wellness program promises to develop and foster a healthy community by achieving inclusive health and wellness opportunities for all people with intellectual disabilities, which includes, but is not limited to health care, education, resources and services. This program is designed to help Special Olympics Missouri athletes improve their health and fitness in their daily lives.

We hope to continue to grow our Health and Wellness program by growing current and developing new health and wellness partnerships to provide our athletes with a quality all-inclusive medical care. We always welcome volunteers and are excited to take health and wellness here at Special Olympics Missouri to the next level.

If you would like to get involved in the Health and Wellness program please contact Meagan Davis, Health and Wellness Manager, or Carol Griffin, Partnership Manager.


Guest blog: Health Messenger Training in D.C.

Hodgson, Lynna_TrackAthlete-leader Lynna Hodgson of Lee’s Summit traveled to Washington, D.C., in late September to take part in a Special Olympics Health Messenger training. She took the trip with fellow athlete-leaders Allen Tobin and Lynn Shuffit and blogged about her experience. We have re-posted her personal blogs here with her permission.

Sept. 24:
Woke up at 5:30pm. Got everything ready and took care of the dogs. We picked up Allen Tobin at 6:45am. On our way to the airport to go to DC! Arrived at Washington DC at 11:30am. It’s now 3:48pm, and we are going on a tour. I’m looking forward to it! We went on a tour, and it was amazing! Saw some cool stuff! It’s 7:18pm, and I’m tired!

Sept. 25:
Woke up at 7:30am and ate breakfast. It’s 12:47pm, just finished lunch, we had salmon, salad, rice and Caesar salad. In the morning, we had training and it was really good! At 5:30 p.m., the session ended, and a group of us are going on a tour. But first, we went to dinner. I learned a lot today, we made up our own workout, put things like (oranges, strawberries etc in our water, talked about stretching, what being healthy means, emotionally and physically.  And we played a few games. It was a good day. It’s 10:24pm, been back from the tour for an hr. It was a blast! Was great weather for it too! Saw the White House from a far! But I still got a good pic. There was a group of us who went on a tour. It was very nice and educational. Another full day tomorrow!

Sept. 26:
Woke up before my alarm, just a few minutes. It’s 7:27am. Ready for more training. In the afternoon today I will talk about my practicum. A little nervous about that but I know I will be fine!  Wow!! What a day I had! I presented today, visited another museum and at seafood! Yum! I worked on my practicum in the morning and presented it at the afternoon. Listened to some of the other athletes practicum and they all had great ideas! After all of that, went to a museum, this museum was about NASA, it was really neat, then after that we met up with Allen, had a dinner at seafood place, fresh seafood, you can’t get better than that!! Then after that came back to the hotel and chatted with some friends, took pics, then I’m going to pack for tomorrow, our flight isn’t that early, so that’s good! It’s 8:05pm and I’m already for bed!

Sept. 27:
It’s 9:05am. I’m on the airplane to go back to KC! My dad woke me up at 7:30am, my alarm did not go off, I figured why the alarm did not go off, because the alarm was on a different day, good one Lynna! Lol. We had breakfast at the airport, it was really good! I had a hard time going to sleep last night. I really don’t know why. But it’s okay.  We landed at Kansas City at 11am. Allen and I claimed our suitcases and my dad went to get the van. We waited for dad, there was miss communication with dad and I. I really need to work on that. We dropped Allen off to his house. On our way home, dad listened to one of his favorite singers (back in the day) lol. When we got home, I was welcomed with big kisses from my dogs (Winston & Henry) and got a big hug from my mom. It was so good to see them! I had to unpack quickly, I had to pack for the special Olympics Missouri Outdoor Games, I’m really excited for the weekend! Excited to see my friends I don’t see very often, and the Team Missouri 2018 reunion.  Ok I’m sorry..I’m getting off topic, now I’m going to talk about my first conference for Healthy Athlete Messenger! Okay here it goes:

What I liked: meeting new people from different states, I even met some people from Canada! Learned a lot of new information. Exploring DC! Eating fresh seafood! Making new friends. Breakfast and lunch was really good and healthy! I liked to stay in a hotel room by myself (I felt more independent) What I did not like: I would prefer more breaks (but I understand why they didn’t have too many breaks through sessions),  I would like to have handouts of what we talked about and on who presented. Other than that, I thought it was REALLY awesome! Now I have to do my practicum, wish me good luck! I wish my fellow health messenger athletes good luck while they are doing their practicum.

Guest blog: Thomas Cleek plays golf with the pros

Cleek, Thomas_GolfThomas Cleek, 18, of Columbia, recently traveled to New Jersey as part of the United PGA Experience at Northern Trust. He had the chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones and receive golf tips from PGA Tour pros. He wrote a blog about his experience.

Day 1  – Aug. 21
Had a great flight on United Airlines to New Jersey. When mom and I landed in New Jersey we met up with Lauren that works for Special Olympics; she got us a ride to the hotel. The cool thing was when we were about to go eat dinner, all my buddies showed up that I met in Seattle at USA Games. Dinner was really good and I had great time visiting with my friends. After dinner went down to the pool with some of my buddies and hung out there for a awhile.

Day 2 – Aug. 22
On the way to the golf course and back we had PGA cars come pick us up to go to the golf course and take us back to the hotel; it was so cool. When I got to Ridgewood Country Club, we were given a locker where the PGA players were. I got to see Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth. I also got to participate in a clinic with PGA Professional coaches that helped me on my golf game. Then we went on the putting green and saw Tommy Fleetwood and other golfers. The best part of the day was I got to play three holes with  professional golfer James Hahn. 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. I asked him “How do you handle nerves?” He told me, “ I just stick to what I can do and believe myself and breathe.”

Day 3 – Aug. 23
I got the chance with other Special Olympics athletes got to go see the first round of the Northern Trust Open. The experience was super cool to spend it with all the athletes and they also got to see professional golf in person which is super cool. The other cool thing was that we got to watch the tournament from the United Airlines VIP Suite. The food  was super good. I would just like to say thank you for providing food for me that I can eat for the days that we were at the golf course. After the golf tournament we had dinner with Peter Condon’s family then we hung out with them in their room afterward.

’18 Team Missouri: Amanda Koch (From Camp to Seattle and Home Again)

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. It is in her own words.

First i started at selections camp by making friends. There we got to do fun activities, get to know one another, and interact with them to. Every morning we went for walks. Also got to do training for our sport. We even got to show off our skills.

From that we found out who got selected to represent Team Missouri. The ones who got selected. Had to attend a meeting, practices, and trainings. I had practice twice a week. We had fundraisers to do to raise $3,000. To make it to the national level. For trainings, we had to attend 3 of them. At all of the trainings i have done very well.

At the last trainings we got recognized for our fundraising efforts. While we were there we got our trading pins. Also at the trainings we learned safety, being healthy and staying physically fit. Throughout my training experience i have had a personal trainer. To help me along the way. Now it is time to send off to Seattle. First when got there we had a celebration of team missouri athletes. At the celebration some of us got our hair sprayed and some dancing to. We got to have police officers transport us to the STL airport.

In Seattle, we got to sight see, and take a tour and a cruise. Sunday we had a blast at opening ceremonies. We also had competition throughout the week. Also while we were in seattle. We got celebrate the 4th of July, seen a baseball game, and seen the space needle. We got to attend closing ceremonies. Now Team Missouri is flying home.

Koch 2Koch1

2018 Team Missouri Newsletter: FINAL WRAP-UP

2018 MO Magic eNews header

Final Team Missouri Newsletter

Team MO Magic Newsletter

Now that we’ve all had a chance to catch up on sleep that we missed while we were in Seattle, we wanted to take the opportunity to put everything into one final newsletter for all of our Team Missouri delegates and fans so they didn’t miss anything.

I really appreciate the hard work that you put into your training for Team Missouri.
Coaches, sport managers and staff, I know that you put in a lot of extra time above and beyond the coaching and work duties. All of your training and hard work over the past year resulted in a huge success for your personally and the team as a whole. Everyone did a great job contributing your talents and skills to the team. I’m looking forward to 2022 in Orlando!

All of the photos from the week have been uploaded to Facebook and are in albums separated by the day. If you are looking for full high-resolution photos that you can download and make prints of, please visit our Flickr page.

We wrote A LOT of blog posts during our time in Seattle and they covered a wide range of perspectives from newbies who had never been to a USA Games before to experienced veterans. We had athletes, coaches, staff members and fans all write for us. If you missed any of the blogs, never fear as you can catch up on all of them at our WordPress site.

Some new posts that were written since we sent out the final newsletter from Seattle a couple of weeks ago:

For the first time in Special Olympics Missouri history, we took an athlete-leader with us to a USA Games. Allison D’Agostino of Columbia served as part of the PR team taking photos and videos and telling the stories of our delegates. She was selected from a pool of five other applicants and did a phenomenal job covering Team Missouri. In addition to taking photos, capturing video, writing stories/blogs and editing nightly b-roll clips to send back to media around Missouri, she hosted nightly recap shows where she interviewed a coach and at least one athlete from every sport. If you missed these or want to re-watch any of them, please see below.

Allison also wrote two stories while in Seattle that focused on two different USA Games volunteers who either used to live, or currently live, in Missouri.

She did an amazing job for us all week and we couldn’t be more proud of the work she put in behind the scenes in the last few months as well. She’s a soon-to-be graduate of SOMO’s Athlete Leadership Programs University where athletes can take classes in a variety of subjects (technology, life skills, personal finances, leadership, etc.) and become leaders on their teams and in their communities in a multitide of ways. For more information about ALPs, email Brandon Schatsiek or visit

Whether you traveled to Seattle to watch the team or cheered them on from home, we hope that you all took advantage of the Team Missouri mobile app to stay up to date and communicate with one another. We know it’s not a perfect app, but we hope that you found it useful in most situations.

If you did utilize the app, please do us a huge favor and take this quick 5-minute survey on what you liked and didn’t like about it. We want to make sure that if we do this again that it fits your needs regardless if you’re watching in-person or from home. Please complete the survey by Aug. 6.

Sometime before the end of the year, we’d like to get Team Missouri delegates back together for a reunion at our new Training for Life Campus. We don’t have a date yet, but stay tuned for something later this fall.

We have produced numerous videos over the last 12 months from quick spotlight interviews of every delegate to the reaction video to the fun emoji game videos and much, much more. To see all of the videos and stay up to date when we add future videos to our catalog, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

We tried our best to keep up with all the results every day from all of the sports in our nightly newsletters, but we surely missed a few here and there over the course of last week. Below you will find a list of every sport, its delegates and how they fared in Seattle.

Athletics (Track and Field)
Emily Carroll – bronze (100 M walk), silver (standing long jump), sixth place (50 M run), bronze (softball throw)
Brett Harper – fourth place (800 M run), fifth (400 M run), bronze (long jump)
Mark Harris – sixth place (100 M run), seventh place (200 M run), fourth place (shotput)
Shaquana Hobbs – silver (running long jump), sixth place (100 M run), gold (mini javelin), gold (shotput)
Jesse Hodgson – bronze (100 M walk), bronze (softball throw), silver (50 M run), bronze (softball throw)
Lynna Hodgson – silver (running long jump), gold (100 M run), bronze (200 M run), silver (shotput)
Dustin Johnson – seventh place (100 M run), bronze (200 M run), bronze (mini javelin)
Mary McManus – gold (running long jump), gold (200 M run), silver (400 M run)
4×100 M run – Mary McManus, Dustin Johnson, Mark Harris, Brett Harper (fifth)

Basketball – Silver medal

Bobby Bates – sixth place (singles)
Lisa Berryhill – silver (singles)
Matthew Davidson – fourth place (singles)
Colin Garrison – fourth place (singles)
Amanda Koch – bronze (singles)
James Ross – silver (singles)
Jaime Rosso – sixth place (singles)
Rebecca Tincknell – silver (singles)
Doubles – James Ross/Bobby Bates (sixth place), Amanda Koch/Jaime Rosso (fifth place)
Unified Doubles – Kathy Witmeyer/Becca Tincknell (silver), Larry Hughes/Colin Garrison(fourth place), Paul Davidson/Matt Davidson (silver), Marsha Roselli/Lisa Berryhill (bronze)
Unified Teams – James Ross/Larry Hughes/Paul Davidson/Matt Davidson (fifth place), Becca Tincknell/Amanda Koch/Kathy Witmeyer/Marsha Roselli (fourth place)
Traditional Teams – Jaime Rosso/Bobby Bates/Colin Garrison/Lisa Berryhill (silver)

Kayla Brewer – bronze (singles)
Jeremiah Ellis – gold (singles)
Brandon Mynatt – bronze (singles)
Alaina Toliver – gold (singles)
Unified teams: Trey Toliver/Tyler Busken/Jeremiah Ellis/Brandon Mynatt (gold), Amanda Geno/Erica Koenegstein/Alaina Toliver/Kayla Brewer (silver)
Unified doubles: Amanda Geno/Kayla Brewer (gold), Erica Koenegstein/Alaina Toliver(silver), Tyler Busken/Brandon Mynatt (fourth place), Jeremiah Ellis/Trey Toliver (gold)

Thomas Cleek – 4th place in high performance championship division
John Hughes & Michael Garrison (Unified pair) – Silver
Cade Marian & Doug Marian (Unified pair) – Silver
Nick McMullen & Jerry McMullen (Unified pair) – Silver

Timothy Bray – gold (squat), silver (deadlift), participation ribbon (bench press), participation ribbon (combination)
Jody Davis – silver (squat), gold (deadlift), bronze (bench press), silver (combination)
Brandon Mize – silver (bench press), gold (squat, deadlift, combination)
Charlie Phillips – silver (combination), silver (bench press), bronze (deadlift), bronze (squat)

Softball – Silver medal

Devin Bock – participation ribbon (50 M butterfly), gold (50 M freestyle), fourth (50 M backstroke)
Allison Byrd – gold (100 M IM), sixth (400 M freestyle), silver (200 M breaststroke)
Joel Chrouser – silver (100 M IM), bronze (100 M breaststroke), silver (400 M freestyle)
Jessica Grammer – bronze (50 M butterfly), fifth (100 M freestyle), fourth (50 M backstroke)
Curtis Herbold – silver (50 M butterfly), sixth (100 M freestyle), gold (25 M backstroke)
Logan Hulett – fourth place (100 M backstroke), gold (200 M freestyle), gold (100 M butterfly)
Neha Naik – gold (25 M backstroke)
Libby Waddell – silver (200 M freestyle), participation ribbon (200 M IM), silver (100 M butterfly)
4×50 M relay – Jessica Grammer, Neha Naik, Curtis Herbold, Devin Bock (gold)
4×100 M relay – Libby Waddell, Joel Chrouser, Logan Hulett, Ali Byrd (silver)

Lucas Blattel – gold (traditional doubles with Simon Caldwell), silver (singles)
Simon Caldwell – gold (traditional doubles with Lucas Blattel), bronze (singles)
Kristopher Greene – bronze (Unified doubles with Jeremy Clayton), bronze (singles)
Jeremy Clayton, Unified Partner – bronze (Unified doubles with Kris Green)

In case you didn’t hear, the 2022 USA Games are set for Orlando, Fla.! If you or someone you know is interested in trying out for Team Missouri in 2022, remember that they will need to win a gold medal in that sport in 2020 (Outdoor Games) or 2021 (Indoor Games and Summer Games). You then need to apply for and attend the 2021 Selection Camp in June to be considered for the team. For more information on Team Missouri, please email Susan Shaffer.

If you like what you see with MO Magic and would like to continue to support them, please donate now: 



Management Team

Susan Shaffer — Head of Delegation 573-635-1660 or 573-489-4778

Brandon Schatsiek — Public Relations Manager 573-635-1660 OR 573-821-4646


Support Staff

Jana Fornelli — GOC/SONA Family Liaison 417-624-5505

Laurie Shadoan — Fundraising 913-789-0353

Mandi Ballinger – Sendoff & Fundraising Websites 913-789-0338




’18 Team Missouri: Josh Buchheit (It’s Over Already?)

Bucheit, Josh_SoftballJosh Buchheit is a softball coach for Team Missouri.

One year ago, the journey to Seattle for the 2018 Special Olympic USA games seemed a long way away. Looking back now, a year ago feels like yesterday. The journey for Team Missouri began with selection camp in June of 2017. During selection camp, rough drafts of teams begin to take shape. In the following weeks athletes, unified partners, and coaches are informed on whether they made the cut to be part of the 2018 Special Olympics Missouri team at the USA games. During the Special Olympic USA Games, Team Missouri represented the Show Me State by competing to the best of their ability, showing great enthusiasm and sportsmanship, while being a model of acceptance and inclusion.

The city of Seattle welcomed Special Olympics with open arms and preached messages of inclusion and acceptance throughout the week. During opening and closing ceremonies, banners spanning the width of the football field were pulled across the stadium; each of the banners had a theme word for the week: strength, acceptance, pride, and empowerment. Athletes from each delegation demonstrated all four of these characteristics consistently, especially MO Magic. It wasn’t until after the games were over that I’ve been able to really reflect on how each of those four words were incorporated in the USA games.

When I think about strength, I think of mental and physical strength these athletes had to have to make it through a year of training and a long week of competing. Their strength training began the week of selection camp and didn’t end until closing ceremonies. Team Missouri was able to reap the benefits of following their yearlong strength and conditioning programs. Team Missouri’s strength, both mental and physical, were on display the entire week during their respective competitions. Mental strength helped get them from selection camp through practices and any setbacks they suffered throughout the year. Being awake and doing activities from 4:30am until 10:00 or 11:00 at night daily took a tremendous amount of strength by athletes, coaches, and partners. Come-from-behind victories and long games also take strength. Physical strength was on display watching the power-lifters dead-lift hundreds of pounds with ease. Physical strength was also displayed each day throughout the week when we walked miles and miles each day to different sporting venues, whether it be to compete or cheer on another Missouri team.

Throughout the week, teams would travel to other venues to cheer on other sports. For example, if softball was done competing in the morning and basketball played in the afternoon softball would go cheer on the basketball team. When your team is battling back and forth with another state and you see fellow Missourians walking into the venue it truly empowers those on the field. Missouri took care of one another the entire week. When your buddies, teammates, and family members from Missouri start the Missouri cheer it gives the team competing a boost of energy and confidence; it empowers them. Missouri not only empowered their own teammates, they empowered the athletes of opposing teams. During a lopsided softball game against Washington, Team Missouri was well ahead of Team Washington early in the game. At the time, I was coaching third base when I hear our very own athletes in the dugout cheering on the opposing pitcher who was noticeably frustrated. It’s important to note that our Missouri athletes did this without being prompted to do so. If that was not enough they began trying to hit the ball to the opposing fielders to generate outs, so Washington could bat again.

Missouri showed pride in the way they won, and even lost. From showing good sportsmanship to keeping their heads held high after a tough loss, Missouri took pride in where they are from and the amount of work it took to get to this point. Pride is something that Missouri takes seriously, and it showed during the 2018 USA games. The games were not all about the medals or even competing. Missouri demonstrated pride in the way they carried themselves, how they appeared to others, and the impressions they left on other delegations. It was evident as a delegation we were proud to be part of Team Missouri. The yearlong adventure prior to the USA games the athletes are working to get in better shape, to raise thousands of dollars, to work on honing their skills to give them the best chance at competing on the national level. It’s easy to see why Team Missouri takes so much pride in where they come from.

Although Missouri was well represented in Seattle, in the end it’s more about Special Olympics as a whole. It’s about showing the world that although these athletes are unique they are still people and have the same abilities as everyone else does. The big picture is not only accepting each other for our differences but embracing them. The city of Seattle and the thousands upon thousands of volunteers from all over the US provided a great start to the inclusion revolution. As community members it’s our jobs to be the change. We don’t have to be on a national stage to show acceptance, it starts with our local area. In closing, remember the themes of the 2018 Special Olympics USA games, ‘choose to include’ and ‘rise with us.’