Allison D’Agostino named SOMO Athlete of the Year, other athletes honored

All of the athletes below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 17 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Leadership Conference.

Allison D’Agostino, NAMED BEST IN STATE
Allison D’Agostino doesn’t seek the limelight everywhere she goes, but somehow it finds her. It’s the nurturing way she shares her skills and knowledge with the other athletes she trains and competes with that sets her apart. It wouldn’t be odd to find Allison working with another athlete to help them understand a swim stroke or retrieving their bowling ball. She is a very giving person. At 25 years old, Allison has been able to build up her confidence level through Special Olympics. This confidence brought her from just training in aquatics to competing and gaining in her skill. This same confidence has allowed her to live alone for four years and start not one but two media outlets on her own. Allison has her own YouTube Channel called The Esperanza243 and conducts a radio show on BlogTalkRadio.com called Show Time, Radio Time. These experiences led her to be selected to be trained as a Global Messenger and she had her first speaking engagement at the Polar Plunge in Columbia. As part of a new communications project at SOMO, Allison was selected to be the first host of the brand new SOMO TV Show (SOMO.org/TV). All these things that Allison does are on top of holding a full-time job at Wendy’s. She is a model employee and shows her independence by making sure she gets to and from work on time. She is also one to help with the Central Area through fundraising, speaking in front of groups or whatever is needed.

Michael Lunceford
Michael Lunceford is a quiet and unassuming young man who has been participating in Special Olympics for six years. In that time, Michael has grown as a person who is willing to learn, work hard and do everything he can to help his team. Michael plays several sports including basketball, track & field, golf and bocce. His favorite by far though is bowling. Michael is very diligent about coming to practice and working hard. That diligence paid off when Michael was selected for Team Missouri for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey. While there, he received two gold medals and a 4th place ribbon. Michael’s perseverance in Special Olympics has paid off in other areas of Michael’s life. While in high school, he won several state awards for his wood working projects. He loves to play the drums and got to play them in a special education production of “The Lion King.” Michael is currently a part of a transition program between his school and a local medical center where he is working on job and life skills. He is also currently working with his father volunteering for Missouri Town, an historic village in Jackson County, as a “tin smith.” He is able to talk to visitors and tell them exactly what it is they are making and the methods they are using. Special Olympics has given Michael the self-confidence to work hard and be as independent as possible. It has not only taught him athletic skills but also life skills. It has taught him what it means to be a part of a team.

Becca Tincknell — St. Louis Metro Area
Becca Tincknell has been contributing to Special Olympics Missouri since she first joined the program at the age of seven. She currently competes in bowling, basketball, softball, flag football, athletics and bocce – an all-around athlete! But she is always willing to try new sports: When asked to fill a tennis slot for the 2003 World Games in Dublin, she had never played the sport before but took a year’s worth of lessons and returned home with a gold medal. She was also proud to represent Team Missouri at the 2014 USA Games, winning a gold, silver and fourth-place ribbon in bocce. She is trained as a Global Messenger and is a reliable and entertaining speaker and volunteer at events and fundraisers. After competing in the 2014 USA Games as a bocce player, Becca is now participating in bocce practices with her team as an official, allowing her to focus more closely on the game. She not only shares her strategy with her fellow players, but also learns more about the game in the process. She was recently featured in the Jefferson County Leader as its “Athlete of the Week” and was selected as one of two athletes to be on a billboard with Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams, promoting their partnership with Special Olympics Missouri.

Lonnie Thornton — Southwest Area
Lonnie Thornton has been participating in Special Olympics for 13 years, and this past year has been an incredible one for him. Last summer, Lonnie attended the USA Games in New Jersey. He competed in bocce and earned gold, silver and bronze medals. Don’t challenge him to a game of bocce unless you are prepared to lose, because he is very good! While at the Games, Lonnie was able to do something he has always wanted to do — see the Statue of Liberty. He said this was the best time of his life since the accident that left him with a disability. Lonnie was also featured on a billboard in his community for his achievements as well as led the Athlete’s Oath at the State Outdoor Games. Lonnie previously competed at the 2006 National Games in Iowa. He also competes in basketball, bowling and softball. Lonnie is well known at SOMO and in his community. Staff, coaches, volunteers and other athletes enjoy being around him because he is always friendly, smiling or cracking a joke. Go anywhere with Lonnie in his community and someone he knows always stops to chat or ask how he is doing. He is never shy to express how much he appreciates and loves Special Olympics.

Brianne Chavez — Southeast Area
Brianne Chavez has participated in Special Olympics sports since graduating high school in 2005. She has played softball, basketball, soccer, track and powerlifting. In 2008, Brianne received the Southeast Area Outstanding Athlete award along with the discovery of powerlifting. Not only has she done well at State Summer Games competitions, Brianne has set APA (American Powerlifting Association) national and world records for the Special Olympics women’s division in 148 lb. and 165 lb. classes as well as 22-23 year old women’s division in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, she earned a spot on Team Missouri’s USA Games Unified Softball Team. In 2014, she qualified as a powerlifter for Team Missouri, excelling in many events. All her time in the gym training paid off as she achieved two personal best weights in the squat and the deadlift. She received state and national attention as she received four gold medals in the following lifts: bench press, squat, deadlift and combination. Brianne is one dedicated athlete and never misses an opportunity to train. She is a great person and definitely leads by example.

James Ross — North Area
James Ross is an athlete who has an outstanding personality; he always finds the good in any situation. One of James’s main assets is that he has the ability to get the most out of those around him by being himself and showing his wonderful positive attitude. He does this by being a team player. James currently participates in basketball, bowling, bocce, softball and track and field. He is known in the community as a go-getter and will volunteer for the local fundraisers helping his teammates. James will offer to help load a truck, move tables and chairs and lend a helping hand to anyone. He has the knack for seeing what needs to be done and doing it. He also has a knack of reading people and knowing when they need a pat on the back, an encouraging word, a smile or just someone to listen. James likes to spend time watching sports with his fellow teammates; he is an enthusiast when it comes to sports. James is a positive role model to his teammates and other athletes and a great advocate for Special Olympics. He is constantly recruiting his friends to play on a team or recruiting people to sponsor or volunteer for Special Olympics. He just recently took the Global Messenger training so that he can tell his story of what Special Olympics means to him. He currently serves as a team captain and an assistant coach to his team due to an injury that keeps him from playing basketball and softball. James never misses a meeting or an event and is there to cheer on his teammates and other athletes.

Missouri State Parks receives highest SOMO honor

(Jefferson City) Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, was recognized for its outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri at the 2015 SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 17 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Past honorees have included Missouri Association of Student Councils, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers and more.

You might have heard of a little event we like to call the Polar Plunge (SOMO.org/Plunge). Three of our Plunges are at state parks in Kirksville, Cape Girardeau and Lake of the Ozarks. Without the support of the Missouri State Parks, these plunges would not be possible.

Not only do they provide the lakes to make this event possible, but they manage parking needs, staff serve on the planning committees, provide tents, the Show Mobile, rangers, people to set up and tear down the event and the marina at the Lake of the Ozarks to house our Super Plungers on their 24-hour plunging adventure.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Lake of the Ozarks Polar Plunge and Missouri State Parks/DNR have been involved every year from the beginning! In the last 19 years, the Lake of the Ozarks event has raised $2.2 million! The Kirksville event started in 2006 and has raised $204,000 and the Cape Girardeau event began in 2007 and has raised $328,000. The overall impact these three events have had in the last 20 years is $2.7 million!

Col. John Hoover from the Missouri State Parks Rangers was in attendance to accept the award.

Col. John Hoover from the Missouri State Parks Rangers was in attendance to accept the award.

Through this partnership, the Governor’s 100 Missouri Miles was born in 2013 and kicked off at the Special Olympics State Summer Games which challenged our athletes to take part. Team Missouri used the Governor’s 100 Missouri Miles as a training tool for the 2014 USA Games with one athlete recording more than 1,000 miles.
In 2014, when we came to them with the idea to hold a 100-plus mile multi-day cycling event they did not hesitate to help with the planning and execution of our first Cycle for the Future.

The Missouri State Parks staff goes above and beyond to support Special Olympics and our athletes.

It is an honor to recognize the Missouri State Parks – a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as our Award of Excellence winner for 2014.

Training for Life Campus to be Built in Jefferson City

(Jefferson City) After meeting on Saturday, Jan. 17 to review the bids for the Training for Life Campus (TLC) from Columbia and Jefferson City, the Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) Board of Directors made a unanimous decision to enter into an agreement with Jefferson City officials to locate the 44,000-sq.-foot Training for Life Campus on the 15.5 acres donated by Farmer Holding Company and Twehous Excavating. “We really want to commend both cities on the bids they put forward,” said SOMO Board Chairman Dr. Phil Cook. “It has been a long process, but through it all it has shown us just how lucky we are to have two amazing communities who support our program and athletes, while looking for ways to grow our partnerships even more. “The decision to locate the TLC in Jefferson City was based in large part due to the Jefferson City proposal allowing the campus to truly be a place for our athletes to call their own. We’ve said from day one that was important to us now and 50 years in the future. The ability to own the land in Jefferson City versus leasing it in Columbia in a partnership with Columbia Parks and Recreation was an important difference.”

From left, Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph, Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Randy Allen, SOMO athlete Derek Sandbothe, SOMO Board Chairman Dr. Phil Cook and SOMO CEO/President Mark Musso all pose for a photo following the announcement Jan. 20.

From left, Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph, Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Randy Allen, SOMO athlete Derek Sandbothe, SOMO Board Chairman Dr. Phil Cook and SOMO CEO/President Mark Musso all pose for a photo following the announcement Jan. 20.

Jefferson City Mayor Eric J. Struemph said, “We are very pleased and excited Special Olympics Missouri has selected Jefferson City as its new location for the Training for Life Campus. This project has truly been a great partnership between many entities all working together toward a great project that will have a big impact on our community. The cooperation between the City of Jefferson, Cole County, Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, developers, healthcare providers and business leaders all coming together to bring resources and support makes this project a great win for the Jefferson City area and Special Olympics Missouri.” When finding out Jefferson City won the bid, Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes said, “There is very little in life as inspiring and joyful as Special Olympics. We are disappointed not to play host to Special Olympics Missouri to be sure, but certainly happy for our friends in Jefferson City as we know how lucky they are to get this wonderful organization.” “We are disappointed that Columbia wasn’t chosen,” said Mike Griggs, director of Columbia Parks and Recreation. “We feel that Columbia presented an excellent option and we’re proud of the work that was done by everyone who assisted with this proposal. The Columbia Parks and Recreation will continue to be a strong and supportive partner for Special Olympics Missouri and look forward to hosting some of their larger events.” Despite Columbia not winning the bid, SOMO President and CEO Mark Musso said he is confident the Columbia program will continue to “be one of the strongest in the state” thanks in large part to the partnership with Columbia Parks and Recreation. “SOMO continues to host area competitions in Columbia and has enjoyed a long history of successful games there at the area, regional and state level,” Musso said. “Columbia Parks and Rec’s facilities will continue to be utilized by the local program and SOMO will strongly consider the return of regional and state games to Columbia with the additional Parks and Rec facilities in Phillips Park and Gans Creek Recreation Area.” The site for the TLC will be located at the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 54 and Missouri Highway 179. It will be the first facility of its kind in the world built for the sole purpose of improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. The current capital campaign for the TLC is well on its way to raising the $12.5 million needed to build the facility. The SOMO Board of Directors has said from the beginning that construction on the campus will not begin until the full $12.5 million has been raised. Currently the campaign is more than half way to that goal with the expectation to reach the final goal in 2016 and commence construction thereafter. With the additional 4-plus acres (compared to the 11.2 acres previously purchased by SOMO south of Columbia on U.S. Highway 63) it will now allow the construction of a full softball field instead of just a softball infield as previously discussed. It will also now have enough space for a walking trail on the outer edge of the campus. Staffing for the new building is expected to grow from 15 people currently to 30.

This is a rough sketch of what the Training for Life Campus COULD look like.

This is a rough sketch of what the Training for Life Campus COULD look like.

“We want to thank Farmer Holding Company and Twehous Excavating for donating the land, elected officials, civic and business leaders who collectively came and made clear how much they wanted the campus in Jefferson City, including Chamber CEO Randy Allen and Mayor Eric J. Struemph,” Musso said. “The forming of the Healthy Athletes Steering Committee comprised of hospital and health officials and the president of Lincoln University impressed us with their commitment to the overall health of the athletes and how SOMO is more than just about sports.” “Another committee formed to bring us to Jefferson City was the Civic Progress sub-committee for the TLC comprised of presidents from Jefferson City banks and an Ameren Missouri executive to help us reach our $12.5 million goal.”

Athletes will have their own entrance into the building.

Athletes will have their own entrance into the building.

Circle drive approach to the building

Circle drive approach to the building

Interior view with the LETR torch in the center

Interior view with the LETR torch in the center

Main entry

Main entry

2014 – John M. Letz Award Winner


The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of 1recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri. It is characterized as our unsung hero award.

The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after Mr. Letz because of his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept. and who died from cancer. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today raising over $170,000 since its inception.  The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 28 years ago.

                                                                           2014 – Letz Award Winner: Jeff Fugett

There is certain criteria required in order to be considered for this award. The individual nominated must be responsible for significant fundraising results. They must participate in year-round support, exemplify the Special Olympics mission, and be a visionary for the Torch Run. Most importantly, they must have a source of motivation that comes from helping the athletes and who shows sustained commitment over a period of time.

We have many individuals 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. They are usually in the background working to do more – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award.

This year’s recipient has many 2accomplishments that are appreciated amongst many.

They have been involved in the Torch Run since 2000 and first participated as a runner. In 2007, they were chosen as the Missouri Final Leg Runner in China. They serve in the area as a key volunteer and is the “go to person” whenever there is a need for more volunteers, food, gym space, and/or sponsors.

Serving on committees is something that they are welcome to doing. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they have served for 8 years on the Games Management Team for the State Summer Games, served on the Polar Plunge committee for 5 years, and served as an Agency Coordinator since 2004.3

Their service has been both successful and encouraging. For instance, this individual served as the Chairman last year for the Polar Plunge and recruited another host agency for the event. They helped to raise over $225,000 while serving as an Agency Coordinator. Also, they serve as Asst. Region Coordinator which enables them to work with recruiting and growing the LETR family in the area and to mentor others along the way.

This individual has willingly traveled outside the area to volunteer for SOMO events and has even traveled to a neighboring state to help fellow law enforcement friends.

As if that wasn’t enough, they have been a SOMO certified coach in basketball for the past 10 years. This has led them to represent Team Missouri’s by being the basketball coach at the last two USA Games.

Due to their continuing involvement mentioned above, they were recently recognized as4 the SOMO Volunteer of the Year in 2013.

In the words of his nominators: “This recipient served as my mentor in helping introduce me to athletes during competition. No matter what he’s doing, he always takes the time to stop and make a personal connection with athletes at events.”

On behalf of Special Olympics Missouri, we are honored to present the 2014 John M. Letz Award to a person who makes a big difference to their agency, to LETR, and to SOMO’s athletes, and half of the famed “water crew.”

Congratulations to our “Unsung Hero” – Jeff Fugett – MSHP Troop D.

Venturing Into the Unknown

Special Olympics Missouri has a way of impacting the lives of those who are involved with the organization.  Gary Brimer, a staff member who celebrated his 20th year on staff on Halloween, was impacted long before he became a staff member in 1994.

“I fell in love with Special Olympics in 1976.  I was a coach, an area committee member, a board member, a volunteer area director, and a Unified Partner way before I became a paid staff member,” Brimer said.

Among all of the mentioned roles, Brimer proclaims that his fondest memories came from his coaching days.Gary & BB Team

Gary & Friends“I loved my teams.  They put me on a pedestal from the day I met them and all I did was be a coach and a friend.  How could you not fall in love with these athletes?” Brimer said.

Due to the love and support Brimer received from his teams, he was willing to take on a new venture that was presented to him during his coaching days.  Special Olympics Missouri would be taking a floor hockey team to the 1989 International Winter Games to be held in Reno, Nev.  Brimer had recent experience when it came to coaching athletes at an international level.  In 1987, he had taken a softball team to the International Summer Games in South Bend, Ind., and finished in second place.  However, the game of floor hockey was a new concept.

Brimer knew that he would need assistance and therefore asked the Special Olympics Missouri community for help.

“Sister Barb, a nun from St. Louis had been coaching floor hockey for some years.  She had taken her mentally disabled teams to tournaments in Canada where the best floor hockey was played – as you can imagine.  She offered to bring some of her athletes all the way to Boonville (a 2 hour drive) to show us how to play,” Brimer said.

Sister Barb and her athletes’ willingness to help was greatly appreciated by both Brimer and his athletes.

“She was very gracious.  Even after we told her that we wanted to go to the International Games – which she was expecting to take her team to – she still gave us her used equipment to practice with.  They ran us through drills and even scrimmaged with us for a while,” Brimer said.

Brimer and his athletes immediately took interest in the game of floor hockey.  However, they only had six weeks to prepare while in the midst of completing basketball season.  The chances of winning the upcoming state tournament weren’t great.  The little amount of preparation time did not deter the team’s ambition, though.

“I knew I had to be optimistic with the team.  I just told them that we were a good team and that good teams beat more experienced teams all the time.  I also said that everyone there would have to play 110 percent better than they ever had before,” Brimer said.

Sure enough, Brimer’s optimistic viewpoint paid off.

“We won, but I’ll never know how.  The boys stepped up like I asked them to and carried us to victory.  I’ll never forget shaking Sister Barb’s hand.  As she congratulated me, she told me that she would send us the St. Louis Blues jerseys that they had already received,” Brimer said.

While Sister Barb was previously helping Brimer and his athletes learn the game of floor hockey, she mentioned that every state with National Hockey Teams would receive jerseys for their athletes to wear during the International Winter Games.

Sister Barb’s act of kindness wasn’t the only one that Brimer and his athletes received.  The Special Olympics Missouri community worked hard and was able to help raise funds for new floor hockey equipment, uniforms and trip expenses.

When it was time for the International Winter Games, the travel to the Games was just as new and exciting as the preparation aspect.

“Only a couple of the boys had flown before.  We knew that we were in for a treat,” Brimer said.

As is expected with anyone’s first time flying, nerves were high.  However, the athletes quickly became comfortable with the idea of flying and were ready to compete.

“The games began and we played well.  We ended up in third place. By not beating Canada, we had to play for 3rd or 4th and we handedly beat a team from New York for the bronze in a score of 6 to 1,” Brimer said.

After all of the hard work that was done in preparation for the new venture of floor hockey, Brimer’s athletes were eager to celebrate.  They celebrated in the hotel’s game room where they won lots of super-sized stuffed animals.

“My first thought was where will we pack these?” Brimer said.

Brimer opted to ship the prizes back home for his athletes.

Super-sized stuffed animals weren’t the only prizes that Brimer and his athletes were taking back home with them after competing.  Instead, everyone who helped Special Olympics Missouri take a floor hockey team to the 1989 International Winter Games in Reno, Nev., were able to learn from the preparation and excitement that comes from an unknown venture.

With new ventures, lives are capable of being impacted.Gary & Athlete

“The best part of my 20 plus years is of course the athletes and how much I learn from them every day.  The friendships that I have made by my involvement with Special Olympics Missouri will last forever,” Brimer said.

Even though ventures may seem intimidating at first glance, it’s evident that new ventures can be just as impactful.  Volunteering for an organization that you’re passionate about will likely have the same effect on you; and perhaps that organization is Special Olympics Missouri.

If you would like more information regarding upcoming volunteer opportunities, please visit our website at www.somo.org/volunteer.

The perfect volunteers: An athlete-to-athlete bond

Finding the so-called perfect group of volunteers is not easy. It’s important that they are dedicated, easy-going, hard-working and most important, dependable. For SOMO Central Area Program Director Diane Brimer, however, that perfect group fell in her lap a few years ago.

“I had gotten contacted by Westminster Student Athlete Advisory Council staff who was interested in getting (its students) involved with Special Olympics,” Brimer said. “So when I got ready to do my bowling tournament in Fulton, I contacted them just to see if I could just get some of the students to come out … what they decided to do is take this event and now this is their event that they volunteer for.”

Between the different sports teams at Westminster, Brimer said she has enough volunteers to cover six different sessions of her Area Bowling Tournament in Fulton every fall.

“One of the greatest things is that I can make one contact and then they are recruiting the volunteers for me, so I can put my efforts into preparing for the event,” Brimer said. “That partnership is helping me make it happen and put my efforts and time into other things that make the tournament a success. It’s been great.”

While the idea was passed down from the SAAC at Westminster, the respective coaches of the teams involved have embraced the volunteering philosophy.

“We’ve done it for a few years now… the kids really enjoy it,” said Denny Hughes, Westminster’s baseball coach. “It’s a great opportunity for them.”

Hughes said volunteerism is something he tries to instill in all of his players as being an integral part of being not just on the team, but as a functioning member of society as well.

“We are more than happy to come out,” Hughes said. “We wanted to do community service within our baseball program any way and this gave us a great opportunity to do so.

“I think any time that you can expose anybody to volunteerism — not just your athletes, but anybody to volunteerism — it gets addictive for them. We know that volunteerism is really what makes our country thrive and so it’s a part of their educational process.”

After a few years of being involved in this process, the student-athletes view volunteering as just one more thing that is expected of them as is going to class and practice. They revel in that opportunity to get out and give back.

“One thing I think it just helps community wealth; it builds it up,” said Ryan Loethen, a junior baseball player at Westminster.

Another aspect for the athletes isn’t so much on the personal level, but what it does for the team as well.

“I think what we get out of this as a team would be just interacting with other people and being involved in something more than yourself,” Loethen said. “Just taking time out of your day to help people, that’s the main thing that coach wants us to experience.”

Even though most Special Olympics Missouri events are only one or two days a year, Loethen and Hughes said the impact for them can last much longer.

“I know some of my teammates have really bonded with some of the other athletes,” Loethen said. “One of my teammates got involved more than just bowling back in their hometown.”

Hughes said, “Giving of yourself is probably the greatest reward you can give to yourself. … The guys talk about it for a long time, so it has a great impact on them.”

Brimer realizes how lucky she is to have the Westminster student-athletes and isn’t planning on letting them stop volunteering anytime soon.

“We’ve had some great group leaders and faculty advisors throughout the years and I hope it never ends,” Brimer said with a smile. “I really don’t.”

The Beginning of New Adventures

The beginning of a new adventure often brings forth emotions of thrill and excitement. Special Olympics Missouri athlete, Gabe Metzger of Cape Girardeau and his family are at the forefront of such emotions with their recent involvement with Special Olympics.

Gabe has only been competing for a year thus far. However, he appears to have an interest that will last for a lifetime.

“When Gabe gets involved, he does not mess around,” said Southeast Area Director, Penny Williams. “He gets completely involved. He has had so many opportunities in such a short period of time – he is all about it!”

The first opportunity where Gabe could get involved was at the Area Spring Games held in Cape Girardeau.

“He began this event, the way many Special Olympics athletes dream of starting the event, by running the ceremonial torch in the Opening Ceremony,” Williams said.

This experience alone would have been memorable for any athlete. It was extra special for the Metzger family because it allowed Cape Girardeau P.D. officer father Ty, to run with his Special Olympics Missouri athlete son, Gabe.

“What an honor and a privilege it was for both of us to get to do this,” Ty said.
Gabe’s first experience was indeed unique for him and his family, but those memorable moments for the Metzger family kept on coming.

Gabe Metzger poses for a photo on the award stand after receiving three gold medals at the Cape Girardea Area Swim Meet.

Gabe Metzger poses for a photo on the award stand after receiving three gold medals at the Cape Girardea Area Swim Meet.

It was at Gabe’s SOMO area swim meet where he received three gold medals. Once again, this alone would have been a memorable achievement for any athlete, but there was more.

“To make the day even better, was that his teachers from Jackson and his sisters were all there to support him,” Williams said. “He was so fired up that he even swam extra laps. Gabe’s face was lit with excitement as he knew, and understood, that all those people were there just for him.”

When asked, Gabe and his father said, “This was the best day!”

Gabe’s support does not end with his family and friends. It can also be felt among the local community.

He was lucky enough to be asked by the Cape Girardeau Police Department to join them in their leg of the State Summer Games Law Enforcement Torch Run.

This particular torch run provided a different atmosphere compared to the Opening Ceremony at the Area Spring Games. Gabe ran through a major city street with people from surrounding businesses and the citizens of the community all cheering for Gabe, his father and many other law enforcement officers.

“All of the officers talked about Gabe and how much they loved having him be a part of the run,” Williams said.

Gabe Metzger, standing in front row, poses for a photo with members of the Cape Girardeau P.D. during their leg of the 2014 State Summer Games Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Gabe Metzger, standing in front row, poses for a photo with members of the Cape Girardeau P.D. during their leg of the 2014 State Summer Games Law Enforcement Torch Run.

It’s evident that Gabe has had several memorable days in his brief involvement with Special Olympics Missouri thus far. Those days have left an impact on his life, the surrounding community and his family and friends as well.

“Special Olympics has become so much more to us,” Ty said. “It is no longer just a great day or a series of great days for Gabe – it has become a part of our life every day.”

Special Olympics Missouri provides unique opportunities for every individual involved, whether they are law enforcement officers, volunteers, family members and obviously athletes. Therefore, the emotions of thrill and excitement are bound to happen when an athlete and their family begin a new adventure.