Guest post: Responsibilities of Athlete-Leader PR Assistant

This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino (public relations assistant). It was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission. It has been edited by SOMO for content and length.

To make sure I know what to do when we reach Seattle, Brandon and Harrison give me goals and little missions to do. I wholeheartedly don’t mind. This gives me something to do. This actually forces me to control my internet-watching intake, which is a huge amount of time.

For the deadline, which happened to be January 15th, I had to complete five videos, as well as the Team Missouri Spotlight Interviews scheduled posts for February. I love Columbia Access TV in this situation, not to mention my oldest sister. She managed to give me a Mac thumb drive in my Christmas stocking. I was able to format it and use it for some of the footage I received. They needed fixes for the lighting. (My editing software does have some effects that help with lighting. I did not realize this until I fiddled with it last night.)

Three of five videos were Spotlight interviews. One of those happened to be of me. How fortunate I am! I can keep in the bit where I praise Brandon. ^_^ Hopefully, when I send in the videos and this blog, he won’t take out that bit. The unfortunate thing is he has one photo I can’t insert. I find it weird, though, considering it’s used in every USA Games video that gets uploaded to YouTube.

The remaining videos are of athletes training, doing water bottle flips, and poetry reading. I don’t know how I’m going to incorporate the water bottle footage into the training, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Ed note: Keep an eye on our YouTube channel and Facebook page over the next few weeks for when we post the videos Allison worked so hard on.


Guest post: Athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino makes Team Missouri!

This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino (public relations assistant). It is posted here mostly as it was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission.

D'Agostino, Allison_StaffDuring August or September, my mom and I did a road trip to Connecticut, New York, and then St. Louis. My second sister’s second travel for her travel nursing position chose a quaint city on the east coast, coincidentally near the ocean. (I managed to swim in the Atlantic Ocean for at least half an hour, almost got used to the cold water, and swam like a mermaid. Mermaid dream almost complete!)

Before the road trip, I found out from the central PR team of Special Olympics Missouri that a position opened up. And it’s for an athlete only. YES! I applied immediately, despite the fact I might have to do an interview during the road trip.

There were two rounds of the application process. I managed to get through both. Seeing as I knew some of the people in this interview, which happened the day I returned from the trip, I had a good feeling about it. (I did, however, learn that one of my athlete friends applied as well.) I don’t remember all the details, but I believe that towards the end of the interview, I was asked how I would feel of taking the position. Basically, they were saying, “Congratulations. You have the job.”

I got the job! 😄 Ever since then, I’ve been assigned a few things to do. I made sure to step up when it seemed like the PR team needed help. A family meeting occurred for all the athletes, coaches, Unified Partners, and staff that made it to Team Missouri for the USA Games 2018. Not only did I help the PR team with whatever they needed, I also had to attend a few things required for athletes. The same thing happened last week when we had a training weekend.

I still hesitate at times, on whether I should be doing something, or confused, or even just speaking my thoughts. I guess I still have some of that shyness when I first entered Special Olympics a little over ten years ago. At least I’m being brave in the attempt of this difficult, overwhelming, amazing position. I somewhat look forward to all the other challenges ahead. Since I am the first athlete to do this, either in Missouri or USA, I intend to make the first footsteps for those to follow.

Guest post: Dec. 8-9 Team Missouri training

This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete Lynna Hodgson (track and field). It is posted here exactly as it was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission.

On Friday my dad picked up TJ (Power Lifting athlete) we carpooled to team meeting, when Dad came back from picking up TJ, jesse and I load our suitcases and we were on our way to Jefferson City! We only made one stop. Once we got to the hotel, we checked in, they checked our weight and wanted to see our picture ID. Once we got done with that process we found out our room and went into a room where the rest of Team MO  were, had pizza for dinner, while we had dinner we watched everyone’s interview and then we had input counsel. I went to bed around 9pm.

On Saturday  woke up at 6:30am, packed up and made sure I got everything and didn’t leave anything. Went for breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage links and biscuits and gravy. After breakfast everyone loaded up and went to a middle school, we all met there, and we congratulate everyone on their fundraiser efforts, and after that talk we went to the gym (track and field) we jogged around the gym four times. Fast walked a couple of times. Did stretches, practiced shot put and softball throw. Ate lunch, went outside and went on a walk. It was cold..brrrr…thank goodness I brought my heavy coat, and I’m so glad I did!! Came back inside and did some activities. Such as team building, interviews, healthy eating and trying on uniforms. TJ’s Mom picked us up and we were on our way home. Got home around 7pm. I learned so much this past weekend: new stretches, met some new people on the team, and found out if we fill out our training logs every time we train and we turn it in the next meeting we will get some MO bucks!! Come on team Track & Field, we can do it!! Go team MO!!

TJ (team MO athlete power lifting) and I
Celebrated Allison’s 29th Birthday🎈🎁🎂
Coach Michelle and I
Team MO athlete Allen (softball) and I


Tristan Holmes wins 2017 Drive it Home Raffle

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Tristan Holmes on the field at the Mizzou football game after the grand-prize giveaway.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who purchased a ticket for Special Olympics Drive it Home Raffle. Your support of this event directly benefits more than 15,300 athletes across the state. It is our pleasure to introduce you to our Area Finalists. The winner of the 2017 Honda Pilot Elite, donated by Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, was selected at the Grand Prize Giveaway Event at the Zimmer Tailgate party before the last Mizzou home game on November 11.

Grand Prize Winner
After three people tried their keys unsuccessfully, this young man step up to take his turn. He only purchased one ticket (#106981) and was thankful to be an area finalist. He never expected to select the winning key and was surprised when the key worked! As we stood on the sidelines before he went on the football field for the announcement, he shared that he was not sure what he was going to do with a brand new vehicle, but he was definitely planning to purchase a lottery ticket on the way home! Congrats to Tristan Holmes, from Piedmont MO (SE Area) who was the winner of the 2017 Honda Pilot Elite!

Eric Vonce: Eric purchased four tickets from Amanda Castetter. He is from Tennessee (a Titan’s fan!) and was attending the game with some friends. He has volunteered for Special Olympics in the past and said that if he won the car, he would donate it back to Special Olympics! He is a true fan of our athletes!

Lt. Charles Boykin: Lt. Boykin purchased 20 tickets from Mr. Harn during a fundraiser at Culver’s that was held by the Military Police Regimental Association. Lt. Boykin has helped train prison guards, dog handlers and is currently with Ft. Leonard Wood and is responsible for police training. While he doesn’t have a connection to Special Olympics he believes in our mission and is thankful for the work that we do to support individuals with disabilities. If Lt. Boykin wins the Pilot, he plans to enjoy driving it.
Ticket #: 000699

Janice Rothganger: Janice purchased four tickets from Special Olympics staff member Melody Prawitz. She is very familiar with Special Olympics and our mission. Her sister was an athlete, her mom was a coach and she has known Melody for a long time. For about 15 years, Janice helped coordinate law enforcement torch run events in the area and participated in them as a member of law enforcement until she retired. She plans to replace her 10 year old car with the Honda Pilot Elite and drive the wheels off of it!
Ticket #: 088459

Tristan Holmes: Tristan purchased one ticket from George Bullock – a teacher at Clearwater High School during a high school basketball game. Tristan has a friend named Trenton who participates in Special Olympics sports and has won several medals in track and field events. Tristan hopes to volunteer at sporting events in the future. When asked what he would do with a new Honda Pilot Elite, he said that he really likes the car, and if we doesn’t win, he would probably purchase something like it one day.
Ticket #: 106981

Kevin McClellan: Kevin purchased 40 tickets from Monty Anderson. Kevin and his wife Debbie have participated in the World’s Largest Truck Convoy benefiting Special Olympics Missouri athletes for seven years. They believe in and enjoy supporting Special Olympics athletes! The Honda Pilot Elite will be a great addition to their collection of vehicles and they would enjoy driving it.
Ticket #: 103719

Mike Mallett: Mike purchased 10 tickets from Special Olympics staff member Laurie Shadoan. He is familiar with Special Olympics because of his connection to Laurie and this is the first time that he purchased tickets for the Drive it Home Raffle. His wife is a retired teacher and his daughter is a teacher. They have always focused their community support on helping children, especially those with disabilities. They are in the market to replace an older vehicle and the Honda Pilot Elite would be a great fit.
Ticket #: 069048

George Foster: George purchased 60 tickets from Mark Bussen, who is our top salesperson for the Drive it Home Raffle across the state! George purchases tickets from Mark every year and has been an area finalist in the past. Mark is a Special Olympics coach and holds holiday parties and annual picnics for his teams. George enjoys connecting with Special Olympics athletes at these events and is a true fan of our mission. He has been looking to purchase a new vehicle and would enjoy the Pilot if he is the winner!
Ticket #: 061948

Joyce Hill: Joyce purchased one ticket from Dana Fulton from St. Louis County Police Department. She works with Dana at St. Louis County Government Headquarters and has been with the County for 21 years. She believes in our mission and purchases tickets for the Drive it Home Raffle every year. When asked what she would do if she won the Honda Pilot Elite, she said: “I would drive it!”
Ticket #: 016804

Drive It Home Raffle made possible thanks to:

2014 MADA Logo with name spelled out-black-outlinesLETR_Mark_Missouri_ColorShopSave_Color


Thanks to our 2017 Raffle partners!

Rolling Hills Auto
Greater KC Public Safety Credit Union
Mema’s Bakery
Chop Tops Hair Company
Simon Oswald
SM Wilson
Shop ‘n Save
Knights of Columbus
East Hills Shopping Center
LO Profile
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
Mix 92.7/Cool 102.7 (Benne Media)
Columbia Missourian
Columbia Access TV
Hyatt Regency Downtown at the Arch
Downtown Association (North Area)
Jackson KC Picnic
Don Wessel Honda of Springfield
Equine Assisted Therapy
RPM Car Care
St. Louis Special School District – Pattonville High School
Comprehensive Chiropractic & Sports Performance
Capital Plaza Hotel
Elks of Joplin
West County Honda
Ride -N- Drive Motorsports LLC
Golden Corral in North Area
Bliss Associates LLC

‘I felt left in the dark and all alone’

Koch, Amanda_BocceThis is a guest blog post from Special Olympics Missouri athlete Amanda Koch. She is a member of Team Missouri and will travel to compete in bocce at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle.

Four years ago, I did not have anything. I felt left in the dark and all alone. I had no one to talk to. I did not have a social life of friends, nor Special Olympics. I did not know about communication skills. I have always been quiet. I did not have any independence, nor have a boyfriend who i can share my life with.

My life changed when I moved in with my dad and stepmom, Debbie. I now ride horses and volunteer my time at Exceptional Equestrians, which is a therapeutic program.

Now that I am out on my own, I have everything I want. I have support from my dad and stepmom. The two of them have given me a second chance to live my life the way that I want.

On Mondays, I volunteer my time at Exceptional Equestrians. On Wednesdays, I am involved with Developmental Services of Franklin County Life Ops. We volunteer at Willow Brooke Assisted Living, learn how to cook, work on social skills, work on assertive communication, and much more. On Thursdays, I have a personal assistant that assists me with things that I don’t learn at Life Ops.

Koch, Amanda_BocceI have a job at Walgreens. I have been employed there for two years. I help in cosmetics when needed, stock shelves, and run the cash register. I mostly work in the photo lab. I can make wood panels, posters, canvases, and much more.

I get to experience my own life with a boyfriend, whom I love.

For more information about Team Missouri athletes set to compete in the 2018 USA Games, click here.

Radio DJ Conquers Fear of Heights for SOMO

Brad Hildebrand

Brad Hildebrand rappels down the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch

In 2011, Brad Hildebrand took his first journey rappelling down 20 stories in downtown St. Louis. Why? To go Over the Edge for Special Olympics Missouri.

Over the Edge is a one-of-a-kind yearly event where participants raise a minimum of $1,000 so they can rappel down a multiple-story building. Participants not only get an adrenaline-pumping adventure but also raise money to help fund Special Olympics Missouri athletes.

Brad works for KSLQ in St. Louis and promotes a variety of different charities on his radio show. Back when he first started, Brad joined another radio station’s team to go Over the Edge so he could conquer his fear of heights.

“Quite honestly, the first time I ever did it, maybe I had a selfish motive; I wanted to raise money for Special Olympics but I also have a fear of heights. So I tried to overcome my fear of heights,” said Brad.

Much like how Brad conquered his fear of heights, Special Olympics athletes are conquering their fears and are smashing the stigma that many have associated with intellectual disabilities every time they compete in Special Olympic Missouri events.

This year’s event will mark Brad’s seventh year straight going Over the Edge for Special Olympics Missouri. Now, he is part of KSLQ’s own team that has been participating together since 2013. Every year, they are helping to make the event bigger and better by recruiting more people to join their team and raising more money for the cause.

Over the years, Brad has personally raised money by doing a lot of on-air fundraising. He also raised money by promoting the event on his social media outlets. At one point in time, he offered an advertisement deal that advertisers would buy a fundraising package that would benefit the cause.

His team has been able to raise money by talking about the event on-air since some of them are radio hosts as well. Others fundraise through networking with people they know.

Last year, his team was able to set a new personal record by raising over $11,000 and recruiting eight people to rappel on their team. This year, they are have already started their fundraising efforts for the event and are looking to double what they did last year by raising $22,000 and recruiting 16 people to rappel.

Brad enjoys the camaraderie he feels with his Over the Edge team and likes to feel like he’s making a difference in the lives of others.

“People will say ‘My cousin is a Special Olympian or my kid is a Special Olympian and thank you so much for doing what you’re doing,’” Brad said. “It’s always sort of a nice feeling you know, to have that feedback that you’re making a difference hopefully and people are appreciating it as well too.”

This year, Brad and his team will rappel down the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch on October 7. People also have the chance to raise money and rappel down the Jefferson State Office Building in Jefferson City on October 14.

To learn more and sign up to have your own thrilling and fun adventure, visit

State Summer Games through the eyes of an intern

Sarah Schroll is a communications intern in the KC Metro office. She is a senior at the University of Central Missouri majoring in Public Relations.

When I first started my internship with Special Olympics Missouri in the beginning of May, I did not really know what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would be writing some, helping with tasks, and working on various projects throughout the summer, but I certainly did not know that I was going to have such a rewarding and hands on experience.

Earlier this month (June 2-4) I was able to attend my first State Summer Games. I had no idea what to expect except I knew that I would be watching as athletes throughout the state went to Springfield, Missouri to compete in a state wide competition. I did not know that I would have such a great time talking to and getting to know athletes, volunteers, and staff members.

I arrived at the State Summer Games on Friday afternoon to work on setting up the opening ceremony with my internship supervisor and Director of Marketing and Communications for Special Olympics Missouri, Mandi Steward-Ballinger. Before the games, I was able to help with some of the behind the scenes work and I was excited to see how the ceremony would turn out.

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The opening ceremony was a lot of work and I was on my toes consistently, but when the ceremony started I got to see how all of our hard work paid off. I watched as all of the athletes came into the stadium during the parade of athletes and noticed how excited and happy they were to be there. I looked around the room as the band played and saw the joy they had dancing with their families and teammates. Finally, during the torch lighting ceremony, my face lit up with a smile as I looked around the stadium as it filled up with excitement.

On Saturday, I was able to work with athletes first hand by being an event manager for turbo javelin. I was able to talk and help the athletes as they were waiting to compete and was able to see them do they best they could do in competition. It was amazing to see the athletes cheer each other on even if they were directly competing with those they encouraged. The sense of love and compassion for everyone competing was evident throughout the day. That night I was able to attend the dance and watch athletes, coaches, and families have fun and dance together.

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On the final day I was able to help check in volunteers and direct them to where they are needing to go. I then took a walk to the track and field competitions where I was able to watch more athletes compete.

My first State Summer Games was one that I will not soon forget. The excitement from the athletes was electrifying and seeing the impact that Special Olympics Missouri makes on so many people’s lives truly showed me the importance of this organization. I am excited for the next coming months while I continue to work with SOMO and I can’t wait for the next fun adventure that I will have at State Selection Camp.