#SOMOAtHome Programs

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With the cancellation of all Special Olympics Missouri programming through May 31 due to COVID-19, SOMO staff has adapted their programming to continue providing athletes with opportunities to learn and be engaged, while also practicing safe social distancing.

SOMO Health & Wellness Manager Krista Dye said, “Originally the idea behind these videos started with a conversation (trying to come up with a health) challenge in place of (State) Indoor Games since we had to cancel.”

After discussions with other staff members, Brandon Schatsiek, director of communications & athlete leadership, said they came up with the idea behind #SOMOatHome.

Several SOMO athletes rose to the challenge and wanted to be a part of the videos so they could help other athletes during this time. SOMO staff left it up to the athlete-leaders on what they wanted to cover and teach their fellow athletes.

“The aspect about these videos that excites me the most is that (90 percent of them are) run by our athlete-leaders,” Schatsiek said.

“(Athletes and staff alike) all jumped at the opportunity because what they are teaching in these online sessions is what they’re taught in their (Athlete Leadership) classes,” Schatsiek said. “They already know all of this stuff, now it’s up to them to share it with the world.

“This is the real world experience that they’ve been looking for. We tell our athletes in the very first introduction to (Athlete Leadership) class … that (they’re) going to have a lot more opportunities now as an athlete-leader. They need to set a good example for their fellow athletes; this is the perfect way to do so.”

SOMO athlete-leaders knew that there would be a need among their friends to continue their workouts during this time and stepped up to the plate through #SOMOatHome programing.

“I wanted to be involved with these videos because it gives me something to do,” said Ashley Stribling, SOMO athlete-leader. “The coronavirus has not only affected my sports, but my job as well. So now I’m just stuck at home and this gives me the chance to help others.”

“I know what it’s like being stuck in the house, and I know if I am suffering, then others are too and I knew if there was a way I could help, I was going to do it.”

The health and wellness lessons cover a wide range of topics, including stretching, workouts, hydration, healthy cooking, hygiene, and even mental health.

Alyssa Cress, KC Metro area program director, said “I am going to be teaching athletes about how your mind can affect your performance, and how sports are not all physical, but that our mind does a lot for us when we compete.”

Shortly after the health and wellness classes began, other athlete-leaders, SOMO staff members, and volunteers started thinking about potential leadership and life skills courses that could be taught as a part of #SOMOatHome.

“We were coming up with ideas including topics like SMART Goals, teamwork and problem solving, communication tips and tricks, establishing better habits, and more,” Schatsiek said.

Through the SOMO Facebook channel and SOMO’s Zoom Teleconferencing account, there are at least three sessions for SOMO athletes to take part in every day. Health and wellness classes are at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., while leadership classes are scattered at different times based on the availability of the instructors.

Trish Lutz, SOMO’s vice president of programs, said there are many ways to communicate these days, so SOMO is trying to utilize those resources and create new opportunities to spread awareness with the goal to get as many athletes involved as possible.

“By offering these online videos, it broadens the scope with what we can offer people, especially with our Athlete Leadership program,” Lutz said. “It’s no different than college students nowadays taking classes online.”

SOMO staff felt it was important to utilize their athletes and encourage them to experience real-world leadership during this time. The staff wanted these programs to be for the athletes, but most importantly, to be run by the athletes as well.

“(Special Olympics is) their program,” Schatsiek said. “Let’s give them the reigns and see what they can do with it. We’ll support them if they need help, but they’re capable of a lot more than people think; this program is proving that point.”

Athlete-leader Allen Tobin said he wanted to give back to other athletes because Special Olympics has done so much for him.

“I wanted to be a part of the videos to help other athletes be active even though we aren’t doing anything or having our practices- to keep them in shape. This way they will be ready to go back to practices and competitions, and be healthier when we start up again.”

“The healthier you are; the better athlete you’re going to be.”

Athlete-leader, Lynna Hodgson, was already active when it came to promoting healthy tips and tricks through her personal social media channels. She was always posting health facts, healthy snacks, and leading exercises every Wednesday for SOMO’s #WellnessWednesday on its social media channels.

Lynna was known for her monthly “step challenges” where she would encourage her fellow athlete to take as many steps as they could in one month. She would track everyone’s progress on a leaderboard and create a community of encouragement around exercising and eating well.

#SOMOatHome was just one more way for Lynna and her friends to share their passion for health with her fellow athletes.

Lynn Shuffit, SOMO athlete-leader, said, “I think it’s important to reach out to other athletes right now because they are stuck in the house and really can’t do a whole lot.”

“This is a good time for us… to help athletes to show them how to do exercises in their homes as well as how to cook healthy meals to stay fit.”

Stribling said these videos not only help with the physical side but also with the social side of being quarantined.

“I think these videos are important because they get athletes up out of bed or off the couch and gets them up and moving and gives them something to look forward to,” Stribling said. “These videos also have given me the chance to make new friends.”

As of April 1, a little more than two weeks’ into the program, there have been a total of 33 classes covering a multitude of topics in health and wellness, and in leadership and life skills, with many more classes and topics still yet to come.

Dye stated her hope for this program moving forward is to eventually integrate it into the everyday SOMO programming.

“(In the future) it might not be the same amount of videos we are putting out now, but at least something once a week… to give our athletes that leadership role and continue putting the spotlight on them and showcasing all the talents that they have.”

Lutz said despite everything the organization has been through in the last year, the staff wasn’t going to shut down and wait for the pandemic to subside.

“We’ve been hit with many obstacles this last year between the tornado and this, but we’ve never let it stop us from being able to do what we need to do for our athletes and continuing to provide for our athletes.”

To see all updates related to the coronavirus, including past online learning sessions and a calendar of upcoming sessions, please visit www.SOMO.org/atHome on a regular basis.

2019 LETR John Michael Letz Award

The John Michael Letz Award is the highest honor given within the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award. The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run more than 30 years ago.

Previous recipients:

  • Ralph Biele
  • Rich Banahan
  • John Cira
  • Mary Branstetter
  • Randy Boehm
  • David Pudlowski
  • Janelle Waterman
  • Graham Burnley
  • Jim Moran
  • Jim McCart
  • Zim Schwartze
  • Tim Goebel
  • Randy Werner
  • Rick Hayes
  • Don Spears
  • Jim McNiell
  • Joseph Chapman
  • Jeff Cook
  • Mark Koeller
  • Mark Wieseman
  • Jeff Fugett
  • Steve Davis
  • Amanda Geno
  • Mary Wheeler
  • Lynn McClamroch

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:

  • Involved in the Torch Run for 13 years
  • Is involved in fundraising in both local and statewide fundraising events
  • Since becoming the agency coordinator for their department in 2009, the agency has raised $173,915
  • Has volunteered to hand out medals at both local and state events
  • Serves on the local Polar Plunge committee and has been instrumental in growing this event to where it is today
  • Attends the International LETR Conference whenever possible and brings back new ideas to implement at their agency
  • Serves on the LETR committee as the assistant region coordinator for their region
  • Serves on the “Crew” at all state events – doing whatever is needed to ensure everything goes well for the athletes
  • Has shared their passion for SOMO with their family – including their son who volunteers and serves as a Unified Partner for the local team in their city
  • In the words of his nominator “This nominee generously gives his time and takes great pride in the events he organizes, and has a strong dedication to the mission of SOMO.”
  • This nominee recently stepped out of his comfort zone and represented MO in the Final Leg for the World Summer Games

The 2019 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Mark Priebe – Springfield Police Dept.

Mark Priebe

Mark Priebe, right, carries the Flame of Hope during the Final Leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run before the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Challenge Days at the TLC

Editor’s note: This Challenge Day took place May 10, 2019. Less than two weeks later on May 22, an EF3 tornado tore through Jefferson City, destroying our athletic field and damaging the roof and most interior spaces at the Training for Life Campus. The campus is closed for extensive repairs which are expected to be completed in May 2020. Visit somocampus.org for updates on the #SOMORebuild.



On May 10, students from Delmar Cobble State School, Dogwood State School and Kirchner State School attended a Challenge Day held at the Special Olympics Missouri Training for Life Campus.

Challenge Days are a one-day event that have been designed specifically for people with severe and profound disabilities, who are often not able to compete in a rigorous sport program. Due to the need to offer more activities to this population, it has been a goal of Special Olympics Missouri to expand on their motor skills programs, including offering more events such as Challenge Days.

Special Olympics Missouri has planned Challenge Days at these schools for decades, but this was the first such event to take place at the new Training for Life Campus.

“The state school is for students with severely-handicapped needs,” said Shelly Stumbaugh, a teacher at Kirchner State School. “The Challenge Day is bringing different schools together and having the kids do their best, try different sports and have fun. We do a Challenge Day once a year with Special Olympics Missouri.”

Challenge Days consist of various activities in which participants take part either as an individual or on a team. Each participant is given the opportunity to play sports such as basketball, volleyball, T-ball, wheelchair races, bowling and bocce.

Special Olympics Missouri staff felt that there was a need when it came to providing services for individuals with severe disabilities. Challenge Days are designed specifically for this population so that they too can experience the joy of being an athlete.

“We try to be involved with them and they help us out,” Stumbaugh said. “They donate different things for us, they provide awards for the kids and T-shirts if possible. It’s just a great way to show the community the kids that have special needs and what they can do.”

While many individuals with intellectual and physical challenges can compete and excel in sports, many with severe disabilities miss out on the athletic experience because organizations and society as a whole haven’t prioritized their needs.

“Delmar Cobble has been involved with Challenge Day for about 30-some-odd years,” said Donna Davis, a teacher at Delmar Cobble State School. “I remember when we would do Challenge Day, … We would pick the kids up on Saturday morning and we would transport them to the stadium where they could participate in Special Olympics. But probably due to funding, we stopped that and then Special Olympics came to the school and then we called it Challenge Day.”

Mona Purvis, a family member of a Challenge Day participant, said, “(Susan Shaffer, Special Olympics Missouri’s Outreach Director) came to our school and we just held it one day where we had games. We didn’t get to travel but we always still had a Special Olympics day and they have since (my son has) been attending there back in 2006.”

Davis said, “So now that the physical abilities of the students have changed over the years, the activities have changed to … more activities that will allow them to participate at their level. Maybe not physically, but through fine motor skills.”

All activities are modified to meet their individual needs. For example, in bocce and bowling, a ramp is used to assist athletes when rolling the ball. These athletes are given the opportunity to experience the joy of sport.

With the opening of the Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City in September 2018, Special Olympics Missouri has been able to provide more services and resources, and host more programs for people with intellectual disabilities, such as Challenge Days. This facility is the first of its kind in the world, with the purpose of enriching the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities through sport, health and leadership opportunities. It was built to inspire a new drive in our athletes so that they may continue to develop their physical and social skills.

“In the past, Challenge Day has been at our school or at a park, and now we have the chance to come to this new facility and it’s just great because you’ve got a track, you’ve got the turf, you’ve got different things going on inside,” Stumbaugh said. “It’s just a fun time for the kids and a way for the community to see what we have here in Jeff City.”

Davis said that it was great for the parents to see the Training for Life Campus and all the activities their children got to participate in. She is hopeful that this will encourage the parents to get their kids involved in Special Olympics Missouri’s program.

“A lot of our kids don’t get involved in Special Olympics outside the school setting and so this may help some of the parents realize that, ‘Hey, there’s Special Olympics and my child can be involved in it and on their level and they’ve got this great facility to where my child can go and meet other individuals and participate in physical activities’.”

Through Challenge Days, all children, their families and people in the community can be a part of building an inclusive team together.

“Students with severely handicap needs are just like anyone else,” Stumbaugh said. “I mean they are people even though they may not communicate, they are very smart, they have feelings, they laugh, they cry just like everyone else.

“Just reach out and acknowledge that they are there. Talk to them and actually see what they can do. You’d be surprised.”

Inclusion Revolution: Building Friendships One Game at a Time

On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, Joplin High School hosted the first annual Inclusion Revolution. More than 200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities from Joplin, Lamar, and Stockton joined approximately 250 Joplin High School students for a day of inclusive activities.

The Inclusion Revolution was a collaboration between Special Olympics Missouri and Joplin High School. Joplin High School committee members included Nick Reid and Julie McCain (Special Education/Peer Buddies), Matt Hiatt (Athletic Director), Jason Barchak (School Resource Officer/Joplin PD), Dr. Stephen Gilbreth (Principal) and SOMO SW Area Program Manager, Jana Fornelli. Joplin High School had expressed interest in hosting an event at their school. Our goal was not only to have a fun event for our Special Olympics athletes; we really wanted to promote inclusiveness. It seemed fitting for an inclusive event since they have a strong Peer Buddy program at their school. As we met to discuss the event, it fell into place to host the event in October during National Bullying Prevention Month and it was Joplin High School Homecoming Week.

The morning began with a Pep Rally with performances from Joplin High School Cheerleader and Dance Teams and messages from Dr. Gilbreth, Joplin HS Principal and Chief Stewart, Joplin Police Department. Special Olympics athletes and their buddies rotated stations playing games, dancing, popcorn, sno-cones, face painting and fun. Participants took the pledge to Choose to Include by signing the banner. Sports stations included flag football, bocce, kickball, softball home run derby, cheerleading/dance, and pickle ball. Bocce was a sport that many of our athletes have played but not many of the High School students had played so it was fun to see the athletes share their knowledge.

The event was such a huge success and the committee is already working on the event for next year. It was a great opportunity to see inclusion in action. Participants were able to find that they had more things in common, than they thought. This can go a long way to learning that difference is just a normal part of life.

At the end of the day, the Joplin Basketball coach wanted to know how to get more involved. The Joplin High School basketball teams are now planning a basketball clinic for Special Olympics athletes. It is amazing to realize how one event can affect so many people and further the inclusion revolution movement.

SOMO partners with Mizzou, MU Health Care, UM System

DSC_9877.jpgCOLUMBIA, Mo. — On Nov. 6, Special Olympics Missouri announced a major statewide partnership with the University of Missouri, MU Health Care and the University of Missouri System.

“We are thrilled to begin this partnership,” said Susan Stegeman, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri. “We have barely scratched the surface in terms of how we can combine our resources in order to impact lives across the state. From volunteer engagement and internships to education opportunities and health and wellness services for our athletes, this partnership is truly a win-win.”

The partnership was announced on the heels of news that Special Olympics Missouri will hold its State Summer Games in Columbia in 2020 after hosting the games in Springfield for the previous three years. The new relationship will allow Special Olympics Missouri to tap into the statewide reach of MU, MU Health Care and the UM System.

The news was shared at the aquatic mezzanine inside the MU Recreation Complex, where SOMO athletes have competed previously and will continue to do so in the future. The partnership could include collaboration across the universities in areas such as business, medicine, education, social work, and human development and family science.

“We are honored to partner with Special Olympics Missouri, a collaboration that will provide our community with more opportunities to interact with this esteemed organization that is important to so many Missouri athletes and their families,” MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “Celebrating the achievements of all people, including those with intellectual disabilities, is central to our core values of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence. Furthermore, the breadth of Mizzou’s enterprise, from our scholarship to spirit of service, will bolster the success of this partnership.”

MU, as well as the UM System’s University of Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, already have deep ties to Special Olympics Missouri. For example, this fall marks the sixth semester that Special Olympics Missouri has consulted with the Novak Leadership Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism at MU. The College of Optometry at UMSL has provided vision screening and eyeglasses, sunglasses or sport goggles to SOMO participants. UM System organizations, particularly fraternities and sororities, have raised thousands for the organization over the years. Earlier this year, when a tornado tore through Jefferson City and damaged the state’s headquarters office and brand new Training for Life Campus, members of the baseball, wrestling and women’s basketball teams assisted with cleanup.

Jon Sundvold, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said the partnership dovetails with the university’s mission.

“The core mission of the university is education, and this partnership will add opportunities to extend those education possibilities,” said Sundvold, who also is president of the Missouri Junior Golf Foundation, which operates the first nine-hole course in the country especially designed to meet the unique needs of children and individuals with disabilities. “At the same time, this partnership will allow us to serve the people of this state, which we endeavor to do in all our activities.”

By partnering with the UM System, organizers hope to leverage the reach of the UM System to support Special Olympics Missouri in a multitude of ways.

“With campuses located in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis, the University of Missouri System is uniquely positioned to support the statewide reach of Special Olympics Missouri,” UM System President Mun Choi said. “I am excited to see where this partnership will lead.”

Brian Neuner, chief development and marketing officer for Special Olympics Missouri, said the collaboration could include a variety of direct engagements, such as giving business students experience working with a non-profit; providing athletes with fitness and wellness programs administered by health science students; or providing a platform for journalism students to tell engaging stories about athletes, coaches, families and volunteers.

“I view this partnership as one punctuated with possibility,” Neuner said. “There are so many volunteer opportunities at Special Olympics Missouri, and I’m excited to see the University of Missouri System answer this call for support. It is personally gratifying to see two organizations I love work together in support of individuals with intellectual disabilities. As a graduate of the University of Missouri, I have never been more proud of my alma mater.”

Special Olympics is one of the world’s largest sports organizations with nearly 5 million athletes in more than 172 countries. In Missouri, the organization serves 16,400 athletes competing in 16 sports, has 30,000 volunteers and 1,100 coaches. The organization aims to engage youth and adults with intellectual disabilities in activities designed to build community, increase confidence, improve health and teach them how to live independently.

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Drive it Home Raffle: Meet the Finalists!

DSC_6697 (Copy)The Drive It Home Raffle is a statewide promotion that directly benefits more than 16,000 Special Olympics Missouri athletes across the state. We are honored to work with our statewide partners to make this event a success: Missouri Automobile Dealers Association and Law Enforcement Torch Run.

IT’S A JEEP THING!  We are excited to share that Missouri Automobile Dealers Association has generously donated a 2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport 4×4 for our Drive it Home Raffle this year.

Update: The Grand Prize Drawing took place on Oct. 19. Kevin McClellan was the winner of the 2019 Jeep Wrangler! 

Here are the finalists:

Don Bernskoetter purchased four tickets from Raffle partner CMR Masonry. Don enjoys being and working on their family farm. His wife, Georgene often volunteers in the community and they look forward to attending the giveaway event. If they win the Jeep, they plan to enjoy driving it for a while and may sell it and donate the proceeds back to Special Olympics Missouri. Truly generous! Ticket #: 026856

John Mutz purchased 50 tickets from SOMO staff member Melody Prawitz at the East Hills Mall. In college he knew someone who was connected to Special Olympics, so he would join them for local events. If he wins the Jeep, he plans to take a road trip to visit people in other states that he has not seen for a while; after all that is what a Jeep owner does! Ticket #: 067650

Jimmy Andrews purchased 10 tickets from Candi Quaite, who also happens to be his wife’s mom. Jimmy is connected to Special Olympics through Candi and likes to volunteer to support her work. One of their vehicles recently broke down so he is excited about this awesome opportunity to replace that vehicle. If he wins the Jeep, he will give it to his wife to drive. Ticket #: 086084

Kevin McClellan and his wife, Debbie, have been connected to Special Olympics Missouri for several years. They participate in the Joplin Truck Convoy and are close friends with Robin Anderson, SOMO staff member. They enjoy traveling and supporting SOMO as well as other charitable causes. They purchased 120 tickets from Robin the week before the deadline! If they win the Jeep, they will tow it behind their motor home! Ticket #: 082551

Candace Cervantes purchased two tickets from Laura Thomas of Riverside Police Department at Riverside’s Loud and Local event. She is a nurse practitioner and tries to give back to the community as often as she can. She is excited about being an area finalist and looks forward to learning more about Special Olympics. If she wins the Jeep, she MAY give it to her 16-year-old! Ticket #: 023541

Cynthia Bradshaw purchased two tickets at Chimi’s Restaurant Tip-A-Cop in Overland. Her and her husband frequent the restaurant. She volunteers in the community and hopes to do more with Special Olympics Missouri in the future. When asked what she would do if she won the Jeep, her response was: “Drive it.” Ticket #: 044648

Sue Schwoeppe purchased eight tickets from one of our Raffle Partners, Treloar Bar and Grill. Her sister owns the business. Being selected as a finalist surprised her, since she does not win things very often. She volunteers in the community and is looking forward to learning more about Special Olympics Missouri. As Jeep fans, they currently own one, so a new Jeep Wrangler will be a nice addition to the family. Ticket #: 037767

Laura Speed Elliott Middle School students raise money for Special Olympics through coin wars

On May 22, an EF3 tornado tore through Jefferson City, destroying our athletic field and damaging the roof and most interior spaces at the Training for Life Campus.

Due to the extensive damage, the students and staff at Laura Speed Elliott Middle School in Boonville participated in a Coin War to raise money for Special Olympics Missouri.

 During the Coin War, six SOMO athletes were invited to come and share their talents. Laura Speed Elliott Middle School enjoyed watching the athletes and learning more about this great organization. The students and staff donated several coins and $1,068.52 (including two larger donations from W-K Boonville and Equipment Share) was raised to be donated to help SOMO rebuild. Students celebrated with an assembly including a bid check presentation with SOMO staff members and a speech from SOMO athlete and Hall of Famer, Robb Eichelberger.

robb at coin wars

Below is a Q&A with the school’s principal, Leslie Reardon, a teacher at the school, Laurie Painter, and student, Maggie Schuster.

Why did you all chose to do this fundraiser?

Principal Reardon (PR): I was listening to Clear99 when they did their radioathon for Jeff city and its victims. I was able to listen to a lady share about the new building and the damage done to it. We had wanted our students to give back with a project during summer school and this looked like a great fit.

What did the fundraiser consist of/how did it work?

Maggie (MS): It was a coin war. The coins are positive and bills are negative. We brought in coins and had bins with teacher’s names on them.  You put your coins in the teacher’s bin who you wanted to get a pie in the face.

Ms. Painter (MP): The way I won: The teacher with the most money at the end of the 3 days would get a pie in the face.  Obviously, the students loved me (or wanted to see me get a pie in the face) and put almost $200 in my bucket.  I then got, not one but two pies in the face.  It was so much fun!!!

Why did you/the students pick SOMO? 

PR: We have several staff who volunteer with Special Olympics, as well as staff and students who work with individuals with intellectual disabilities. I knew this would be a cause everyone would rally for.

What does it mean to the students? 

PR: The students loved it. We had 6 adults who participate in Special Olympics come share and show their talents. The students cheered them on and that gave us goosebumps hearing our students cheer the 6 adults with disabilities on. The students got so fired up, the money kept coming in on Thursday even though the Coin War was over Wednesday.

MS: It made us happy and thankful that we were able to help out.  We like to be helpful when we can help out with things like this.

What did the students learn about SOMO through this process? 

PR: Besides having the six athletes visit, we had coaches share about their experience. We also had Robb Eichelberger talk about being a Hall of Famer and the students watched several video clips shared with us by SOMO staff member Crystal Schuster.

MS: Yes, we learned that there are more than 16,000 athletes in Special Olympics Missouri and we learned that Robb Eichelberger played a lot of different sports and he told us the things he does to prepare himself for events.

About how many students/teachers participated in this fundraiser?  

PR: We had 100 students and 15 staff members participate. Plus, we had two local business also contribute (W-K Boonville $200 and Equipment Share $350).

coin war

Why is Special Olympics Special to you? 

MS: Because I enjoy seeing all the athletes working so hard to win and achieve all their goals that they have set.  It really puts a smile on my face when they are smiling and having fun while competing in the sports they love.  My friend, Jillian, competes and I have met many other friends in Special Olympics – like Sarah Byland, Robb Eichelberger, and Morgan.

MP: I chose to be part of the fundraiser because Special Olympics has always been important to me.  I was raised with an aunt that had down syndrome and I loved to spend time with her.  She was always so happy and loving.  She participated in Special Olympics when I was a kid and she absolutely loved it. Being part of the fundraiser meant a lot to me.  I really did it as an honor to my Aunt Carolyn that passed away a few years ago.  It brought back great memories of her.

Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid Supports Special Olympics Missouri

Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has partnered with Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) to promote the statewide organization through a series of public service announcements.

“I believe in this organization and the positive work it does to help thousands of people across the state of Missouri,” said Reid. “The athletes’ dedication, effort and positive attitude are an inspiration to so many people, including me.”

The first installment of PSAs features five Special Olympics athletes along with Coach Reid explaining the impact of a tornado on SOMO’s Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City. In one version, Coach Reid calls on “Chiefs Kingdom and all Missourians” to find out how they can get involved in supporting the reconstruction of the campus by directing them to SOMOcampus.org.

“Coach Reid’s messages come at a crucial time as we begin to repair the damages from the tornado,” said SOMO President & CEO Susan Stegeman. “We appreciate his support as he helps bring awareness to our athletes and our program needs.”

There are radio and television versions available, as well as photos from the PSA taping. Media outlets across the state are encouraged to run it on their stations. Additional versions, with the overall focus on SOMO’s mission, will be available in the coming months. Coach Reid also taped direct messages for Special Olympics Missouri athletes, volunteers and coaches.

Athlete-Leader guest post: My experience at the United Nations

This blog post was written by athlete-leader and SOMO board of directors member Jared Niemeyer. In June, Niemeyer attended the United Nations 12th Conference of State Parties to the Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). Below he recounts his experience at the UN and why he thinks the Special Olympics movement can make a huge difference around the world.

UN picture of Jared at microphone

What if, because of your intellectual or physical disability, you weren’t allowed to attend school, to get a job, or even participate in your community?  Many developing countries do not have policies like we do in the United States, thanks to the American Disabilities Act.

Many people do not have the same opportunities that we do. In the United States we have the opportunity for an inclusive education, competitive employment and unified living in our communities. I’m so grateful for the opportunities we have as citizens in the United States. It’s important that we work together to keep and promote those rights for every person in every country. I can’t imagine never having the opportunities I’ve had – in school, at work, in my community, as a voter, and as a Special Olympics athlete, because those things have all made me a better version of myself. I want every person to have those opportunities, so that everyone can reach their full potential.

Special Olympics promotes awareness and inclusion in 172 countries. Special Olympics works with more than 5 million athletes,  and 1 million coaches and volunteers around the world.  Special Olympics promotes inclusion and a sense community through sports; it promotes that every individual should be accepted, regardless of their ability. Together we can make our world a better place by working and playing unified. This is what is done around the world and in every community where there are Special Olympics athletes and programs!

On June 10, 2019, I had the opportunity to be one of five Special Olympics athletes allowed to speak in New York City at the United Nations 12th Conference of State Parties to the Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).  The panel topic was “The Revolution is Inclusion: Sport as a Catalyst for Social Inclusion.”

The moderator was Dustin Plunkett, a Special Olympics athlete from California, who is alive today because of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program.  Plunkett served as a commentator with ESPN during World Games and at other Special Olympics events!  The other panelists were Nyasa Derera of Zimbabwe, Emanuelle de Souze of Brazil, Tajha Ilerant of Florida and Chaica Al Qassimi of the United Arab Emirates.

It was an honor to get acquainted with each of these athletes and work together to share our perspective on inclusion.  Without the experience of inclusive opportunities, we would not be able to share with those at the U.N. our perspective on why disability policy is critical for every country to offer its citizens.  The disabled population is a valuable resource in every community; every one of us has something to offer!  Each individual can impact their world in a positive way if just given the opportunity to shine.

I’m so grateful that Special Olympics strives to impact our world through focusing on every individual’s ABILITIES and fights for inclusion every day.  Thank you Special Olympics for the opportunities you promote for athletes around the world – so that we can learn and grow through new experiences, gain new skills, be empowered to advocate for ourselves and for others, and to work together to make our world a better place!

You can watch my United Nations panel discussion here.

You can also read more about my experiences at the UN in this story my local newspaper wrote about me.

Panel, missing Dustin Plunkett


Special Olympics Missouri receives designation as an official Healthy Community

On Thursday, July 18, Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) received designation as an official “Healthy Community!” SOMO is now one of 19 organizations internationally recognized by Special Olympics International (SOI) with this distinction. This is a huge accomplishment for SOMO.

“Special Olympics Missouri is committed to ensuring those with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to thrive in every area of their life,” said Meagan Davis, SOMO Health & Wellness Manager. In our first year as a Healthy Community we have had the opportunity to develop and implement new programs, increase the number of free health screenings we provide, and incorporate overall health and wellness into every area of Special Olympics. We look forward to continuing to develop and grow our programs and community partnerships to ensure we are doing our part to create overall inclusive healthy communities for all.”

The Healthy Community grant is comprised of a three-year grant cycle in which SOMO will receive $50,000 annually for three years by striving to meet six criteria presented by SOI. In year one, SOMO fully met all six criteria distinguishing SOMO as a Healthy Community. Criterion five states that 20% of athletes in our geographical focus area have to be enrolled in on-going 6- 8 week health & wellness programs. Unlike other states, because of the Training for Life Campus, SOMO slated the geographical area as the entire state. Most states and international programs just have a smaller urban or rural focus group, making this an even greater accomplishment for Missouri!

This means that SOMO had to have a minimum of 978 athletes in on-going health & wellness programs during year one. In 2018, SOMO had 1,005 enrolled in on-going 6-8 week heath & wellness programs.

SOMO also has to provide at least three Healthy Athletes screening disciplines per year with a minimum of 150 screenings within the geographical area. In 2018, SOMO fully met these criteria with 1,457 screenings provided. SOMO worked diligently to make sure that athletes not only had access to screenings, but were also linked to follow-up care through the referral program. SOI indicated that most programs do not fully meet all criteria until year two or year three, and that becoming a Healthy Community in year one is extremely impressive.

“To know that more individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout Missouri are living healthier lives because they have access to health & wellness opportunities provided by Special Olympics, is one of our organization’s greatest accomplishments,” said Mary Niswonger, SOMO Partnership Director.

Please contact Meagan Davis at 573-819-6203, or Mary Niswonger at 573-579-6040, for more information.