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.

There’s No Place Like Home: 20 Years on Staff

By Trish Lutz, Senior Director of Programs

With Richie Wallace

With Richie Wallace

In May 1991, I graduated from Pittsburg State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in business administration. Like any other college graduate, I hit the pavement to find a job. In August 1991, I was offered the position as the Missouri Special Olympics Area IV (now KC Metro) Administrative Assistant. I had the choice of taking the job with SOMO or being a marketing assistant who helped market modular prisons where I would make more money, but I chose to take the route of a more fulfilling job. Little did I know that it was not only a fulfilling job, but one that seeped deep within my soul to the point that I cannot imagine my life without Special Olympics.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, the attitude of the abilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities was a lot different than it is now. However, I had the fortunate opportunity to have two best friends growing up that had siblings with intellectual disabilities that I got to spend tons of time with.

Kim Wallace and I first met in 4th grade. She was shy and I was outgoing. She was short, I was tall. She liked to study and read, I liked to talk and socialize. We were complete opposites, but we soon became the best of friends and still are as she was the matron of honor at my wedding 17 years ago. Kim was the second to youngest of 5 kids and her older brother, Richie was born with Down syndrome. I had never been around individuals with Down syndrome and I was little apprehensive at first but when I saw how Kim’s family interacted with Richie and didn’t treat him any differently, I realized that Richie was person just like me.

Mindy Oliver

Mindy Oliver

Soon after, Nikki Oliver and I because good friends through girl scouts and dance. Her mom, Nancy, was my dance teacher. Nikki was the youngest of three girls and her oldest sister, Mindy, had an intellectual disability. I would often go to Nikki’s house after school and Nikki, Mindy and I would hang out. I loved being with Mindy. She was always so happy and smiling all the time. She would get excited when she saw me and ask me a ton of questions (always the same questions, but I never got tired of answering them). She would watch us practice dance and tell me I did a good job. She would cheer for us at our volleyball and basketball games. Mindy was always that lift I needed.

As my career with SOMO began to evolve, I became the first Missouri KC Metro Area Director. Special Olympics Kansas and Special Olympics Missouri decided to embark on a new adventure and join the two area programs since the only thing that divided us was State Line Road. The Kansas KC Metro Area Director and I combined our largest event, our Area Spring Games (track and field). It was at this event that everything came full circle for me. Both Mindy and Richie participated with Special Olympics Kansas and they competed at this event! I was honored to get to present Richie one of his medals and be there when Mindy received one of her medals. I had grown up with these two individuals and now I had planned a competition for them to be able to showcase their abilities. Looking back, this was at the top of the list of one of the highlights of my career.

Fast forward to 1996 and there is an opening at the then “State Office” (now Headquarters) as the Special Events Coordinator. I had spent 5 years in Kansas City and decided it was time to try my hand at something new. I got the position and transferred to Jefferson City. I was trying to find my way, was missing my friends and family and had become good friends with the Brimer Family at the 1995 World Games. Gary Brimer was the Director of Sports and Training at that time. Gary would invite me to spend the weekends with his family and asked me if I wanted to coach the Unified® Basketball team that he had coached at the World Games because he couldn’t anymore due to his position with SOMO. I said sure, and that’s when my life took another turn.

With Brian, my husband

With Brian, my husband

There was this guy who started coming to basketball practice on Sunday evenings just to work out with the team. He had red hair, blue eyes, a great smile and nice legs. One thing led to another and we started dating. I wasn’t as happy in my new position because I really missed planning the sporting events for the athletes. Next thing I know I was engaged, and that’s when I decided maybe I wanted a job that was 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, so I decided to move on from SOMO. I got a job with the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA), married that red-haired, blue-eyed hunk, Brian Lutz, but still remained very involved as a volunteer with Special Olympics Missouri.
During what I like to call my three-year sabbatical, I was able to realize just how good I had it with SOMO. I gained new skills and really grew up at MSBA, but there was always something missing and that was the mission, the athletes and the people.

In 1999, the Northeast Area Director position opened up and my life took yet another turn when I had the tremendous opportunity to come back “home!” I started back with SOMO on August 16, 1999 and that very same day Brian and I found out we were expecting a baby!

Rachel and her SOMO basketball team

Rachel and her SOMO basketball team

Now 15 years later, I am the Sr. Director of Programs, still married to that hunk who has the same passion for SOMO, and we have a beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Rachel, who also shares the same passion and not because she has been going to events since she was in the womb! She truly loves working with the athletes and actually plans to become an early childhood special education teacher and maybe someday she will run the Young Athlete Program in Missouri!

Working for SOMO isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. I often tell people how fortunate I am to wake up every morning and say “Yes, I get to go to work!” I have met so many wonderful people and made so many lifelong friends.

With Danny Duvall

With Danny Duvall

Many athletes have touched my life beyond measure, like Richie Wallace, Mindy Oliver, Danny Duvall, Jared Niemeyer, Robb Eichelberger, Garrett Lawrence, Jamie Graham, Sarah Byland, Tina Jones, Shirlene Treadwell, Max Homer, Steve McKinney, Donzell Williams, Emily Carroll, Matt Cepeda, Arthur Murphy, Rodney Shoaf and Kristina Rhodes.

I have planned and organized events for the athletes to compete, trained athletes to do public speaking and had the pleasure of seeing them succeed in sports and in life.
I watched Jared Niemeyer run his first race and most recently beamed with pride as he was invited to the White House to celebrate what he has done to promote a world of inclusion, acceptance and respect. I own the very first children’s book that Jamie Graham wrote and illustrated. I cheered Robb Eichelberger onto a gold medal finish in tennis at the 2006 National Games, and now he serves on the SOMO Board of Directors. My one and only experience as a Unified partner in bowling was with my friend Shirlene Treadwell and when I couldn’t knock a single pin down, she was there to encourage me all the way. I remember how Danny Duvall would always give me a hug every time he saw me and the day he was inducted into the SOMO Hall of Fame, just weeks before he passed away after his battle with cancer.

With Jared Niemeyer

With Jared Niemeyer

I am one Kansas girl who is glad I followed the yellow brick road to Missouri 23 years ago. I found my “Emerald City” in SOMO and the great Wizard of SOMO, Mark Musso, who gave me a home in SOMO, not once, but twice and I am very fortunate to call my boss!

Along the way I met the good witch, Diannah White, who was my supervisor and mentor for many years. She is now the Executive Director of her church and is one of my dearest friends and role models.

Susan Stegeman is the not-so-cowardly lion who has the courage to lead the development team to raise the funds to support the more than 17,000 athletes in Missouri.

Mary Lou Hammann, is the brainy scarecrow who leads the operations team and is the brains behind our organization and making sure that we operate efficiently and with integrity.

Then there is the tinman, Gary Brimer, he is the heart of SOMO who has built the sports program to what it is today and has taught others to do the same.

While I may not own a pair of ruby red slippers like Dorothy, I can honestly say “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!” Thank you for the past 20 years and I certainly look for forward to the years to come!

Love is universal

The two couples are right in front together. From left to right - Kelly Rebori and Aaron Raines, and Tony Mitchell and  Jennifer Neihouse.

The two couples are right in front together. From left to right – Kelly Rebori and Aaron Raines, and Tony Mitchell and Jennifer Neihouse.

It’s common to read about love stories and to see them portrayed on the big screen. However, Special Olympics Missouri coach Dawn Jones, has had the privilege of witnessing two love stories develop on and off the playing field.

Jones has previously coached athletes Tony Mitchell, Jennifer Neihouse, Aaron Raines and Kelly Rebori. She coached Mitchell, Neihouse, Raines and Rebori for more than four years.

Currently, Mitchell and Neihouse are an item as are Raines and Rebori.

Jennifer’s mother Dianna said, “Jennifer came home from kindergarten with a big crush on Tony and has always called him her boyfriend.”

Kelly’s mother Bridget said, “Kelly and Aaron first met each other thru the Down syndrome infant action meetings when Kelly was 2/12 & Aaron was a baby.  Then we lost contact until they meet up in school.  However, they really got to know each other in Junior High thru Special Olympics and then Kelly and Aaron both went to the same High School and became close buddies.”

It’s evident just how much the couples care for one another by the way they talk about each other.

Jennifer said, “Tony is sweet and kind and sometimes romantic.”

Kelly is equally appreciate of Aaron.  “I really like Aaron because he is so nice and is helping me if needed and cheers for me.”

But besides their current budding relationships, the four of them are really good friends as well.

“It has been great that they all get along so well,” Jones said.

Like many couples that are friends with one another, the girls enjoy spending time with one another even when their boyfriends aren’t around. Neihouse and Rebori have been friends since birth; therefore, it’s no surprise that they have as much fun separate from their boyfriends as they do just the two of them.

Jennifer Neihouse and Tony Mitchell pose for a photo together.

Jennifer Neihouse and Tony Mitchell pose for a photo together.

The couples do enjoy bowling, dances, movies, dinner and double dating with friends.

When asked, Dianna said, “They like just hanging out together. It doesn’t have to be typical dating (because) they are happy when they see each other at practice once or twice a week.”

Through it all, Jones said the athletes’ relationships have never been distracting. It was at different competitions that Jones recalls witnessing how “they really push each other to be better.”

“Tony and Jennifer both enjoy sports so much and are very competitive with each other,” Jones said. “There is no sitting back and cheering for Tony; Jennifer would rather be in there trying to beat him and this is fun for both of them. They will be tougher on each other than anyone else.”

Meanwhile, Raines and Rebori’s relationship could be described as less competitive. “Kelly is more of a doting girlfriend who likes to watch and cheer for Aaron and tell people that Aaron is her boyfriend,” Jones said. “Aaron likes to have Kelly in his cheering section whenever possible.”

A good example that also personifies Raines and Rebori’s relationship is how much Rebori enjoys “telling people about her strong boyfriend – (that) he competes in powerlifting,” Jones said.

Both couples are there for each other on and off the playing field.

“They are both very sweet and both really enjoy each other’s company,” Jones said.

“Both couples are fun and go with the flow making it all work with tons of parental involvement and support.”

As a parent, Dianna is thankful that her daughter and Mitchell have each other.

“We understand it is a relationship that not every person with special needs gets to experience. Jennifer has someone that puts a big smile on her face when he walks in the room, what parent doesn’t want that?”

Bridget is also thankful for the relationship that her daughter and Raines have.

“Kelly enjoys spending time with Aaron and it’s nice for her to have someone special to spend time with – especially when they can incorporate that into their activities and hanging with all their friends.  As it is with everyone, it’s nice to have a special friend that you can hang out with and know they will be there for you.”

In the end, the athletes’ relationships can be characterized by any other love story that one may read about or watch on the big screen. Love is universal and Special Olympics has been a platform for two (and many more) love stories and friendships to continue to grow over time.

Couple Vows to Go Over the Edge

It’s often common to see compassionate hearts from those who dedicate their careers to giving back to their communities and important causes.  Dr. Derrijk Hollon and Dr. Hilary Wendell of Hollon Family Chiropractic are no exception.

Hollon and Wendell are raising money for the second year in a row for Special OlympicsPhoto for OTE story Missouri’s fundraising event Over the Edge and both will be rappelling in Jefferson City.  The ways in which they’re raising funds are a testament to their compassion for their community as well as Special Olympics Missouri.

“We love using philanthropic promotions in our office.  For us, having a service partner is the best way for us to give back to a community that has given us so much,” said Wendell.

Wendell further explained how her and Hollon rely on their community in order to promote Special Olympics Missouri.

“Last fall, we provided new patient consultations, exams, x-rays, and report of findings for $60.  We then turned around and donated that $60 to Special Olympics and Over the Edge.  This promotion was such a huge success, especially when patients learned our very own Dr. Derrijk would be going Over the Edge.  We decided to bring the $60 initial visit promotion back again this year due to the tremendous response we had from it last year.”

The community involvement has allowed Hollon to give back to a cause that he holds near and dear to his heart.

Hollon explained just how much Special Olympics means to him.

“One of my best friends from growing up has Cerebral Palsy.  This condition left him severely handicapped and dependent on his parents.  My friend grew up watching me compete, and wanted to do so himself.  That’s when we found out about SOMO Track and Field (in the year of 2000), and after the first year we were hooked!  He spent all of his off-season training for his events.  It was amazing watching him fulfill his dream to compete just like me, and feel the trill of achievement through victory.”

By participating in Over the Edge, Hollon and Wendell were able to witness the thrill of achievement that Special Olympics provides for thousands of athletes just like Hollon’s friend.

“Last year’s Over the Edge event was so inspiring!” said Wendell.  “I was able to watch the SOMO athlete go Over the Edge and to see all the smiles both from him and his family was priceless!”

Participating in last year’s event also inspired Hollon.

“Even though it was pretty awesome to go Over the Edge myself, watching the SOMO athlete go over was my favorite part.  He had raised the funds himself and donated it to an organization that provides him so much,” said Hollon.

It’s evident how Hollon and Wendell are committed to promoting Special Olympics Missouri.  They have relied on their community for support and now they are relying on their family and friends.  They are so committed that they’ve decided to incorporate this year’s Over the Edge event into one of the most important days of their lives – their wedding day.  They will be rappelling on media/VIP day as their wedding party watches.

“We didn’t know when we set our wedding date that it was the same day as Over the Edge,” said Wendell.  “When we found out, instead of saying, ‘Oh, we’ll just participate in Over the Edge next year,’ we embraced it and made it a part of our wedding festivities.”

Both Hollon and Wendell are very excited.

“We are pumped to be a part of Over the Edge again this year,” said Hollon.  “I know our friends and family will love this event as much as we do.”

“Our friends and family can enjoy the event, learn about Special Olympics, and have a better understanding of why we love the Jefferson City and SOMO community so much,” said Wendell.

Dr. Derrijk Hollon and Dr. Hilary Wendell get to help the community in their everyday lives and thru that they are able to give back to causes they are passionate about.  Their zeal for helping the community is felt by community members, Special Olympics Missouri and more importantly the thousands of athletes that benefit from the organization.