Law Enforcement Torch Run Celebrates 30th Anniversary

1st poster photo - LuetkemeyerLaw enforcement officers serve selflessly every day to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. In partnership with Special Olympics Missouri, law enforcement officers are participating in the 30th Anniversary Law Enforcement Torch Run across our state.

Each year, more than 2,000 officers carry the torch on a relay through the state. The culmination of this incredible journey will take place at our State Summer Games in Springfield on May 20. The final torch will be handed off in celebration of 30 years and the constant light that Special Olympics athletes give through their inner and outer strength.

This beautiful symbol of unity brings together communities and individuals of different backgrounds and abilities to celebrate the best in each of us. We cherish the relationships that the Torch Run builds each year. Thank you to all of our law enforcement officers for your bravery every day in protecting us, and thank you for all your efforts in support of Special Olympics Missouri.

30 years – one decade at a time

(First in a three–part series)

1986: Ralph Biele was a patrolman with the Missouri State Highway Patrol trying to think of a way to raise money for Special Olympics. In 1984 and 1985, there was an annual “Missouri Run for Special Olympics.” For two years, about 100 runners raised about $4,500. He thought, “How can we make this bigger?” He knew he had the support of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was integral from the beginning. They provided everything from financial donations from employees and photography support, to runners and support vehicles.

Watch Ralph describe the early days.

It wasn’t that it didn’t raise money – but they were working really hard and not getting very far. Ralph knew that in order to make it happen, he needed to get a more broad-based support. He approached the Missouri Police Chiefs Association about SOMO and growing the support from law enforcement. They voted in 1986 to make Special Olympics Missouri part of the Association’s efforts, and gave birth to the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The next five years hovered right around $40,000!

The first 5 years of LETR: runners, agencies, gross $
1986: 87, 35, $15,000
1987: 135, 40, $33,000
1988: 116, 40, $42,000
1989: 143, 42, $40,000
1990: 145, 44, $38,146

early years torch handoffHistory was captured in the spring edition of the Patrol News annually. Page 7 reported the results of the 5th annual run (1990), stating 44 police agencies participated and raised $40,000. Employees were encouraged to donate and “set an example” for others to follow. The MSHP was leading from the beginning.

During the seventh year, T-shirt sales were introduced and the Torch Run fundraising efforts expanded beyond the run itself. The idea was for agencies to host their own fundraising events and donate the proceeds to Special Olympics. These funds were literally brought to the site of the State Summer Games each year, held at Fort Leonard Wood. The Ramada Inn was the site of the pre-game meal, “fried fish and all of the trimmings,” hosted by Lou and Shirley Prentiss, retired Commanding General of the Fort. This was a long-running tradition. Even though runners didn’t like the idea of running (after the meal) the nearly 5 miles to the main gate, they still did it! The Army Military Police accepted the torch at the gate, and as a group, they proceeded to the site of the Opening Ceremony.

Committee Chair / Agency
1986 – 1990 Mel Fisher and Ralph Biele, Mo. State Highway Patrol
1991-1992 Chief Robert Scheetz and Dave Heath, St. Louis Metro PD
1993 – 1994 Chief Mike Snavely, Rolla PD
1994 – 1996 Chief Clarence Harmon and Sgt. Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD
Colonel Ron Battelle and Lt. David Pudlowski, St. Louis County PD

In 1994, a phenomenon happened that got everyone really excited. Officers from 81 different agencies raised more than $100,000 for the first time! The announcement brought shouts of exclamation and joy when $124,392 was announced! T-shirt sales soared to over 4,800 shirts. 1995 rounded out our first decade with an awesome increase to $207,885. More than 10,000 T-shirts were sold!

Q&A: Paula & Greg Burns – 2015 Outstanding Volunteers

We wanted to expand on our posts from last month that singled out our area award winners and eventual statewide winners in all of the categories (athlete, family, volunteer and coach). This week we catch up with Paula and Greg Burns from the North Area. Here’s an excerpt from their nomination form with their Question and Answer segment below.

They started out as day-of volunteers at local events. Staff noticed a great potential with both of them, so they were asked to be on the Polar Plunge committee, then venue coordinators, and the relationship has grown from there. Paula and Greg are key members on the Polar Plunge committee, being there from the first committee meeting to the day of the event to set-up, tear down and wrap-up meeting. Paula is the head volunteer at the Plunge in the registration tent. Paula and Greg also travel around the state attending state games as venue coordinators for track & field, softball, basketball and bowling. They help staff all think outside the box and make the program grow each time they are involved. They volunteer for whatever is needed; whether it is loading the truck, selling souvenirs, raking the long jump pits, serving lunch or handing out medals, they have done it all.

Pic Greg & Paula Burns '15Q: How long have you been a SOMO volunteer?
A: 15-plus years

Q: What are some of the things you volunteer at?
A (Paula): I’ve volunteered at area, regional and state events across the state working in basketball, bowling, track and field. Plus, I help with fundraising in the North Area.  I’ve helped with the Duck Race, Polar Plunge and now our new event called Ladies Night Out.

A (Greg): Track, softball, bowling and Polar Plunge

Q: What made you first get involved?
A (Paula): My sister,  Susan Shaffer who works for SOMO as the competition director.

A (Greg): My wife started helping and I went along to help her. I think she was talked into helping because her sister Susan Shaffer worked for the organization.

Q: Why have you stayed involved all these years?
A (Paula): Because of the friends I’ve made with the athletes.  I want the athletes to be able to participate in sports for health and social skills.

A (Greg): Mainly because I have a good time helping out and meeting all kinds of people which makes lasting friendships

Q: What’s your favorite SOMO memory as a volunteer?
A (Paula): We were volunteering in Jeff City at the state softball tournament several years back.  Before the game started the coaches were talking on the softball mound. One of the coaches had mentioned that one of his little players (his name was Jon) had not gotten a hit all year and was feeling down. When it was Jon’s turn to bat, the other team called time out. The coach called his players to mound to have a conversation. After he was done talking with players, he went over to Jon at the plate. In the coach’s hand was a bat. He told Jon that this was a special bat,  once used by Superman. And that it had special powers. Jon’s eyes lit up. He decide to use the bat. The first pitch came down the middle of the plate and, swing and miss. The next pitch was a line drive up the middle thru the pitcher’s legs.  Jon ran to first, someone had thrown the ball over the 1st baseman head.  The coach told Jon to run to second base.  Then Jon ran from 2nd to 3rd and finally on home.  He had gotten a homerun with Superman’s bat. We was so excited. The crowd was cheering very loudly. Superman had saved the day. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere. There are a lot more memories but this one stands out as the best.

A (Greg): Watching my daughter who was a Unified Partner and the athlete she was paired up with win a gold medal at the 2010 National Games in Lincoln, Neb.

12473527_10208032452556398_6826551132310829192_oQ: What piece of advice would you give someone interested in volunteering with SOMO for the first time?
A (Paula): Just try it once, the athletes will win you over. If you like to give hugs you’re in the right place.

A (Greg): Go in with an open mind and just have fun. The smiles on everyone’s face will brighten your day.

Q: What was going through your mind when you found out the two of you were named SOMO’s 2015 Outstanding Volunteers?
A (Paula): It’s not about me. I’m just doing what I love to do. I do it for the athletes.

A (Greg): I was taken aback as I never figured to even be considered as I do this just to help give back and have fun along the way.


Jessica Jansen named statewide Outstanding Athlete, others 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. 16 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 Summit.

Jessica Jansen is a SOMO athlete, but more importantly, she’s a leader. Jessica competes in SOMO sports year-round, playing basketball, bowling, track & field, bocce and volleyball. Not only is she an outstanding athlete on the court, she is a huge advocate for Special Olympics year-round as well. In this past year alone, Jessica spoke at several Knights of Columbus meetings to ask for their support of the new Training for Life Campus. She also gave a speech alongside her Unified Partner, Ivy Tinnin, at the Shop ‘n Save golf tournament gala. Last, but certainly not least, Jessica used the courage and confidence she had gained from these experiences with Special Olympics to give a speech at her high school graduation! Jessica embodies what the mission is all about by demonstrating courage, experiencing joy and participating in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Anyone who has had the opportunity to witness Jessica speak can tell you she has an amazing story and a contagious smile! She recently attended the first Special Olympics Missouri Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) University, where she declared a major in communications and committed to continuing to be a leader in her community by telling her Special Olympics story.

Throughout the 20-plus years of participation in Special Olympics, Matt Hood has been a part of countless competitions and events, and has also overcome many obstacles. When Matt was younger and first introduced to Special Olympics, one hurdle he had to jump was a condition called atlantoaxial instability. This condition held Matt back from participating in many Special Olympics sports, but he didn’t let it stand in his way. Matt attended the 1995 World Games as a member of the Missouri soccer team. In 2013, Matt was chosen to be on Team Missouri’s volleyball team. It was during a practice that the coaches noticed that he was favoring his left leg. He had to undergo another serious surgery in 2014 to decompress his spinal cord. As a result, Matt had to relinquish his spot on Team Missouri that year. This left Matt very disheartened, but again, this did not hold him back. It took quite some time to recover, but Matt made sure to always be a part of Special Olympics. Whether it was helping out at fundraising events or cheering on his fellow teammates and friends while competing, Matt has always been a team player. Matt is back on the volleyball court, his movement is limited, but he always does the best he can. Matt will also participate in bocce, basketball and swimming, his strongest sport. Throughout everything Matt has gone through, he has shown much perseverance and is truly an inspiration. His parents feel that if it wasn’t for Special Olympics, they wouldn’t have noticed in time that Matt needed help and he wouldn’t be the athlete he is today. Matt shows strength and determination in everything he participates in.

Allen Tobin has been an outstanding athlete in Special Olympics Missouri for 22 years. Over the years, he has competed in almost all of the sports SOMO offers and has excelled on the playing field, earning more medals than he can count! Allen was lucky enough to be selected to be part of the Special Olympics USA – Missouri softball team that won the silver medal in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. Being able to bring a silver medal and all the memories from LA back home to Missouri is one of his proudest accomplishments. Not only does Allen find joy in competing in Special Olympics, he has also taken advantage of many of the other opportunities that have been presented to him. He always jumps at the opportunity to help set up or tear down an event. Most times you don’t even have to ask him to load 10-foot bocce pipes in the dead of summer or roll up carpet from a sandy Polar Plunge beach in the freezing cold. He has also taken an active role in being a committee member for the Jimmie’s Miles for Medals event that raises money for Kansas City athletes. Allen was recently trained as a Global Messenger and has taken the skills he learned in the training to deliver exceptional speeches about his experiences with Special Olympics. With his GM training and being part of the SOMO Class of 2015, Training for Life Campus staff members know they can count on him to attend any presentation or fundraising campaign to help promote the TLC. He has also taken the leadership skills he has learned and applied them to the SOMO TV production team as a reporter. There really isn’t anything that Allen won’t jump in and do; he likes to try things out of his comfort zone and is always willing to help out the team!

Charlie moved to Savannah less than a year ago. It didn’t take him long to make friends and for an entire school to get to know him. He joined the high school wrestling and football teams while also being a part of the Special Olympics powerlifting and flag football teams. His coaches constantly comment on his positive, “Never give up,” “I can do anything” attitude. Charlie immediately made an impact on his Special Olympics teams, his school, and his community. He is always supportive, happy and determined. Charlie gives meaning to the term sportsmanship and defines character. He is a friend, teammate and an example of how just one person can make a positive influence and bring unity to so much more than just a high school. When he is not participating in sports, he volunteers for many Special Olympics events. Charlie is a new member of the Youth Activation Committee in the North Area and is very excited to start spreading the word of inclusion in his school and community.

Tim has participated in Special Olympics for more than 10 years, playing basketball, track and field and softball. Tim is a model athlete; he always has a smile on his face every time you see him. He is also a very loyal and dedicated athlete to Special Olympics. Tim is always asking his coaches and others how he can help. He is the first to show up and the last to leave. He is an outstanding fundraiser for Special Olympics. He has helped raise money for himself and his team to be able to participate at the 2010 USA Games and most recently 2015 World Games in Los Angeles. He participated in selling mums, softball fundraisers, restaurant nights, Knights of Columbus Tootsie Roll Drive and much more. He has a willingness to ask and the personality to gain the support of those he presents to. He asks not only for himself but for his teammates as well. At the 2015 World Games, he was so proud to represent this state and all Special Olympics athletes. Tim is a good athlete who sets a standard for others to follow. He has a positive attitude and helps all others he comes in contact with. He is an asset to every team he is on and he is certainly a huge asset to the Southeast Area.

Seth Dye has been participating in Special Olympics for more than 13 years. He competes in bowling, basketball and track and field. He also attends as many fundraisers as he can. This year he ran in the Unified Relay Across America and carried the torch. He is also trained a Global Messenger. Seth is a team player and shows amazing sportsmanship. He is the most kindhearted person that you could ever meet and shows this in everything that he does. Seth truly leaves a lasting impression on everyone who meets him. The Southwest Area is proud to have an athlete such as Seth. He is a role model for everyone.

Greg & Paula Burns named statewide Outstanding Volunteer, others honored

All of the volunteers below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 16 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 Summit.

12473527_10208032452556398_6826551132310829192_oNORTH AREA’S OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: GREG & PAULA BURNS — STATEWIDE WINNER!
This husband and wife duo has volunteered for Special Olympics Missouri for more than 15 years. They started out as day-of volunteers at local events. Staff noticed a great potential with both of them, so they were asked to be on the Polar Plunge committee, then venue coordinators, and the relationship has grown from there. Paula and Greg are key members on the Polar Plunge committee, being there from the first committee meeting to the day of the event to set-up, tear down and wrap-up meeting. Paula is the head volunteer at the Plunge in the registration tent. Greg is always right beside Paula at the events doing whatever is needed behind the scenes. Paula has served on our Ladies Night Out committee for three years and has contributed so many ideas to grow this event, which doubled in its second year. Greg is there right along Paula, setting up tables, moving chairs and ladders, bringing in our decorations and then he is a celebrity waiter for the evening.
Paula and Greg also travel around the state attending state games as venue coordinators for track & field, softball, basketball and bowling. They are at the celebrity softball game selling tickets, working gates, etc. They help staff all think outside the box and make the program grow each time they are involved. They volunteer for whatever is needed; whether it is loading the truck, selling souvenirs, raking the long jump pits, serving lunch or handing out medals, they have done it all.

Lisa Homco is one of those volunteers who doesn’t come along very often. Lisa has traveled from the St. Louis area to volunteer annually for the Central Area events of basketball, softball, bowling and the Polar Plunge in Columbia. She gives her time to Central Area wherever and whenever needed. She puts miles on her car to come and volunteer. Lisa does this all besides her full-time job (which often is well over 40 hours a week), volunteering for the St. Louis Metro Area, being an event coordinator for the state events and spending time with her family. Having Lisa around is very uplifting. She is enthusiastic and being around her it becomes easy to catch the feeling. She is a volunteer that “wants to get it right.” She asks questions and makes sure she knows the rules of the sport ahead of time. Lisa is also a volunteer who finds ways to help SOMO through matching grants and find others who would be interested in Special Olympics.


A long-time volunteer of Special Olympics both at the state and national level, Jacob Conklin is as dedicated of a volunteer as they come. He travels around the state several times a year training Global Messengers and has long been a proponent of starting an Athlete Leadership Programs University. His hard work and persistence in this aspect finally paid off in 2015 as we held our first ALPs University in November. We couldn’t have come even close to accomplishing this without his guidance and staunch support over the years. While he isn’t a coach of a team in his area, in 2015 he helped recruit 10 brand new coaches in an area that we’ve historically had trouble with recruiting coaches. He has served on our Games Management Team for our State Summer Games the past two years. Jacob has played a tremendous role in our Youth Activation Committee. He recruits youth to be involved and serves as a mentor. He values the importance of youth engagement in our area schools and communities. Jacob was also an asset to the overall restructure and planning of YAC in 2015.

David Ring is an exceptional volunteer in the KC Metro Area. He stepped into the role of being the main contact/lead for the Walmart Distribution Center about three years ago. In this role, he also serves on the Area Spring Games GMT. He has worked hard to make sure the transition from the previous contact was seamless on the SOMO side and that the Walmart volunteers always knew what was happening. The Walmart group runs the field event awards area. This past year they were asked to also take over the throwing events awards area, which almost doubled the amount of volunteers needed for them. David didn’t think twice and just said yes they would do it. David also serves on the GMT for our area basketball tournament and runs the 3-on-3 gym all day for this competition. He not only does this but also recruits and trains all the volunteers for this gym on event day. Each year, David and his team look for additional ways they can help with this event and make it easier for staff. He is working with staff to help provide lunches for more than 500 athletes, coaches and volunteers at the KC Metro basketball tournament in 2016.

Phil Henry is an outstanding volunteer because he is always willing to give his time to be an event manager not only at the St. Louis Metro Area events but also at state events and fundraising events as well. Just this year, Phil served as an event manager at the area basketball tournament, Area Spring Games, area bocce tournament, regional softball tournament, State Summer Games, State Outdoor Games and the area bowling tournament. He also volunteered his time at one of the bigger fundraising events, Over the Edge. He not only donated his time to make the event happen, he asked his friends and family to donate as well. He raised more than $1,000 and faced his fears to rappel down the 19-story building for Special Olympics athletes. Beyond donating his time at SOMO events, he planned his own golf tournament to raise money for Special Olympics Missouri. The golf tournament raised more than $6,000! Phil is the type of person who will make friends with every athlete and volunteer he encounters, making everyone feel welcome and excited to be there.


Chuck Hasty is about as enthusiastic of a volunteer as they come. He would also be considered one of the most enthusiastic school superintendents out there. Chuck is the very proud superintendent of Bismarck of Public Schools. As many volunteers get their start, he attended a track meet in Cape Girardeau with his students, where he was immediately hooked. He became relentless in wanting to get more of his students involved and he felt many of them could not attend in Cape because of the length of the travel. He approached staff about bringing the track meet up north to the Mineral Area Conference.
In April of 2015, SOMO hosted the MAAA Local Track Meet. The volunteers, coaches and sponsors were on fire that day as everyone could feel the energy in the air. Hasty has made a commitment to help his students and to help Special Olympics. He not only was the chairman of the planning committee, he also chaired the fundraising committee, raising more than $5,000 in fewer than three months just to get this event started. He made a commitment, he made a plan and he was very diligent in seeing it through. He has sacrificed a lot of personal time and work time to do this. He gives to us because of a love of the program, a love for his students and a pure desire to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics competitions.


Andrea has been involved in Special Olympics since high school and was part of the Jeff City Youth Activation Council. Andrea is more than just a volunteer, she is an exceptional person. She also coaches and helps with anything that staff asks her to do, including Price Cutter Charity Championship. Andrea also helps with Victory Village at state events. She is a great asset to Special Olympics Missouri, not just to the Southwest Area. Andrea always has a smile on her face and truly loves the athletes. Nothing seems impossible for her. This year, she coached softball for the first time and was an amazing coach and role model for the athletes. She was a bit nervous, but everyone learned from each other. She had the time of her life. There are not enough words to describe her and enough ways to thank Andrea for what she does for Special Olympics Missouri and the Southwest Area.


The Dwyer family named statewide Outstanding Family, others honored

All of the families below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 16 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 Summit.


The Dwyer Family has been involved with Special Olympics Missouri for more than 10 years. They have served on planning committees, been Unified Partners, supported athletes and been amazing volunteers. Danny and Sue both serve on the Miles for Medals planning committee and Danny has been the chair for the past few years. Many of our agencies rely on the success of Miles for Medals for much of their year-round fundraising dollars. Not only do Danny and Sue help organize Miles for Medals, but their daughters have become members of the planning committee. They run the Facebook page, help recruit riders and help on event day. Danny is also on the Polar Plunge committee. Danny and his company, Epic Electric, provide all the electricity needs on Plunge weekend. Danny and his co-workers spend two days working to make the beach and tents ready for the Super Plungers. Sue is part of the Super Plunge tent support crew and makes sure all the Super Plungers have plenty to eat and warm clothes as they plunge for 24 hours. In the past few years, the Dwyers have taken one of our area athletes under their family wing. They, along with civic groups they belong to, have helped him with fundraising efforts for USA Games and World Games.


Wampler family

Originally starting in the Kansas City Area, the Wamplers moved to Higginsville and started a program called PAL (Progressive Alternative Living). And, let’s just say the rest is history. Sharon and Jim both became certified coaches so that the residents of PAL could participate in bowling, basketball and bocce. They even became Unified Partners to be able to expand the program as needed. Through the years, some of the PAL athletes became older in age and were unable to participate, so they joined sports such as basketball and bocce with the other local program, Lafayette County, so they could continue to compete and share the coaching responsibilities. This family is not unfamiliar with fundraising and supporting various events, most especially the Drive it Home Raffle. They also worked with another local program to do a trivia night for the two local programs in Higginsville. This family is always ready to help wherever needed.


The Huffmans have been involved with Special Olympics in almost every way possible. Cary and Deanna are always available, if needed, to help at fundraising or program events.
Although they have been long-time event managers, they recently started coaching the Predators flag football team when the previous coaches stepped down. They took the team on as if it was their own family. The time and effort put into making this team the best it could be was unbelievable. Jake Huffman, the son of Cary and Deanna, is a Unified Partner and a member of the regional Youth Activation Committee. Not only is he a partner on the field, but he has been extremely influential in promoting inclusion in his school community. They recently hosted a Unified football event at Savannah High School to raise funds for their team to go to state and to raise awareness for Special Olympics.
The Huffmans have served as volunteers in almost every program and development events held in the North area. On top of that, they have been involved in the growth and development of the Young Athletes Program in St. Joseph.

The Hammonds are a model family when it comes to advocating for their child with Down syndrome and SOMO is so lucky to learn from their example. Son and athlete Bret has been in the Francis Howell School District throughout his entire school career, and every school year, parents Jim and Shelley offer to educate his classroom about living a life with Down syndrome. The family is incredibly involved with Special Olympics Missouri, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis and the Pujols Foundation, not only enjoying the benefits and events offered by each, but giving back to each community in a big way. Within SOMO, Bret has been trained as a Global Messenger at a young age, ready and willing to speak about the organization at opportunities as varied as school assemblies to this summer’s Unified Relay Across America kick-off. Bret participates in basketball, golf and softball with SOMO. For each of those sports, Jim now helps coach, gives rides to athletes, and has helped outfit the team with uniforms and equipment. The family volunteers at almost every event in which they are not directly participating. Jim, Shelley and Bret are a young family that has thrown everything behind supporting Bret’s abilities on and off the playing field and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them!


Son Logan joined Special Olympics many years ago and his family travels at least once a week from Sikeston (about 30 miles to Cape Girardeau) to ensure that he gets all the training he needs. This is quite an accomplishment in itself for this very busy family.
The Gardner family is always ready and willing to do whatever is necessary for Logan and the other athletes. Melody (mom) has been delegated the team historian. She takes all types of photographs at all of the events, documenting the history of sports and good times in the Southeast Area. Logan’s sister, Malory, is also very active in Logan’s life and in the lives of all the athletes in the Southeast Area as she attends most competitions and is their biggest cheerleader. Logan’s dad, Tim has been a Unified Partner and competed locally and at state with Lucas Blattel, another Southeast Area athlete. As if what they do is not enough, most recently the Gardners have taken on coaching a tennis team in Sikeston. This gives those athletes in that community another sport to participate in. They have also worked very hard on the Training for Life Campus campaign, increasing awareness and raising hundreds of dollars. This family is very willing and committed to Special Olympics and is very deserving of this most prestigious award.



Special Olympics truly is a family endeavor for the Dunlap family with Marci and Brett (parents), Ashley (athlete), Emily (volunteer), Mary (grandmother and volunteer), Ashley’s aunts, uncles and cousin who are all involved in fundraising and volunteering at the many Southwest Area events.

This family helps in all aspects of the Nevada Special Athletes team along with competition at all levels. They fundraise, volunteer at events with all athletes and are huge supporters to athletes across the board. When asked to help, they are one of the first to say “yes.”

With volunteer time, they have raised money through 3M for the Nevada team.
Special Olympics is truly a family affair for the Dunlaps.

Bobbi Roberts named statewide Outstanding Coach, others honored

All of the coaches below were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri from their respective areas at the SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 16 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 Summit.

Robin Roberts has been a coach with Jackson County Parks & Recreation for more than 20 years. She coaches flag football, basketball and softball and is a Unified Partner in bowling. Robin started out helping with the JCPR teams, but it wasn’t long before she had her own teams within JCPR. She is a wonderful motivator for her athletes and works hard to keep them focused so they excel in their sports. Robin is also an active member of the Miles for Medals planning committee. This annual fundraiser goes to support agencies/fan clubs to provide uniforms, equipment and SGAs for the teams. This committee works hard to recruit riders, find sponsors and donors to help this event grow every year. Robin wants to see her athletes grow and develop in sports competition and everyday life. She has assisted athletes with job searches, roommate conflicts and other day-to-day problems. She is an asset to not only her athletes but the whole JCPR team!

Central Area is honored to nominate a husband and wife coaching team: Joe and Joyce Boss. These two individuals have done all they can to enhance the Jefferson City Parks and Rec program. Since these two have taken the helm of the program, there has been the introduction of new sports such as volleyball, flag football and more recently, powerlifting. Joe and Joyce do not have any children in the program, but have a love for the athletes as if they were their own. Not only do they coach, they also oversee the Friday Night Rec program for the city as well. They bring athletes to the annual Sports Camp in the summer and stay on to serve as group leaders. Joe and Joyce have even organized camping trips and Cardinals baseball game outings so that athletes get the chance to have other experiences as well. Fundraising is also a part of their lives in assisting with a concession stand for a summer boat race down the Missouri River, as well as, serving as host/hostess with the athletes at the Over the Edge event in Jefferson City. They also like to join in from time to time by serving as Unified Partners. And they think of other athletes from other groups by offering them they chance to have scrimmages and local games to further competition opportunities. We have not seen two people, who do not have children in the program, work as hard for their athletes as Joe and Joyce do for theirs.

Two years ago, Emily Sorensen stepped into the lead position in organizing and coaching Special Olympics athletes in the Kirksville area. She had to step into some very big shoes as Jaime Janes had built a strong program in the area. Since that time, Emily has continued to grow this program, nurture and advocate for athletes and Unified Partners, expand coach involvement and promote positive relationships with athletes, parents and community. Emily is now working with interested parties to build a program for adult athletes in the area. She is growing and expanding a solid program in Kirksville – her genuine kindness, clear thinking and absolute fairness merge with professional skills that build our athletes’ confidence, skill set (from language development, personal growth and educational goals) and opportunities. As the speech pathologist for some of the athletes, Emily has a gracious professionalism that impacts those she works with. She challenges her athletes in a positive way and allows them to experience new opportunities and spread their wings while holding them to a higher standard. Now that she leads the program, it’s reassuring to know she always has the best interest of the athletes (personally, athletically and educationally) in mind!

As a physical therapist with the St. Louis Public School system, Rosalie saw early in her career the physical and social benefits of Special Olympics Missouri and has been pushing ever since to make participation a priority for her students. Rosalie has really devoted a huge portion of her life to her students and their therapy, fighting limited budgets, limited time and resources and often administrative and parental resistance to give her students as many opportunities as possible. As the SLPS Special Olympics coordinator for years, Rosalie is always on the lookout for ways to include more students and offer additional sports opportunities, getting busses donated for events and Challenge Days, finding free venues for track meets and appealing to any potential sponsor she can find to support a bowling or special event. Most of this she does on her personal time as her PT duties take a majority of time during the school day. SLPS students with disabilities desperately in need of services are lucky to have an advocate as outspoken and resourceful as Rosalie, and we so appreciate all of her support of Special Olympics Missouri.

Peggy’s daughter, Lisa, has been participating in Special Olympics for many years. In the beginning, Peggy was a great spectator taking in Lisa’s accomplishments. It did not take long until we realized what a vital role Peggy would and could play in the area. She coaches bocce and bowling and she assists with many other sports in our area. Under her leadership, participation in the bowling program has grown to the largest ever. When she first started coaching bocce, she had approximately four athletes who consistently played — now she has more than ten. She is organized and helps them gain skills in the sport they are practicing and she also teaches them life skills so they can be prepared both on and off of the playing field. Simply put, she is there. Whenever we need her and whatever we need her for, she is there. If we need an extra coach, she will do it. Bus driver? She will do it. Chaperone or fundraiser? She’s there. Peggy is truly a giver who expects nothing in return. She is more than the mother of Lisa, she has a special place in the hearts of all the Southeast Area athletes and of all other people she gets to know. Never has she ever wavered in her loyalty to her daughter or to a program she is so much a part of. She truly does make a difference in the area. It is stronger because she is a part of it.

A couple of years ago, the longtime Nevada coach retired and Bonnie Franklin stepped into that position. Since that time, she has organized many events in the Nevada area to raise funds. She also hosts a local basketball tournament at the high school. She is an amazing person and loves all of the athletes. She is always there to help, gets her paperwork in on time and makes sure all physicals are up to date. Bonnie is always willing to help and makes sure that athletes are at area fundraisers to participate in any way that we need them. Everything that Bonnie does, she gives 100 percent to it and never lets anyone down. She involves the school and all of the parents with the program.

Knights of Columbus awarded SOMO’s highest honor


(Jefferson City) The Missouri state Knights of Columbus was recognized for its outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri at the 2016 SOMO Annual Awards Luncheon Jan. 16 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Past honorees have included Missouri State Parks, Missouri Association of Student Councils, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers and more.

This is only the second time since 1988 that the Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors has recognized an organization twice for the Award of Excellence. The Knights of Columbus was first recognized in 1991 for its long-term commitment to the mission through financial support of Special Olympics Missouri.


Knights of Columbus past state deputy and current SOMO board of directors member Brad Grill accepts the award from current SOMO board of directors chair Dr. Phil Cook.

Twenty-five years later, that long-term commitment has extended beyond its initial purpose as the Knights of Columbus has committed to raising $1 million for the Training for Life Campus ( The annual contribution of funds from the Knights, the volunteers, meals and honor guards they bring to competitions and fundraisers they put on such as Cosmic Bingo, Denim and Diamonds is what makes them not just a donor, but a part of the SOMO family.

“The Knights of Columbus is proud of its partnership with Special Olympics Missouri,” said Keith Milson, Knights of Columbus State Deputy. “We consider our work on behalf of the athletes and their families as one of our highest callings and greatest achievements! We look forward to many, many more years of collaboration and support to (SOMO).”

Knights of Columbus past state deputy Brad Grill was in attendance to accept the award.

For information about Special Olympics Missouri, the Annual Award recipients or the 2016 SOMO Leadership Summit, including photos and video from the banquet, please contact Brandon Schatsiek at 573-635-1660 or email