2019 World Games Update 2

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

We’re wrapping up another busy day. We watched Colin and others on the bocce team compete in men’s singles. The level of competition is remarkable. So many of the athletes are able to place their ball precisely where it needs to be. Every roll we had our hearts in our throats.

Again Colin and his teammates had some very tough matches. Colin won one and lost one. Both were nail biters. We’re very proud at how Colin has done against some remarkable players. (Coach Larry. You’d be proud too and you’d be chewing your nails down like we are!). The other players had similar days. Tomorrow will wrap up singles and we’ll see how everyone does. We’re proud of how all of them are representing our country.

In between matches, we had time to watch some other events. We saw some great volleyball and quite a bit of basketball. The basketball team from Puerto Rico had an enthusiastic cheering section and the team played at a really high level. Great to watch!

While we were there, Tim Shriver and the young woman who is a unified ESPN broadcaster stopped by. You can tell how much parents and fans appreciate Tim and the work he does carrying on his mother’s legacy.

The team was done earlier today than previous days and were looking forward to some extra sleep. They’ve been running off of short night’s of sleep.

We have more competition to watch tomorrow and look forward to cheering on all of the great athletes. It’s inspiring to watch athletes overcoming the challenges they face as they rise above in competition. We saw 2 young men with cerebral palsy from Pakistan and Jamaica play remarkable bocce with beaming smiles. They’ve been given the opportunity to compete on the world stage because of a dream Eunice Shriver had and the countless people who’ve carried that dream for more than 50 years – including all of you who’ve supported Colin and so many others. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We’re so proud to be here representing all of you. We can hear you cheering from across the miles! Colin’s been reading the many great messages from you, grinning ear to ear!

Colin bocce

Colin and teammate


2019 World Games Update 1

Mike and Karen Garrison are parents to Colin, Missouri’s sole athlete competing at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 

We made it after a long couple of days travel and want to give you an update on the early days.

Travel went smoothly and we made it to our hotel Wednesday morning around 2:00 a.m. Later that morning after some sleep we picked up our credentials at the family center.

One of the smartest things we did was book our lodging at a hotel in the massive complex where Colin is competing. We just walk through our lobby and into the ADNEC complex. Probably a dozen sports are competing there so we can walk from Bocce to basketball to powerlifting to judo to gymnastics to volleyball. We don’t have to rely on buses or shuttles. It’s so convenient.

Yesterday was all about opening ceremonies. They were at a scale that’s hard to grasp. The venue is a very large stadium that seats around 60,000. We know many of you watched or recorded the ceremony but we’re not sure what was broadcast. Before the main ceremony began, there were performances by the police band, a men’s choir with women performing dance moves, men walking around with Saluki dogs and royal falcons, a military flyover with 4 colors of vapor trails. Everything was at a huge scale with lots of cultural elements. So inspiring.

The parade of athletes gave us chills. 200 countries! The largest number ever to participate. We’ve seen athletes from more than 100 countries from Faroe Islands to Burkina Faso to Moldova to Botswana and beyond. It’s humbling to hear the languages and uniforms but to appreciate how many similarities there are. From the joy in faces, the determination and spirit, to the common bond of celebrating these amazing athletes and their accomplishments. We definitely are more alike than we are different.

And now to Colin. We finally saw him for the first time today. They’ve been very busy with practice and special events. The red carpet is rolled out for them everywhere they go. A highlight for Colin was last night when he met Mariano Rivera who was part of the US delegation. (Famous baseball pitcher for those who might not know the name).

When we were at the Bocce venue this morning, Mariano and his son came by. We were also greeted by staff from the US embassy, a Navy commander from the surgeon general’s office and Karen Pence, the second lady, who is representing the government. They sat and watched part of a game and visited. A nice moment for fans and athletes.

Colin competed in traditional team Bocce today. They had tough competition from Libya and Bahrain. They were shaking out some jitters. After the day of competition Colin’s team took home the bronze medal! We couldn’t be more proud to watch him receive that world medal. See a couple of pictures from the ceremony. One of the sheikhs presented his award. Pretty cool!! Not often do you get a bronze medal at a world games from a sheikh! We just hang around Colin. He’s the famous one!!

Bocce team bronze

Bocce team awards stand

We’ll send another update in a day or so. We’ll feeling your support and love! We’re making memories for a lifetime!

Thanks and Abu Dhabi out!

Mike and Karen

Special Olympics Missouri Announces New President & CEO

123_1(Jefferson City) The Board of Directors of Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) has announced the appointment of Susan Stegeman as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) effective April 1, 2019. She will lead the grassroots movement for the empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities in Missouri.

Every day, Special Olympics uses the transformative power and joy of sports to build positive attitudes and create an inclusive world for all.

In her role, Stegeman will be responsible for leading a team of 40 professionals in Missouri who are addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation of people with intellectual disabilities by delivering the Special Olympics Missouri mission across all 115 counties. Our program empowers more than 16,000 athletes to be productive citizens in their communities, leading to a more welcoming and inclusive society for all. Under her direction, Healthy Athletes© will continue to expand to an inclusive health program through health and wellness partnerships and initiatives. Special Olympics Missouri holds three state-level competitions and more than 300 local and regional competitions annually and is powered by more than 30,000 coaches and volunteers who help make the grassroots operations possible.

“Our SOMO board unanimously approved Susan as our next CEO because of her commitment to the athletes and the Special Olympics movement,” says Gary Wilbers, Board Chair. “We are excited about our future with her leadership.”

Stegeman has been on staff at Special Olympics Missouri since 1990. She works in partnership with Missouri’s law enforcement community on the Law Enforcement Torch Run®. Under her leadership, Missouri’s program has grown from $56,000 to $2 million annually, presently ranking ninth in the world. She served for six years on the International Torch Run Executive Council that is responsible for managing, promoting, planning, expanding and coordinating Torch Run activities worldwide. She also established SOMO’s three signature events to raise awareness and funds: Polar Plunge®, Over the Edge, and Drive it Home Raffle. Stegeman oversaw development efforts to support the program’s needs during a ten-year capital campaign keeping staff, volunteers and partners motivated and engaged. That campaign culminated in 2018 with the opening of the Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City.

“I’m looking forward to this new challenge; working along-side our great team to serve even more amazing athletes,” says Stegeman.

About the Training for Life Campus
Designed to be a world-class training facility, the Training for Life Campus is the largest and first of its kind in the United States and offers year-round training, health and leadership opportunities for athletes, coaches, volunteers and staff. Located on 16.5 acres in Jefferson City at 305 Special Olympics Drive, the campus includes a sports arena that features indoor basketball and volleyball courts, space for free health screenings, multimedia conference rooms, a health and fitness center and administrative office space. Additionally, several outdoor recreational fields and courts for various types of athletics will surround the campus.

About Special Olympics Missouri
Special Olympics Missouri is a year-round program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 16,400 athletes participate in 16 Olympic-type sports throughout the state. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with their fellow athletes, their family and friends, and communities across Missouri.

Special Olympics Missouri is proud of our financial health returning 86 percent of every dollar back to program services. We are privileged to be recognized with these honors: Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity, Charity Navigator 3-star rating and an inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame – Class of 2013.

Byland, Guseman and Dallas Inducted into SOMO Hall of Fame


On Jan. 26, Special Olympics Missouri announced that Central Area athlete Sarah Byland is one of three people that were inducted into the SOMO Hall of Fame this year. Byland was surprised during a basketball game at Columbia College where she works by family, friends and SOMO staff with the news.

On Jan. 20, Special Olympics Missouri announced that St. Louis Metro Area athlete Brock Guseman would be inducted into the SOMO Hall of Fame this year. Guseman was recognized at his alma mater, Northwest High School in Cedar Hill, MO prior to a Harlem Wizards game.

On Jan. 23, Special Olympics Missouri announced that St. Louis Metro Area volunteer Terri Dallas would also be inducted into the SOMO Hall of Fame this year. Dallas was surprised during a Next Step for Life basketball practice in Festus, by friends and SOMO staff with the news.

All were formally inducted on January 27, 2019.

SOMO can induct up to two athletes and two non-athletes into the Hall of Fame each year. This year SOMO had three inductees, including Sarah Byland, Brock Guseman and Terri Dallas.

Byland, Guseman and Dallas were recognized alongside the newest inductees to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, including former Missouri State Bear and Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, St. Louis and Kansas City pitcher Jeff Suppan, Chiefs receiver Carlos Carson, Mizzou tight end Chase Coffman, sports director at KRCG-TV Rod Smith, among others.

Sarah Byland, Athlete
Sarah Byland has been involved for 30 years participating in Bocce, Bowling, Golf, Softball, Swimming, Tennis and Track. Sarah has represented Missouri at two USA Games. In 2006, she attended the first USA Games in Iowa competing in track and field bringing home a gold medal in the 100-meter walk. In 2010, she showed her talent in bowling at the USA Games in Nebraska where she received a gold medal in both singles and doubles bowling. To prepare for the USA Games in Nebraska, she participated on a Sunday bowling league every week, which resulted in her improving her game by 80 pins.

Sarah BSarah loves to raise money for Special Olympics Missouri because she enjoys being around people and people enjoy being around Sarah. She is deathly afraid of heights, but when given the challenge to raise money for Special Olympics and go Over the Edge, she did just that and lived up to SOMO oath of “Let me win, But if I cannot win, Let me brave in the attempt”, and brave she was on that day and every day!
Sarah is also an avid Polar Plunger, having taken the plunge 11 times! She and her friends plunge every year in Columbia and always dress up in the best costumes. She served as the Columbia plunge ambassador in 2018 helping to promote the plunge. This is a great role for Sarah as she has many friends through the local radio and TV stations.

Sarah was one of the first ones to step up to the plate and become a charter class member helping raise money for the Training for Life Campus.

Sarah has worked at Columbia College in Dulany Dining Hall for many years and through her employment has gained notoriety for her “warm reception and smile” every time anyone comes into the dining hall. She has made numerous friends at work through many of the student athletes and they all know her by name. She has recruited a few to take the plunge with her over the years!

One of Sarah’s greatest accomplishments is being one of the first athletes to graduate from the Athlete Leadership Program with a degree in Communication.

Sarah’s passion and love for Special Olympics shines every time she flashes that smile of hers. She is an inspiration to many, not just her fellow athletes, but volunteers, coaches, staff and donors are all blessed to know Sarah.

Brock Guseman, Athlete
Brock Guseman has been competing for 28 years in Unified Softball, Basketball and Bocce. In 2011, Brock represented Missouri at the World Games in Athens, Greece, bringing home two bronze medals and a 4th place ribbon in Bocce. Since then, Bocce has become Brock’s “claim to fame” and now “Bocce with Brock” is held annually in St. Louis as a donor cultivation event for the Training for Life Campus.

Brock Guseman photo7327-CBrock quickly became the face of the Training for Life Capital Campaign and made it his personal mission to ensure his fellow athletes had a place to call home. He personally raised $12,480.50 for the Training for Life Campus. His fundraising efforts didn’t stop there as he has gone Over the Edge and helps with various other fundraising events.

Brock was awarded the Albert Pujols’ Special Olympics Athlete of the Year Award from the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and the Aldo Delta Crocce Bocce Award from the Italia-America Bocce Club.

Brock is a trained Global Messenger where he gives presentations and goes on sponsor calls with staff. He has cultivated and engaged many of the major donors such as Centene and Emerson who helped support the construction of the Training for Life Campus, which opened in September in Jefferson City.

Brock credits much of his success in life to Special Olympics and one of his greatest accomplishments is having a full time job with Feed My People for the past 19 years. He no longer requires financial support through social security or Medicaid and receives health benefits through his employer. He owns his own condominium, coordinates his transportation and with minimal support manages his finances.

Brock serves on the Jefferson County DDRB (Senate Bill 40) Advisory Committee known as Together. There he represents individuals and families in Jefferson County who are in need of developmental disability support and services. As a representative of other committee, he takes part in project planning and development while working with others of all abilities. He uses the skills he has learned to maximize his independence and champion others with disabilities.

Brock’s enthusiastic outlook on life is contagious. He loves to give back and does so with gusto. He is a true champion and advocate for all.

Terri Dallas, Volunteer
Terri Dallas has been involved with Special Olympics Missouri as a coach and advocate for 35 years. She has set the standard for a SOMO coach as mentor to countless athletes and volunteers to promote the mission of Special Olympics. In 2012, she received the Special Olympics Missouri Coach of the Year Award. Most recently, she had the honor of being a Bocce coach and representing Team Missouri at the USA Games in Seattle, WA.

Terri DallasTerri believes in the mission of SOMO and wants everyone to have the experience of participating as an athlete, unified partner, coach, family member and volunteer. For the past 15 years, she has spearheaded a local Bowling tournament and Track meet all orchestrated by youth leaders and local student councils. Each year, more and more schools get involved because of the positive experience others share.

Through Terri’s leadership, she has supported her athletes’ aspirations to move on to the USA and World Games level. She has sent athletes and unified partners to the 2003 World Games in Dublin, Ireland, the 2006 USA Games in Ames, IA, the 2011 World Games in Athens, Greece and the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, WA.

Terri is certified to coach several sports and is a part of the Nest Step for Life 30-member coaching team. She is the first one to encourage her athletes to go to Healthy Athletes and partake in all the opportunities offered and often the last one to leave the dance.

Through Terri’s dedication to sharing the stories of the athletes in Jefferson County, she has built awareness of the positive benefits of Special Olympics Missouri for athletes and families. She has one of the strongest family support networks in the state because she finds a way for every family member to feel included and engaged in the program.

Terri is more than a coach. She is a fan, a mentor, a recruiter, a fundraiser and a friend to so many athletes, families and coaches. She puts her heart and soul into her work for her athletes, making them the most confident, talented and well-rounded individuals who are successful in sport and in life.

For more information or to learn how you can support Special Olympics Missouri, contact Kayla Hull at hull@somo.org. Information about the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Enshrinement can be found at www.mosportshalloffame.com.

Lucy Wortham James students learn about, raise money for Special Olympics

For their service learning project this year, 4th grade students at Lucy Wortham James Elementary in St. James participated in a Walk-A-Thon to raise money for Special Olympics Missouri.

Students had spent the first quarter learning about what it means to be a “great-hearted person” (both literally and figuratively). The lesson then culminated with supporting a great-hearted cause.

Students enjoyed a visit from SOMO staff and enjoyed learning more about this great organization. At the walk-a-thon, many laps were walked (and ran!) and $1,000 was raised to be donated to SOMO. Students celebrated with an assembly where the top fundraisers were honored and given prizes courtesy of Maries County Bank in St. James.

Below is a Q&A with the class’s teacher, Katie Moreland.

What kind of things did you teach them about “being a great-hearted person?” Students learned that a literal great heart is healthy and strong enough to do its job — no clogged arteries or veins, no faulty valves. They learned you can take care of your heart with healthy eating and exercise habits. Students also learned that being a figuratively great-hearted people are people we would describe as being generous, caring, heroic, inspiring and hard-working.

Why did you/the students pick SOMO?
In our read-aloud of “The Man Who Loved Clowns,” the character Punky has a disability and has the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics. Numerous other characters in the book volunteer to help Special Olympics athletes. As we read the book and learned more about the organization, we decided Special Olympics Missouri was the perfect cause for us to fundraise for.

112What did you hope the students learned by having SOMO staff come in and talk to them?
Having SOMO staff come and talk to our students was a great opportunity for students to learn more about what SOMO is and the opportunities it provides as well as let them learn what donations such as we were hoping to make are used for. It got the students asking questions, thinking about the organization and ways they can be involved, and excited to fundraise for the cause.

What did you learn about SOMO and why did you want to raise money for this organization?
Students gave answers such as: “I learned about how neat it is for people with special needs to be able to do sports and compete and I wanted to raise money to help more kids get to experience that.”
– “I learned that the (SOMO) athletes can even go on to compete in World Games. I want to raise money to help. I’d love to volunteer sometime!”
-“I learned that it is a really cool organization that helps a lot of people. I think it would be neat to help them out.”
-“This organization does good things for a lot of people and they need donations to be able to continue doing that. I want to help.”

2018 John Michael Letz Award Winner: Lynn McClamroch

The John Michael Letz Award is the highest honor given within Missouri’s Law Enforcement Torch Run. It is our unsung hero award.

The criteria for recipients include being responsible for significant fundraising results and participating in year-round support; exemplifying the Special Olympics mission and being a visionary for the Torch Run. The winner of this award is someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes and who shows sustained commitment over a period of time.

We have many who are Torch Run enthusiasts; most we don’t know. We don’t know them because they don’t do the work for the recognition – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are usually in the background working to do more.

About this year’s recipient:

  • Began their LETR career by running in their local leg of the torch run
  • Served as the agency coordinator for their agency
  • Serves on the local Polar Plunge committee and has been instrumental in growing this event to where it is today
  • Organized a leg of the Torch Run in their city, involving local athletes.
  • Has driven the torch from one city to another between runs, to ensure each route in their region had the torch for their run.
  • Although this recipient has retired from their LETR agency, they remain involved in all events within their region; helping to coordinate and by participating when possible.
  • Served first as the assistant Region coordinator for their region before taking over as Region coordinator for 4 years. This recipient remained as Region coordinator, even after retiring, to ensure the right replacement was in place before stepping down.
  • When the local LETR committee was asked to help with lunch for the area Spring Games, this recipient was instrumental in providing a free BBQ lunch to the athletes and even volunteered to do the cooking.
  • This recipient’s nominator said “It didn’t take me long to see how passionate and dedicated this recipient was to the program. Although our region has had some change, a few things have stayed constant: This recipient’s commitment and dedication to the LETR and his love for the SOMO athletes. Because of his efforts, the Flame of Hope is still burning bright in North Missouri.”
  • The 2018 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award goes to – – Lynn McClamroch – MO Dept. of Conservation, retired

SOMO Athletes Changing the Game

Eunice Kennedy Shriver once stated, “You are the star and the world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.”

The mission of Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The sports training and competitions provide the athletes continuous opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, as well as share their gifts, skills and friendship with other Special Olympics athletes, and their communities. However, it goes way beyond just sports.

Special Olympics Missouri transforms the lives of athletes every day. With initiatives to activate youth, engage people with intellectual disabilities, build communities, and improve the health of the SOMO athletes – SOMO is changing the game for people young and old.

For 50 years, Special Olympics has been spreading the message: people with intellectual disabilities CAN – and WILL – succeed when given the chance.

Derek Sandbothe and Thomas Cleek are not only Special Olympics Missouri athletes, but they are the first athletes to be employed by Special Olympics Missouri.

“Special Olympics has given me a reason to live, to be honest with you,” Sandbothe said. “When I was in school, I was never really accepted, but I’m just glad that’s over and that I can actually have something to hold onto that has been a part of my life for a long time, and now, I’m at such a level in Special Olympics that not only am I competing in sports, but I’m also volunteering and helping others. I’m learning leadership skills.”

Sandbothe got involved in Special Olympics Missouri back in 2001 when he was working at Capitol Projects. After a few of his work friends invited him to a SOMO sporting event, he saw what Special Olympics was all about and soon began playing on the Jefferson City Parks and Rec basketball team. Being a part of the team and competing in Special Olympics was an eye-opening experience for him. “I was challenged by my teammates because they are just as competitive as me and the other athletes pushed me to be better,” said Sandbothe.

In 2006, he attended the first-ever USA Games in Ames, IA, as a part of the Team Missouri basketball team. About a month after the National Games, he received the opportunity to travel around Missouri, giving speeches about SOMO, telling his story and his experiences.

Through the years, he has been extremely active with participation in assisting and volunteering for the HQ staff with fundraising efforts and spreading the SOMO message. In 2017, Sandbothe was awarded the Outstanding Athlete award in recognition of all his hard work.

In 2015, he attended the first Athlete Leadership Program University (ALPs), from which he later graduated in 2018. “For my capstone project I made a big PowerPoint on what Special Olympics is and what SOMO and ALPs has done for me,” said Sandbothe. During his time in ALPs, he learned not only about communication and giving speeches, but he learned about leadership. He decided it was time for him to take on a much larger role. In 2018 he was presented the opportunity to co-teach a Global Messenger class to his fellow athletes. “Being able to use what I learned and teach my friends was such a great experience,” he said.

He is also a member of the Training for Life Campus (TLC) charter class of athletes who made it their mission to help raise money for the campus, by raising over $5,000.

On August 20, 2018, Sandbothe was hired as the first Campus Host. “Being the first hired athlete and Campus Host is a dream come true,” he said. “It means the world to me to work for an organization that has done so much for me.” This job has provided Sandbothe many opportunities that have helped him grow and gain more confidence. “My favorite part of my job is giving tours and getting to show people what Special Olympics is all about as well as the beautiful Training for Life Campus.”

Thomas Cleek began his journey with Special Olympics Missouri through the Young Athletes Program, in the Central Area, when he was 3 years old. Through the years he played many sports including: tennis, golf, bowling, volleyball and swimming. It was through SOMO that he found his passion for golf.

Cleek has had the opportunity to compete in golf during two USA Games; one in 2014 in New Jersey and one in 2018 in Washington.

In August, Cleek, along with seven other athlete golfers from the 2018 USA Games, was chosen to travel to New Jersey as a part of the United PGA Experience at the Northern Trust Open. He had the chance to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and receive golf tips from PGA Tour pros.The best part of the day was I got to play three holes with professional golfer James Hahn,” Cleek says. “He was so much fun to play with and talk to too. The advice that James gave me was unbelievable advice that I never heard of.”

On October 3, 2018, Cleek was hired as the second Campus Host. He applied for this job because he loves SOMO and thought this would be a great way to get involved outside of his sports. “This job means a lot,” Cleek said. “It shows that SOMO trusts their athletes and wants them to succeed. They want to help us athletes become a leader and give us the skills needed beyond sports and competitions.” He says this job has taught him responsibility and to be more independent.

Cleek was recently accepted into the Bear POWER Program at Missouri State University. This program is a two-year, five-semester, inclusive college program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. His future goal after he graduates college is to coach golf for SOMO. He wants to work with other athletes who have intellectual disabilities because he knows what Special Olympics can do to help them succeed.

Through Special Olympics Missouri people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths, abilities, skills and success. Athletes find joy, confidence, and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life. Like Sandbothe and Cleek, athletes inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.

Derek Sandbothe and Thomas Cleek are demonstrating what Special Olympics Missouri hopes every athlete is able to do, and that is grow in confidence to be an active member within the community they live in.