Jared Niemeyer 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 Oct. 19 in Columbia. 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 Awards Luncheon.

Jared Niemeyer – North Area

DSC_9675 Jared Niemeyer
Jared has gone far and above of competing in Special Olympics Missouri sports. He sits on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Missouri serving as the Athlete Representative.   He is a graduate of the Athlete Leadership Program, he is a Charter Class member in raising funds for the Training for Life Center, He has served as Plunge Ambassador for 2 years and he is one of the first Global Ambassadors for Missouri.  He speaks to groups in our community and throughout the State – organizations such as colleges, Knights of Columbus, high schools (Highland High School has asked him to come talk also), community and civic organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary, etc. He visited 16 Casey’s to simply thank them for the June fundraiser! He sent pictures to Crystal Schuster to post on FB as our thank you! He has traveled to his second venture at the United Nations in June and all he does at every turn to promote, share and encourage others in or for Special Olympics.  Everything that our local LETR does, Jared participates in: Cop on Top, Drive it Home Raffle sales tables for LETR (he’s also a Business Partner as Jared’s Jams to sell raffle tickets), Tip a Cop, local annual Torch Run in Kirksville, fundraisers in various ways, etc. He has done many newspaper, TV and Radio interviews for area SOMO activities. Most recent was an article in Kirksville Daily Express & Edina Sentinel for UN participation.   Jared enjoys participating in Bowling, Basketball and Track. Jared is an advocate for inclusion as he feels this is the world we must promote because everyone deserves the opportunity to be all they can be! On top of what all he does for Special Olympics he has worked 8 years at Kirksville Hy-Vee since graduating in 2011. Jared is a member of the St Joseph Catholic Church.  He’s a Knights of Columbus member and started his own business called “Jared’s Jams” which has partnered with “Josh’s Java” and they sell jams, jellies and specialty coffee blends at Kirksville Farmer’s Market and regional festivals. Jared will do his best at all he is asked to do, he always does it with a smile and enthusiasm and does it for his fellow athletes.

Clarence Bentley – Central Area
Joe DiMaggo has this quote:  “A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, by example”.  Clarence Buchanan demonstrates this quote through his participation in Special Olympics.  He is a quiet leader who always gives his very best to whatever sport he is competing. Clarence is working toward becoming an athlete coach through ALPs.  He wants to help other athletes do their very best, gain skills and get stronger.  Clarence has a welcoming personality and yet there is a sense of shyness about him.  His infectious smile comes out when he receives a compliment or does something well.  When you see Clarence working or talking with other athletes, you can see the confidence that they have in him. Clarence enjoys going around the state for competition and has met many new friends.  He offers his assistance with fundraisers and/or other opportunities where athletes are needed to be represented.  This summer he was faced with a different situation when one of his favorite coaches left.  He didn’t think he wanted to continue, but after being asked, he came back.  Teammates and coaches alike are glad when Clarence is around.  He is a nice guy who cares about others.

Colin Garrison – Kansas City Metro Area
Colin has competed in Special Olympics Missouri for 13 years and has participated in bocce, basketball, softball, track, bowling, aquatics, flag football, soccer and tennis.  In 2018, Colin competed in Bocce at the USA games in Seattle earning a silver.  Previously, he participated in Athletics in the 2010 USA games in Nebraska. Just recently, in January 2019, Colin represented Missouri on Team USA in Abu Dhabi and came home with gold, silver, and bronze medals in bocce. Colin makes a huge impact on the community around him and around the country.  He recently represented SOMO as members of Team USA met President Trump following the 2019 World Games and visited with Senator Roy Blunt at the World games and in Washington DC.  In the Kansas City community, Colin works at the Goodwill doing computer recycling. Due to his accomplishments as a Special Olympic athlete and an excellent employee, he was chosen to throw out the first pitch at a KC Royal’s game. When competing in Missouri or around the world, Colin is a impressive representative of Missouri showing confidence and encouraging others.  His sportsmanship is top notch and his excitement for all sports is undeniable. The fans always cheer for Colin because he demonstrates excitement with outstretched arms when making a basket, a point in bocce, or just running by them in track.   If an athlete needs help or someone to pump them up, it is Colin.  Even if Colin is competing, he will stop and help whoever needs support.  He makes everyone around him feel special and welcome.  If any of his fellow athletes do not recognize an athlete from anywhere across the state, they will ask Colin.  He will tell you their name and their background if he has not already started talking to them.

Lucas Blattel — Southeast Area
Lucas Blattel exemplifies an All-Around Special Olympics athlete.  He has competed in 291 events in 157 games just through SOMO.  In addition, Lucas has participated in USA and World Games. In just 2018 Lucas competed in the following sports and games –

Softball – Regulation – Area, Regional, State, National Invitational Tournament

Basketball – 5-on-5 Regulation – Area, Regional, State

Bowling – Unified Doubles – Area & State

Tennis – Singles, Doubles, Unified – Area, State, USA Games

Athletics – Mini Jav, 800MR, Shot Put – Area, State

Volleyball – Unified – State

Bocce – Singles, Doubles – Area

In addition to his well-rounded athletic performance on the field, he is an asset off the field to this program as well.  He participates in ALL area fundraisers.  He plunges each year, helps at area Tip A Cop events, helps sell Drive It Home Raffle tickets and assisted at the 1st ever Scott Wright Memorial Cornhole Tournament, both as a volunteer and a player.  Lucas also spends several LONG days each May at the Wagon and Trail Ride fundraiser.  He cooks meals, loads and unloads trucks, serves meals, does dishes and anything else that is needed for a successful 4-day event! Finally, we would like to highlight Lucas’ strength as a teammate.  He helps with several teams his Mom coaches.  He is a mentor to new athletes joining Cape Independent.  Often the coaches rely on him to get athletes rounded up to a certain place or ready to go at a certain time.  He is well respected by his teammates and coaches, as a both a great athlete and reliable teammate.

Kit Gillihan — Southwest Area
Mr. Gillihan is one of the most extraordinary students/individuals I have encountered and have the pleasure of knowing. He has been a model, indeed an inspiration in his service to professional education and to Special Olympics. Mr. Gillihan has never had, or chosen the easy path. He meets challenges head on and welcomes the opportunity to conquer any challenge that he encounters. He holds himself to high standards of excellence, is an inspiration, and motivates others to do the same. Rather than giving up and quitting due to stress that would have emotionally incapacitated most, Mr. Gillihan never stopped or allowed himself to be hindered by societal injustices. He always comes back strong. This much heart seems difficult to find in society but he demonstrates it every day of his life.

Jacob Ritter — St. Louis Metro Area
In the last year, Jacob has really grown into a leader within the SOMO community. Jacob is an athlete for Warren County Handicapped Services where he competes in just about every sport available to him; bocce, bowling, basketball, flag football, golf, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.  For the first time in his athletic career, Jacob attended sports camp this summer to add to his knowledge of this list of sports and he soaked in all the pointers and drills he could. In addition to all of those activities, Jacob attended the Missouri Association of Student Council’s weeklong camp earlier this year, where he met new people from around the state and learned leadership qualities and inclusive activities he can bring back to his own school. He was also invited to serve on a committee to host a leadership summit to help promote unity in schools. Every event Jacob comes to, he comes with a positive attitude and makes sure he follows the Special Olympics oath.

Lou Holtmann 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 Oct. 19 in Columbia. 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 Awards Luncheon.

Lou Holtmann — Headquarters nominee

DSC_9586 Allison Lou Holtmann
Lou Holtmann has been volunteering at various Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) events for over 25 years. He has dedicated his life to serving people with intellectual disabilities and fighting for the respect and enhancement of their quality of life.  Most recently, he took on the position of Special Olympics Chairman for the Missouri Knights of Columbus. Over the last 3 years, Lou has put over 100,000 miles on his car traveling to Knights of Columbus Councils spreading the message of our programs and volunteering at SOMO competitions and fundraisers throughout the state. He treats his role of service as if it is a full-time job and beyond, never asking for anything in return. Lou has made friends with athletes across the state that recognize him, because of how much time he spends serving at SOMO. In many photos of our athletes, you will find Lou in the background beaming with pride. He never asks for recognition and loves helping behind the scenes. Lou spends many weeknights traveling to different Knights of Columbus Councils sharing the message of our SOMO programs.  He spends the majority of his weekends volunteering at events or hosting booths representing SOMO at various conventions throughout the state. Following the May 22nd tornado, Lou was one of the first to assist with clean-up efforts and rallied support across Missouri when we needed it most. He has planned and hosted numerous fundraisers, served meals, served as an Honor Guard of our Opening Ceremonies, awarded medals, and the list goes on. Without hesitation, Lou is one of the most extraordinary advocates we have ever had for SOMO and is the epitome of what it means to live your life for others. Lou is lovingly known as the “anchor” of the Knights of Columbus, a “workhorse,” and an “angel on earth.” One thing that everyone agrees upon is that Lou pours his heart and soul into everything he does and SOMO is at the top of that list. Our partnership with the Knights of Columbus would not be what it is today without Lou Holtmann. He never asks for recognition, but wholeheartedly deserves it. Missouri Knights of Columbus State Deputy Bob Hawkins said, “Lou is a selfless volunteer that has always gone above and beyond in his duties. This has been the case for the roughly 25 years that I have known him. His endless driving around Missouri promoting the SOMO Training for Life Campus has helped us immensely as we near our $1.2 million goal. He has spent thousands of hours doing this and never asks for anything in return. I could not think of a better person to receive this honor.” SOMO athlete and friend of Lou, Brock Guseman said, “Lou is always there for us when need him. He’s helped with SOMO for many years. He’s always talking to us athletes and kidding around with us. He would do anything for us, I’ll tell you that.”

Derina Shelton — Central Area
Derina Shelton is a volunteer who does not know how to say no.  Can she help with our local event?  Yes.  Can she help with a state event?  Yes.  Can she help with the Polar Plunge?  Yes. Derina has been helping Central Area with events for several years.  She does it for the love of the athletes.  Now Derina is passing her passion on to her son, Nathanyl.  She originally was in the banking business, but has since moved to a job where she can serve individuals with special needs in the Columbia Public Schools.  It is noticed by individuals how well she interacts with the students she serves.  When asked about her background, she gives credit to her volunteer duties with SOMO.  Now Nathanyl shares in the compassion by being the student who notices those with special needs and no one sitting with them at lunch. Central Area has some key volunteers who are the “go to” for help.  Derina is one of those volunteers.  She has served on the registration team at the Central Area Plunge since the first year.  The expert for the “day of” line, Derina greets the plungers with a smile. Central Area is grateful to Derina (and Nathanyl) for always coming out to share their smile and enthusiasm with the athletes.

Jeremie Ballinger – Kansas City Metro Area
Jeremie Ballinger has been with SOMO for 14 years.  He began with SOMO as a staff member.  After he changed jobs in 2011, Jeremie stayed highly involved as an event manager and has helped with several of the Kansas City events as well as state level events.  In 2019, Jeremie has been at basketball, aquatics, track, bocce, golf and State Indoor Games.  He plans to be at State Outdoor Games as well as KC area bowling.  He also participates in the Polar Plunge most years. Although his wife is on staff, Jeremie helps at events even when she is not scheduled to work. He is always a smiling face, willing to do anything he is asked, and upholds the integrity of the competition for the athletes.  His general knowledge and experience of SOMO competition is always so useful! In his most recent career, Jeremie maintained the area partnership with Kansas City Corporate Challenge, making sure the relationship grew to its potential.  He helped provide volunteers from KCCC for SOMO events as well as loaning other KCCC resources to make SOMO events run smoothly. On top of being an event manager, Jeremie has also participated as a Unified Partner in several sports. Most recently, he has been a unified partner in tennis and softball.  He has also worked to recruit his two oldest children to be involved in SOMO.  His oldest son, Dalton was an event manager at the State Indoor Games and Unified Partner for softball.  His daughter, Payton, attended sports camp as a junior counselor, sang the national anthem at the Kansas City Area track meet and served as Shiver Bear at the Polar Plunge.  Jeremie was also part of the “moving crew” when the KC office had to move from Lee Company to their new office space.  His connection to the landlord is what led us to the space for the new office. As you can tell, Jeremie has played just about every role in SOMO and continues to be a huge supporter of the program.  His attitude and willingness to help are unmatched and we are so lucky to have him in the Kansas City Area!

Lindsay Bernard — North Area
Lindsay Bernard has been a volunteer in some capacity with Special Olympics for 10 years now.   She has helped with local events by helping recruit volunteers to run the events.  She has participated in several fundraisers over the years including our Celebrity game, Ladies Night Out, Sponsorship campaigns, Making A Change event.  Lindsay was instrumental in working with the City of St. Joseph to place a bid to host the State Indoor Games for 3 years.  Securing facilities, funding, volunteers, meals etc.  She served as the Chair of the State Indoor Games GMT (Games Management Team) the last two years.  We are all aware of how many hours it takes to put on State games, Lindsay put in place a strong volunteer GMT and delegated jobs to everyone involved.  Lindsay has truly stepped up and has been a leader that other volunteers and business leaders look could depend on.  She is always there to ensure the games are running as they need to, helping to secure entertainment for Opening to making sure meals were delivered on time.  She took great strives to ensure that the games were the best for everyone and especially the athletes involved.  She stepped up to make sure the 2nd year of State Games in St. Joseph were better than the year before, securing better, bigger facilities, acquired more contributed services to offset costs and recruited more volunteers.

Sarah Wichern — Southeast Area
Sarah approached our office about a year and a half ago to get more information about volunteering with Southeast Area Special Olympics and since then has become a great asset for our area.  She does not have an athlete in the program or any experience with this organization; she just has a desire to make things better for others.   She is the President of Kappa Beta Gamma and encourages their involvement also.  Sarah was “all-in” from the first event and continues to take on new tasks.  She was our Polar Plunge Intern and helped us make a connection with many schools we had not connected with before.  She and her sorority created a new fundraiser for the Southeast Area. They volunteered at a booth for a week at the SEMO District Fair raising over $500 just by setting up a selfie station and requesting donations.  She donates many hours in the area office. She quickly taught herself GMS and has spent countless hours entering athletes into events and recording results as well.  In addition to being present at events in Cape Girardeau, she has travelled to competitions in other areas in our region to assist at those events. Sarah volunteer work does not end with hours of data entry!  She has helped file physicals, worked Special Olympics tables at area events, cleaned our office, sold Drive it Home raffle tickets and has signed on to serve on the 2018 Cape Girardeau Polar Plunge committee.  Sarah quickly came to be friends with many of our athletes. Sarah truly recognizes that her behind the scenes dedication is very important in providing great programs for our athletes and we are very thankful to have her support.

John and Julie Clarke — Southwest Area
John and Julie have been volunteers for the Southwest Area for many years and have helped with several events in the area as well as State events. If you want an event to be successful, you call the two of them. They were instrumental   in making the Bartender’s Charity Ball a success in the past and have recently come on the Polar Plunge Committee in 2019 and helping to make it one of the best ever plunges. John and Julie are willing to help in any way possible to help with events and raise money.   They have great ideas and contacts.  They think outside the box and make things happen.   It is a privilege to have them on our team.   Words cannot describe how blessed we are to have this package.




Berryhill/Dinkins family of Southeast Area 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 Oct. 19 in Columbia. 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 Awards Luncheon.

The Berryhill/Dinkins family — Southeast Area

DSC_9564 Berryhill
Lisa Berryhill, has been participating in Special Olympics for the past sixteen years.  Her entire family quickly realized the magnitude of the program and what it has meant to their daughter / sister/ niece.  The Berryhill Family jumped right in and has been involved in nearly every activity that has taken place in the Southeast Area as well as in Missouri.  Special Olympics has become a major part of Berryhill’s family. The Berryhill’s family literally will help in any way they can to ensure the quality of the program.  They serve as a chaperones, Unified Partners, and coaches.  Peggy volunteers as the bowling and bocce coach and she is involved with Family Outreach and in the Fan Club.  She has been very influential in getting the family involvement in Southeast Missouri.  The Berryhills love what the program and what it has done for Lisa and their entire family.  It has created a closeness in their family that is indescribable.  They have a passion for what participation in Special Olympics does, not only for Lisa, but for all the athletes.   Their entire family is athlete advocates. Both Peggy (mother) and her other daughter (Lisa’s sister, Amy) and Amy’s husband Billy truly exemplify an outstanding Special Olympics family. Most recently, Peggy’s sisters (Lisa’s Aunts) now are Unified Bocce Partners and are team chauffer’s.  The entire 40+ Cape Independent Team know and love the Berryhill Family. The Berryhill family truly shows commitment in that they work to secure sponsorships. Their family members all are involved as unified partners, filling in when they are called upon to do so.  In addition, Peggy has taken the time to get certified to coach two sports to further broaden her capabilities of providing assistance. Another commonality that this family shares is the fact that they are dire St. Louis Cardinals fans.  But as much as they love attending those Cardinals games…they love attending Special Olympics competitions even more!

The King Family — Central Area
Annette (mom) has served as a volunteer coach for a number of years within two different groups in Columbia.  She gives tireless hours to helping make sure that the athletes are at training and competition.  She does not come to an event without offering help in between what her responsibilities are for the team at that competition.  Annette is an individual that rarely says no when asked and this gives the area office much peace.  She is coming to competitions with such a positive attitude and when she sees something offers solution rather than just a complaint. Howard and Lena are both athletes.  However, just like their mom, they rarely come to an event without asking if we need any help.  Howard likes to use his muscles to help set up and/or carry in boxes.  Lena is very helpful with awards and likes presenting awards to other athletes. The King family are also present in assisting with fundraisers as needed.  They support each other, the athletes and SOMO as a whole.

The Hodgson family – Kansas City Metro Area
The Hodgson family is the epitome of a Special Olympics family. The entire family is involved; not just in sports, but in health and leadership programs as well. When there is a need for a family, the Hodgsons are there. Whether selling Raffle tickets, supporting Polar Plunge participants or giving a speech to spread awareness, we can count on the Hodgson family to show up.  Rand and Darla will transport Lynna and Jesse wherever they need to be so that they can help. Lynna is everything you want a Special Olympics athlete to be.  She is a role model, ambassador, competitor, and most importantly a friend in the SOMO family.  She participates in athletics, basketball, bowling and softball.  She also attends annual baseball, flag football, and soccer clinics.  Lynna is a great advocate for Special Olympics; she is a certified Global Messenger and recently became a certified Health Messenger through Special Olympics, Inc.  She is particularly fond of speaking to the Knights of Columbus chapters to inspire them to get involved with the Training for Life Campus fundraising efforts. Lynna has raised more than $5,000 for the Training for Life Campus herself, earning a letter jacket. Lynna will graduate from our Athlete Leadership Program this fall with a major in Health, and she will complete a second degree in Technology next year. Rand is her mentor, attending classes and helping ensure she stays on track with her practicum. Rand and Lynna traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in Hill Day this winter, speaking to legislators about the importance of Special Olympics in their community. Lynna is also extremely active on social media, encouraging other Special Olympics athletes, sharing health tips and celebrating earned medals. Jesse is also a model athlete. He is always ready to give helpful advice to any of his coaches, help his teammates and is always the biggest cheerleader on the sideline.  Even though he finds challenges because of his limited vision, he has never failed to try to find a way that he can compete.  He will do what it takes to play for his team and when he isn’t playing he is asking whoever is near him for the play by play so he can cheer for his team.  When he decided to try track and field this season and we talked about different events, his answer was always “I want to be challenged, Coach.” Before one sport season ends, he will be asking “When does the next one start?” Jesse and Lynna were both selected for Team Missouri at the 2018 USA Games. The whole family traveled to Seattle, and extended family met them there to cheer on Mo Magic. With Rand and Darla’s help, both Jesse and Lynna exceeded their fundraising goals and shared some of their funds with other team members who needed help. Lynna and Jesse both worked hard to get into shape ahead of the USA Games. Each of them lost at least 40 pounds, and Jesse worked so hard on the treadmill that they had to purchase a new one. Darla works hard to ensure that both Jesse and Lynna thrive within their own environments. Rand is knowledgeable about any disability benefits and is willing to help any parent understand and fight for the benefits they deserve. The Hodgson family is truly an asset to the KC Metro Area and SOMO as a whole.

The Ferdig family — North Area
The Ferdig family has two athletes that participate in Special Olympics Missouri events, Josh and Justin. They participate on Coach Esther Pfieff’s team, Tri-Cahp! Their parents, Lynisa and Carl, help Esther in a lot of ways to ensure that Tri-Cahp is good to go. They are at practices helping no matter what sport it may be. Carl and Lynisa also travel to regional and state events to volunteer as chaperones for the Tri-Cahp team(s). They are always willing to help Esther in any way they possibly can. This includes taking on extra responsibilities that ensure they can coach if they need to. Carl and Lynisa are really part of the Tri-Cahp family and they strive to make it the best team they possibly can for their sons as well as the rest of the athletes that participate on that team.

The Maupin Family — Southwest Area
New to Missouri but not to Special Olympics, the Maupin family joined Team SOMO in 2018. Sandy, and her daughter, Dusty visited our office to bring her SOMO paperwork and mentioned their willingness to help with events or whatever we needed.  They probably do not realize how grateful we are for that visit! Sandy and Dusty help with the Truck Convoy – making goody bags, loading/unloading and helping at the event.  Dusty is an absolute delight and can socialize with anyone! Dusty participates with the Community Support Services Team and Sandy is a dedicated supporter of their team.  At Area events, Sandy always jump into help where needed.  Sandy sees what we need help with and gets it done and any family who have come to watch Dusty, jump in with her.  Whether it is helping at registration, helping on a lane at bowling or driving a cart at golf, the Maupin Family does it with a smile.  They respect and engage with all the athletes at our events.  It is always a pleasure having the Maupin family at our events.

The Lance, Wells, Gregg family — St. Louis Metro Area
Robbie was an Edger in 2018, will be returning with his mom, Jaimie, to rappel in 2019 from the roof of Bank of America Plaza (31 stories). When SOMO needed to find a new venue for OTE, Jaimie was instrumental in connecting SOMO with Jones Lang LaSalle, the management company for BOA Plaza. Both Robbie and Jaimie sit on the OTE committee. Robbie has become the athlete voice for OTE, giving on-air TV interviews and encouraging everyone he meets to register and go Over the Edge. Robbie is a SOMO athlete, Zach is a Unified Partner. Robbie, Jaimie and Zach attended the Tip A Cop and Spare Change event at Cardinals vs Cubs game at Cardinals Nation on August 1. They were enthusiastic about making the event a family outing and a bonding experience. Robbie did a great job at engaging the customers and fans at the game and encouraging them to donate to Special Olympics Missouri to help athletes like himself. It was wonderful to see Robbie’s family support him that evening.  It shows their commitment to Special Olympics Missouri and our mission. Robbie and Zach were on team Missouri’s Unified basketball team that went to Seattle for the USA Special Olympics games. Not only did they help out in anyway, but Jaimie and Pat were both very involved in the year long process leading up to the games and during the week in Seattle.


Kevin Chapman of Southwest 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 Oct. 19 in Columbia. 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 Awards Luncheon.

Kevin Chapman — Southwest Area
DSC_9630 Kevin ChapmanKevin started the Special Olympics program at Clever Schools in 2017. Over the past few years, he has not only grown the program with athlete involvement, but has also implemented Unified Partners to the program. Kevin has recruited new coaches and volunteers to help coach and assist as they have added more sports to their program. The Clever Special Olympics program is active at Area, Regional and State events in Bowling, Basketball, Volleyball and Track & Field.  Kevin strives to provide his team with competition opportunities that allow them to grow and compete at their highest level.  He has also worked with other area Special Olympics coaches to host Special Olympics Basketball Games in conjunction with their high school games.  This has provided a great opportunity to show case the athletes of Special Olympics in their local community. In 2018, Kevin approached Clever High School about hosting the 2019 SW Area Spring Games (west side). Through his effort along with a team of administration and school faculty, Clever High School hosted a very successful Spring Games.  The entire school supported the event along with many members of the community including area Law Enforcement. Kevin also served as the Softball Umpire for the SW Area Softball Tournament and represented the SW Area at the 2019 South Central Conference in October.

Kathy Butler — Central Area
Kathy is not new to Special Olympics but each year she seems to start something new for the athletes in her area.  When a local track meet was offered by the local school district, Kathy was right there with her support and willingness to do whatever was needed. It is amazing to watch Kathy with her athletes and the love you see from them.  Both of Kathy’s older children, Victoria and Evan, caught the Special Olympics bug because of what they witnessed from their mom.  Moreover, we all know that without a supportive husband, it makes it very difficult to be involved. Not only is Kathy coaching, she is organizing other coaches, and even serves as a mentor for an Athlete Leader within ALPs.  However, Kathy exhibits the kindness for the community and state at large.  This past spring, Kathy suggested that teams could bring some can food or non-perishable items to the State Indoor Games held in St. Joseph, MO.  At that time, St. Joseph and surround communities was experiencing a flood.  Kathy thought that Special Olympics could step up with this food drive to say thanks to the community in a way that would be meaningful to them. This act is not an isolated incident that Kathy has suggested or organized.  She holds an annual Prom for the athletes in the community.  She plans, sets up and enjoys the prom each year with a special theme!  She is unbelievable.  During all this, she and her husband, Elliott, adopted 3 young boys.  It is clear that Kathy has a huge heart, loves her family, community and her athletes.

Pam Rohlfing — KC Metro Area
For Pam, Special Olympics has never been something you do a few hours a week. She was fully invested the day she took this on. She found a place for the Northstars, and have made them part of the NKCSD school district athletic family. She has successfully lobbied the district to consider the Northstars as a true school district team. Through her work, the Special Olympic high school athletes have received varsity letters and pins for years and have six sports to choose from. She puts all of her time and energy into these kids and asks or expects nothing in return. She is at all the games, practices and fundraisers. She attends all the executive meetings to discuss how we can continue to grow our team and give them more opportunities to play sports and be kids. She fights hard and advocates for the athletes to make sure they are included in school activities as any other school team would be. As a special education educator, she has insight into the lives of our athletes and their families that goes far beyond Special Olympics. We have over 100 athletes and she knows each by name. She understands how important it is to the athletes and their families. Pam’s passion and enthusiasm in working with the athletes is unparalleled and is frankly contagious.  She teaches/coaches more than a sport.  She encourages the other coaches to push our athletes to maximize the tools they have and be better than they think they can be. While competitiveness is front and center, she demands this occur in a fun environment and sportsmanship is an essential ingredient. Pam manages all of the Northstars sports and is great at delegating coaching positions to the other coaches on their staff.  She is a great role model for all of those coaches.  She takes on all of the scheduling, paperwork, physicals and skills tracking for basketball, softball, and track and is working to add new sports like soccer and bocce. As her athletes graduate from high school, she is working to make sure they have a smooth transition and are able to continue their Special Olympics careers after high school. Overall, Pam loves her athletes and is always looking to create an energetic, inclusive athletic environment full of fun and celebration. This love for “her kids” and their families is truly, why she is involved. She is one of the most passionate and hardest workers around.

Amanda Starks — North Area
Amanda Starks is a newer coach that took on all three of the sports that the Kirksville Titans do. Coach Starks also organized a ton (I mean a ton) of her Truman State University students to assist in every way! These college students respect Coach Starks and want to help at the Special Olympics events and with the Kirksville Titans because of the relationship, they have built with her. She has recruited, fundraised (over $500 for uniforms alone), promoted awareness, coached, provided rides, and assisted in starting the Kirksville Titans – an Adult SOMO program for our area. Coach Starks not only did all of this with a smile on her face, but was raising a toddler and working full time at Truman State University while she was at it. She is now doing all of this as she is expecting her second child and still shows up with smiles, positivity, and determination to make this team the best it can possibly be for these athletes.

Jeanetta Sansoucie — Southeast Area
She is one of the most patient, compassionate and caring coaches in the Southeast area.  She coaches Track and Field and Bowling.  She makes it a priority to give all her athletes individual attention.  You can tell from her interaction with her athletes how much they respect her.  Watching her cheer on her athletes and give them advice to improve their skills shows her passion for not only her athletes, but also sports in general. She puts in the extra time and effort required to successfully run a Special Olympics program, in addition to her daily full time employment as a teacher.  Other attributes that are characteristics of Jeanetta include her knowledge, organization, flexibility, compassion, and ability to recognize and meet the needs of their athletes. Many times these needs go beyond teaching a sports skill and more often it is teaching a life skill.  She gives so much time and effort to improving the lives of her athletes.

Kirk and Tammy Halveland — St. Louis Metro Area
Kirk & Tammy’s kids, Lilah and Patrick have been unified athletes that our Special Olympics Falcon athletes look up to, respect, and consider best friends. The entire family is outstanding and each one is an outstanding coach.


Lt. Steve Davis, MSHP Troop I, Named 2015 John Michael Letz Award Winner

Steve Davis Letz AwardThe John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing 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 our unsung hero award.

The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after Mike 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 $178,000 since its inception. The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele, who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 29 years ago.

The criteria for recipients include:
-Responsible for significant fundraising results
-Participates in year-round support
-Exemplifies the Special Olympics mission
-Someone who is a visionary for the Torch Run,
-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:

Steve Davis Flame of Hope Involved in the Torch Run for 17 years, first as a runner.
 Is involved in fundraising in both local and statewide fundraising events
 Volunteers to hand out medals at both local and state events
 Organizes a Torch Run before the area Spring Games, involving all local law enforcement agencies and the local athletes
 Serves as Region Coordinator working with recruitment and growing the LETR family in the Area; serving as Mentor to many.
 After becoming the region coordinator, this region was awarded the Greatest Increase in Gross Dollars for 3 years in a row
 Has been instrumental in growing the region’s torch run to include over 1,000 runners
 Had the idea to bring the Polar Plunge to their region and has served as Committee Chair since its inception
 Served as Missouri’s Final Leg Runner to New Jersey in 2014
 In the words of his nominators: “This recipient not only takes on the responsibility of fundraising, but wants everyone to know what Special Olympics stands for and what it does for its athletes around the world. He is a true friend and champion of the Special Olympics MO family.”
 It is my honor to present this award to a person who makes a big difference to his agency and his region; to the LETR family, and to SOMO’s athletes

Congratulations to the 2015 Letz “Unsung Hero” Award recipient: Lt. Steve Davis of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop I.

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.

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.