Randy Boehm named SOMO Volunteer of Year, 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. 17 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Leadership Conference.

Randy Boehm — Headquarters nominee
Randy Boehm has proven himself as an invaluable leader within the LETR program. He presently serves on the LETR Committee, having chaired it for 10 years. He is a torch runner turned region coordinator, where he served for 10 years. Then he stepped into the committee chair role and during the next 10 years it went from a good LETR program to an excellent LETR program. During this same time, Randy also became a part of the SOMO Board of Directors. He served the organization starting in 2006 and influenced decisions and governed. Two of these years he was both Board Chair as well as the LETR Chair. He always kept the needs and impact of SOMO’s athletes in mind. He was the Strategic Planning Council Chair for 2009 – 2010 and the Vice Chair for 2009 – 2010. He served as the Chairman of the Board in 2011 and 2012. Randy also led the LETR movement to join in support of the Training for Life Campus Capital Campaign by championing a commitment of $1 million over five years to support this new training facility. He also served from November 2008 to November 2013 as the regional coordinator of the International LETR Executive Council. In this role, he served as the liaison to five other states with communication and collaboration a focus. This region was always a leader in fundraising results compared to other regions.

Linda Tyler — St. Louis Metro Area
Linda Tyler started her SOMO experience as a coach for Wentzville Special Sports and fell in love with the program and our athletes. Even while completing graduate-level classes in 2014, she attends so many events as a volunteer within the St. Louis Metro Area and statewide. After learning the rules of sports such as bowling and basketball, Linda is always the first to offer her help as an event manager at local and area events. She will travel on her own dollar to state games and volunteer multiple days in a row, always serving as a smiling face to athletes and a helping hand to staff. After being selected as a Unified Partner in bocce for the 2014 USA Games, Linda agreed to take on a major fundraiser to benefit the coaches and athletes from the St. Louis area traveling to this event. With limited assistance, Linda coordinated multiple concession stands at this year’s regional basketball tournament, purchasing the supplies, creating the menu and finding the volunteers to help.

Charlie Aiken — Southwest Area
Charlie Aiken is one of those volunteers you can really count on. He will drop anything to help SOMO. He is friendly and kind-hearted. Whenever help is needed, he volunteers his time without hesitation. Charlie has many helpful contacts and resources to offer SOMO that he doesn’t mind reaching out to. He always works hard to get the job done and does a good job at it. Every year for Area Spring Games, Charlie donates his time and trailer to help us load and haul all the equipment we need for the games. He helps organize and implement fundraisers such as the Unified bocce tournament. Charlie will even stand out in the blazing heat to cook hundreds of hamburgers and hotdogs all while keeping a smile on his face and cracking jokes.

Jen Rose — Southeast Area
Jen Rose is about as consistent of a volunteer as they come. She helped coordinate volunteers and was a venue coordinator at area basketball, district basketball and Area Spring Games in both Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau. She served on the Polar Plunge committee and was a key part of its success. Jen attended and helped with State Basketball Championships in the Kansas City area. Previously, for four years she served on the Games Management Team for the State Fall Games in Cape Girardeau, where she was in charge of volunteers as well as helping with every aspect of the games. On late notice, Jen agreed to help with the area bowling tournament in Cape in the fall and stepped up in the fundraising category to have Southeast Area Special Olympics be the benefactor from one of the Cape Girardeau Roller Girls Bouts in Cape. Jen is employed by Southeast Missouri State University and has made a commitment to help Special Olympics Missouri as often as she can. She held up this commitment for many years, this year being no exception. Jen has sacrificed a lot of personal time and work time on some occasions to do this. She gives to the organization because of pure desire and choice. Volunteers like this are hard to find!

Amanda Geno — KC Metro Area
Amanda Geno is one of those volunteers that the KC Metro Area staff knows it can turn to in a pinch, no matter if it is on the program or development side. She is active in all areas of the program. Amanda serves on the area GMT for all sports and when there are regional GMTs in the Kansas City area, she is the first to step up and help. She is a Unified Partner and recently attended USA Games as a Unified Partner in bowling. Amanda has also been a great mentor/role model for many of our athletes. She takes time out of her day to be there and help them or even just listen when they need a friend. Amanda serves as the Torch Run coordinator for her law enforcement agency. She was very involved in LETR prior to her becoming her agency coordinator. She sold T-shirts, participated in the annual Torch Run, served at many Tip-A-Cop events and has attended many annual LETR International Conferences representing her agency. Amanda was the driving force behind creating a citywide Torch Run route for Kansas City. Amanda has been on the Polar Plunge committee since joining the Lee’s Summit Police Department. In 2014, the event chair stepped down after eight years. The Plunge committee asked many people to step up and chair this amazing committee but no one was willing to make the time commitment. Amanda was already involved in all aspects of SOMO, but she saw a need and stepped up to chair the Polar Plunge committee.

Missy Ash — Central Area
Missy Ash is the center of the Hermann program! She sends out letters to all the participating schools, raises the funds through local company and civic organization donations, ensures that each athlete competing has a commemorative T-shirt to wear for the day in various colors (by the schools) and helps recruit volunteers.
Through her vision, this event has grown to this year host 134 athletes, 50 Young Athletes and 100 volunteers. Through Missy’s contact, she was able to secure the local Mason Lodge which not only donates all the food for the team lunches, but also gives back money and runs the concession stand. In six years, Missy was able to grow this event from three schools in 2007 to 11 schools in 2014. One of the most touching things that this event has done is that it has brought the idea to other communities. A teacher who was involved in the early years at Hermann with Missy moved to another school district and last year that school district became involved.

Lynett Bingaman — North Area
Lynett is involved in several aspects of the North Area program. She has served on the Plunge Committee for the past four years, she is the official money counter of the Plunge, she recruited several new volunteers to help with the Plunge registration process, she has served as a volunteer at the many of our program events and she partnered with us in the Duck Race for three years. Lynett is a whirlwind of new ideas, always researching new fundraising events, matching grants and grants in general that SOMO can apply for. If she hears about an opportunity for a non-profit, she calls and informs staff as well. Lynett works full time for another non-profit organization, but she will share her resources, knowledge, time and talent to help Special Olympics and the athletes. She wears her heart on her sleeve and always has the best intentions for our athletes.

Mandie Bowman of North Area named best SOMO 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. 17 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Leadership Conference.

Mandie Bowman — North Area
Mandie Bowman was an assistant coach for many years and now has progressed to be the liaison for all the schools within the St. Joseph School District. Mandie is one of the most energetic coaches as she has taken her coaching responsibilities a step further by setting up Fan Clubs. She is the voice in the St. Joseph School District when it is budget time, and she helps by recruiting volunteers for YAP. She helps utilize the school district and the facilities more than the North Area program has ever done in the past. Without Mandie’s help, we would not be utilizing the SJSD and the facilities as we are today. Mandie was instrumental in starting the T.U.F. Club at Truman Middle School, which stands for Truman United Fans. They hold pep rallies prior to events, decorate the athletes’ lockers, help with fundraisers, become Unified Partners and have volunteered at local and area events.

Keith Patterson — Southwest Area
Keith Patterson has been a coach for more than 10 years. He coaches bowling, basketball and athletics for the Neosho School District. Besides being a volunteer coach, he is also a Unified Partner and volunteer official. Keith has been known to do all three in one day if he is needed. He loves watching his athletes fill with joy as they receive their medals. He always has a smile on his face and positive words to say. He continues to grow the school’s Unified Sports program every year. Over the past few years, Keith has done an outstanding job helping with the area basketball tournament. He gets the gym space, officials and volunteers. He has also taken it upon himself to get shirts for every athlete who attends. Last summer, Keith coached the Team Missouri women’s basketball team at the USA Games in New Jersey. He worked hard to unite athletes from across the state to play as a team; and as a team they proudly brought home the silver medal. Keith is also very involved in the local Polar Plunge.

Jeff Partridge — Southeast Area
Jeff Partridge first realized how important Special Olympics is when his son Ryan became involved in the program. He began by helping the Rebels team with basketball, eventually becoming their head coach. Basketball led into softball and softball led into bowling. Jeff has a real desire to see his team improve and excel. With Jeff, there is no off-season. He is a true leader and friend to his athletes. They all look up to him and work hard on and off the court to be the best they can be for him. Jeff is the Chief Engagement Officer of the YMCA of Southeast Missouri. This is a wonderful facility in the Southeast Area and Jeff invites our teams in to practice or work out for whatever season they are preparing for. Jeff has also become instrumental in assisting us with the Young Athletes Program.

Sheri Morris — St. Louis Metro Area
As a physical therapist at St. Charles Habilitation Center, Sheri Morris directly sees the social and physical benefits that Special Olympics offers her clients and is constantly pushing them to be involved in as much as possible. She escorts athletes to Blues and Rams games with tickets that have been donated to SOMO, she is at every weekend Field Day that her athletes might enjoy, and she makes sure athletes and staff are at every program event possible. Some of Sheri’s clients participate in aquatics with another coach and she’s always there cheering on her friends, even though she is not coaching them!

Dee Peterson — Central Area
When Dee Peterson first started with Special Olympics, she was a special education teacher and wanted a chance for her students to participate. Time went on and Dee moved to a “regular” education classroom, but not giving up her love for her former students and Special Olympics, she stayed on as the coach for Laquey Schools. Previously, Laquey athletes only competed in the area bowling tournament and the Area Spring Games. Wanting to give them a chance to experience something new, she asked for them to compete in the state bowling tournament. With her help, the Buckhorn Local Bowl was born. What went from a little local bowl has now evolved into a Unified Team Local Bowl! Later, she was interested in basketball, so the Unified 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was born! In mid-March, small schools from the area put together Unified 3-on-3 teams and come over to Laquey Middle School to compete against each other.

Venessa McCloud — KC Metro Area
Venessa McCloud began volunteering for Special Olympics winter sports in 1989 while working at Snow Creek in Weston. Moving to Platte County Board of Services (PCBS) in 1992, she saw the need to provide the full range of recreational and athletic opportunities to those who predominantly live in group homes. Twenty-five years later, Venessa is the glue that holds the PCBS Special Olympics program together. She has been instrumental in the development of the SOMO program for PCBS, putting in the extra time and effort required. She is fully qualified as a head coach for basketball, track and field, bowling, golf, swimming, skiing, bocce and snowshoe racing. As a qualified CPR and First Aid instructor, Venessa ensures all coaches and volunteers meet the medical training required to participate in SOMO sports. She has actively recruited, trained and mentored the athletes, parents, volunteers and other coaches in an exceptionally run SOMO program that successfully meets the needs of more than 60 PCBS athletes year-round.

Robertson family of KC wins SOMO family of the year, 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. 17 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were also announced at the SOMO Leadership Conference.

The Robertson family — KC Metro Area
Veronica Robertson knew it was going to be hard to find opportunities for her son, who was born with a rare genetic disorder which caused intellectual disabilities along with dwarfism and speech delays. But when they joined SOMO for the sports experience, being there for Brett became so much more for her and her husband, Rob! Even Brett picked up more responsibility by helping the team. They came off the sidelines and offered to help at team practices. They became chaperones and certified coaches. They signed up for the Unified Partner jobs, decorated and planned the homecoming float and again continued that after Brett was off the team. They became equipment helpers; this is where Brett really took his job seriously. Veronica signed on to be a Polar Plunger in the second year of the KC Plunge and has plunged every year since. She became our Fan Club representative which led to her involvement in Miles for Medals. They have been involved with our Mantels and Martinis fundraiser and every other event where we sell tickets, go eat or just plain ask for money! When Brett aged out of the school team, all of their efforts were then focused on founding and supporting the new Lee’s Summit adult team. Without the Robertson/Nelson family, this adult team would not happen. They have been key in making sure the teams’ opportunities continue for all the graduating students. All the hard work they did on the school team has been transferred over to grow the adult team.

The Hulett family — Central Area
The Huletts lived in Moberly until mother Doreen was transferred to Florida. During their time in Florida, they found swimming and how it helped Logan with his autistic behaviors. Once the family came back to Moberly, they found SOMO and a swim program in Columbia. In 2013, Logan’s coaches nominated Logan to attend the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey. Moberly is not a large city, but the Huletts took on the challenge to raise the $1,500 to attend. They sold mums, wrote letters to ask for donations and solicited businesses in town. Logan raised the $1,500; in fact, they exceeded this amount. The Huletts raised a total of $3,367 – enough to help another athlete who was struggling to reach their goal. Logan went to the 2014 USA Games, as did his mom, dad and sister. It was not only a chance of a lifetime for Logan, but his family as well because it was their first vacation together!

The Leitterman family — North Area
The North Area has a family that has made an impact on SOMO’s program for the past several years. Greg and Janet Leitterman saw potential for growth with a fundraiser and they took the event and ran with it. They took a golf tournament that was making $1,500 to $2,000 per year and grew the participation and the sponsorship with results netting more than $7,000 in 2014. They start about six months out in preparation of the Brooke Leitterman Memorial Golf Tournament. They are raising the funds in memory of their granddaughter Brooke, who had Down syndrome and was active in Special Olympics. They wanted the golf tournament to raise enough funds to provide the programing for the athletes in their hometown of Cameron. They have made this event something to be a part of. They secure all door prizes, items for the golfers, meals, goody bags, facilities and hole sponsors. They have grown this golf tournament on their hard work, determination and persistence. They secure all the media sponsors as well for this event.

The Busken family — St. Louis Metro Area
SOMO is a family affair in the Busken family. Julie Busken is the Special Olympics program coordinator in the Warren County School District and her involvement in and passion for the program has spread like wildfire! Eldest daughter Brittany is right beside her mom, helping to coach at every event. Son Tyler recently officiated at the St. Louis Metro Soccer Tournament. Daughter Emma is a soccer, basketball and volleyball Unified Partner. Julie’s husband Greg has been recruited on multiple occasions to lend a helping hand at an event, move equipment between venues and coordinate rides for athletes. Julie and Brittany attended the 2014 USA Games — Julie as an athletics coach and Brittany as the volleyball sports manager. Both helped coordinate multiple fundraisers for this event. Julie even recruited extended family members to work a concession stand at the Edward Jones Dome. As every event passes, you can see the passion and dedication in this family grow. In addition to leading their Warrenton teams, they volunteer to help at every event they attend or just pitch in when they see a need.

The Gardner family — Southeast Area
Logan Gardner participates in Special Olympics Missouri programing year-round. He participates in basketball, bowling, softball, athletics, tennis and any type of dancing that is available. He also participates with the Sikeston Guns N Hoses team in the annual Polar Plunge. As you can tell he is a very busy guy! 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. She is also very willing to share with the all fans of Logan and Special Olympics as she posts the accomplishments of all on social media. 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 competition and is their biggest cheerleader. Logan’s father, Tim, most recently became a Unified Partner in tennis and competed locally and at state with Lucas Blattel, another Southeast Area athlete.

Seth Dye and Melissa Reese — Southwest Area
Melissa Reese and Seth Dye are the perfect mother and son duo. They are both so friendly and caring. They have truly made Special Olympics a part of their lives. Seth is described by his coaches as kind, helpful and hardworking. Seth and his mom have become a great asset to the area. Not only does Seth participate in sports, he attends fundraisers such as the World’s Largest Truck Convoy and promotes the Polar Plunge by helping in the Maple Leaf Parade. Now Seth is becoming a Global Messenger so that he and his mom can continue to raise awareness for Special Olympics in the Southwest Area. Most recently, they teamed up to help with the Unified Bocce Tournament fundraiser. At the time, Seth didn’t know how to play, but thought it would be fun to learn a new sport and to help raise money. Melissa helped other staff and volunteers serve drinks and food as well as run the carnival games. They are both eager to help more in the future. The Southwest Area is lucky to have such a wonderful family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missouri State Parks receives highest SOMO honor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training for Life Campus to be Built in Jefferson City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletes will have their own entrance into the building.

Athletes will have their own entrance into the building.

Circle drive approach to the building

Circle drive approach to the building

Interior view with the LETR torch in the center

Interior view with the LETR torch in the center

Main entry

Main entry

2014 – John M. Letz Award Winner


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

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

                                                                           2014 – Letz Award Winner: Jeff Fugett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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