Ray Lauer and Linda Wiederholt Inducted into SOMO Hall of Fame

The SOMO Hall of Fame was created in 1997 by the Board of Directors as a way to recognize longevity and achievement of athletes and volunteers within the organization. A voting committee, appointed by the SOMO Chairperson of the Board, is responsible for reviewing all nominations and voting on no more than two inductees in each category.  To be inducted, finalists must be named on 75% of the ballots. A permanent display, housed in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, features photos of each year’s Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame inductees.

The 2012 inductees were announced Jan. 19 at our awards banquet in Branson, and they were enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Jan. 27 in Springfield. You can read the prerequisites and download a nomination form on our website.

Ray LauerRay Lauer, Hillsboro (volunteer)

As a Deputy Chief with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Ray became involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics Missouri in the early 1990s. He eventually became the Chair of the LETR, a position which he held for seven years. During that time, the LETR doubled the funds it raised in Missouri and reached the $1,000,000 mark for the first time. Also during his tenure, Missouri was chosen as host for the International LETR Conference. Hosted in St. Louis, the conference launched Missouri’s LETR permanently onto the international stage, setting a high bar for future international conferences.

After his retirement in October of 2003, he served on the Board of Directors until 2011. During that time, he served on the executive committee of the Board as secretary. He remains active in the LETR and on the St. Louis Over the Edge committee, as well as volunteering at the Polar Plunge.

ray andy bev lauerIt is through Ray’s quiet demeanor and selfless attitude that he has had the greatest impact. An intangible impact is that through his example, all of his children followed in his footsteps in many ways. All three sons and one daughter became involved, either by volunteering at events or fundraising. His son Matt served as a staff member and his son Paul won the Wheels for Winners Raffle in 2011. Ray’s involvement will continue as a fan of SOMO as his grandson, Andy, born in 2008 with Down syndrome, looks forward to one day being a Special Olympics athlete.

Linda WiederholtLinda Wiederholt, Kansas City (volunteer)

Besides time with her family or with her job as a 6th grade math teacher, the vast majority of Linda’s time and energy is spent enhancing SOMO.

Linda became involved with SOMO in the 1980s because her brother, Daniel Schieber, joined a program in the Northwest Area. Linda once said “Special Olympics for me has been giving back to a program that has made my brother’s life. Friendships have grown throughout the state so much that I now refer to Special Olympics families as my extended family.”

She has been actively involved in both the Northwest Area and in the Kansas City Metro Area for decades. She participates in every facet of Special Olympics, including coaching, fundraising, mentoring, leadership, planning committees and recruiting athletes, volunteers, Unified Partners and youth. Linda is a member of the KC Metro Games Management Team. Even if she is actively coaching a sport, she takes part as the GMT and is always the first person there to help set up an the last to leave. She coaches and attends SOMO’s Sports Camp each year in Mexico, Mo. Linda attends and assists with all major Missouri events each year, including district, regional and state competitions and Leadership Conference. She attends and assists with KC Metro Area fundraising including the Dare to Dream Golf Scramble, Broadway Bridge Run, Polar Plunge and fundraising for her team. She is an active adviser on the Youth Activation Committee and Project UNIFY. Linda prepared and trained athletes for the Special Olympics National Conference held in Kansas City in 2000 and was a Global Messenger trainer.

Brittany pose medal cropLinda has expanded the Park Hill district from seven athletes to more than 100, and she continues to seek out and take on more athletes every sports season. She has greatly expanded the sports program, coordinating basketball, softball, track and field, tennis, bocce, bowling, golf and soccer.

She has been recognized for her excellence within SOMO through winning the Outstanding Coach award in 2007. She was selected  twice to coach Team Missouri for National Games. Her birth family, the Schiebers, won Outstanding Family in 2001, and in 2012 her “married life” family, the Wiederholts, were nominated for Outstanding Family in the KC Metro Area.

Do you know someone deserving of this award? Download a nomination form for the athlete category or non-athlete category

Bernard Simons, Melissa Vighi, Marty Willadson Join SOMO Board of Directors

Special Olympics Missouri is proud to announce that three new members have been named to the SOMO Board of Directors.

SIMONS BERNARDBernard Simons
Director, Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities
Jefferson City 

Bernard (Bernie) Simons is the Director of Missouri’s Division of Developmental Disabilities and has worked in the field for 40 years. He started his career as a direct support professional working in a center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was through his work that he became aware of Special Olympics in Rhode Island. Over the years Bernie has seen many, many, people with various disabilities proudly participate in their states’ Special Olympics.

As the Director of Missouri’s Division of Developmental Disabilities for the past six years he has worked to redesign and strengthen the Developmental Disabilities Division in the face of numerous budget constraints. He has redesigned the regional structure, increased local case management to 88 counties (53 percent of the state), strengthened the quality enhancement system, improved communications with community providers, state associations and county boards and sponsored regional presentations on the accreditation process.  In addition, he was instrumental in developing the Partnership of Hope waiver. More than 32,000 Missourians receive services and support through the Developmental Disabilities system and almost 600 people have transitioned from the Habilitation Centers to community supports and all admissions to the Centers have been discontinued.

In addition to serving on the SOMO Board, Bernie also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disability Services (NASDDDS) and has done so for more than four years.

His prior experience includes being a Regional Director, Assistant Regional Director, Superintendent and direct support staff. He also worked as a consultant with numerous states on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and U.S. Department of Justice issues.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Our Lady of Providence and his master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Boston University.

Bernie and his wife, Janet, have been married for more than 33 years. Janet also works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurse. They have three daughters and four grandchildren, living in Maine, North Carolina and Rhode Island. In their free time Bernie and Janet enjoy traveling, reading and walking.

VIGHI MELISSAMelissa Vighi
Attorney at Law, Lashly & Baer, P.C.
St. Louis 

In 2011, Melissa Vighi began providing pro bono legal services to Special Olympics Missouri for leasing and bylaw governance matters. While working with SOMO’s administration and cheering on athletes at area games, she was moved by the courage, commitment, dedication, enthusiasm and energy of the SOMO organization. Melissa has since been inspired to lend her skills and experience to SOMO’s mission by serving on the Board of Directors.

Melissa graduated with a B.S., magna cum laude, in Business Administration from Marquette University and was initiated into the Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society. She received her J.D., cum laude, from Saint Louis University where she was initiated into the Order of the Woolsack, served as Lead Articles Editor of the Saint Louis University Public Law Review and received an American Jurisprudence Award in Antitrust Law.

Melissa’s law practice at Lashly & Baer in St. Louis focuses on the representation of public entities and charitable institutions to foster real estate development, economic opportunities and tax-exempt financing and participation in governance, business, management and operational matters and contract negotiations.

Melissa has volunteered with the Junior League of St. Louis and served as a deacon with the Glendale Presbyterian Church, participating in numerous service and community outreach projects. She has been active on the membership committee of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) St. Louis. She provides pro bono legal services to non-profit and governmental organizations in need of her transactional experience.

Melissa is married to Pete Gullborg, a commercial litigator at the law firm of Pitzer Snodgrass, and together they enjoy taking care of their rescue dogs and learning how to ballroom dance.

Marty WilladsenMarty Willadsen
Vice President of Operations and Administration, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame 
Battlefield 

Marty Willadsen spent the first 15 years after graduating from Missouri Valley College as a high school teacher and coach. From there Willadsen was hired as an estimator/ salesman for a steel fabricator in Springfield, Mo. He spent 10 years there, the last seven as a project manager. In 2004, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame offered Marty employment as Associate Director of Sponsor Development. Two years later he was named Director of Operations and on Jan. 1, 2008, he was promoted to Vice President of Operations and Administration. In that capacity, Willadsen oversees the day-to-day operations of the Hall of Fame and the administration of its employees. He is also instrumental in the planning and execution of the many events which the Hall of Fame hosts throughout the state.

His first experiences with Special Olympics came in 1978-79 when he served as an on-field volunteer at Special Olympics events while attending college in Marshall, Mo. His long-term relationship with SOMO started with his participation with the Price Cutter Charity Championship in 2004, coinciding with his employment at the Hall of Fame. Says Willadsen, “While I had very little interaction with the athletes themselves, it was the cadre of volunteers that impressed me. This was a group of people who were willing to do whatever necessary for the benefit of their athletes.”

Marty and his wife Lori, reside in Battlefield, Mo. and are very active in their church, where Lori is the Day Care Director and Marty plays bass guitar in the praise band. He enjoys golf, hunting, picture framing and St. Louis Cardinals baseball. They have one son, Andy who also lives in Battlefield.

The Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors is responsible for setting the direction of the organization. They formulate and establish policies and oversee the President/CEO of the organization. The Board also protects the assets and resources of the organization and develops goals to meet our financial needs to ensure the long-range financial stability of the organization. You can meet the rest of our Board of Directors on our website

Bullying and Hate Should Not Be Tolerated: Why Ann Coulter’s Use of the R-word is Wrong

Andrew Mundwiller is an attorney with The Cagle Law Firm in St. Louis. He represents people with severe injuries and disabilities, focusing on protecting his clients’ legal rights and financial well-being. Andrew is also a member of SOMO’s Board of Directors.

During the Presidential debate on October 22, conservative author and commentator Ann Coulter stated on her Twitter account, “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”  Coulter’s comment referred to President Obama as a “retard.”

The next day, John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics Athlete from Virginia wrote an open letter to Coulter addressing her use of the r-word and invited Coulter to attend a Special Olympics event. 

Thursday, Coulter was on the radio and was asked whether she regretted her use of the r-word.  Coulter said, “No of course I don’t.” Coulter further stated, “Liberal victims are the biggest bullies of all” and when referring to people who criticized her use of the r-word Coulter stated, “screw them.”

I am a volunteer board member for Special Olympics Missouri and I have a son with autism.  I am not willing to sit back and let people bully children and other human beings with intellectual disabilities.  So I felt it necessary to write this letter to you.

I am so confused by how accepted hate and bullying has become in this country.  How is it that Coulter and those like her feel it necessary to attack innocent human beings to further their personal and political agenda?

I am disgusted that someone who claims to be educated and on the moral high ground would choose to use such offensive and hurtful language to people that she has never met. Furthermore, when given a chance to say she was sorry, she added further insult and continued her use of the r-word.

There is no place in a civilized and modern society for the r-word.  Coulter used the word interchangeably with the word “loser.”   I am not sure how that could be so.  I have been to many Special Olympics events and I have never seen a loser. 

What I’ve seen are people who are my heroes.  People who never let life’s challenges get in their way.  I’ve seen people who possess the best qualities that a human being could have, like love and caring.

Ann Coulter had a real opportunity to address the use of the r-word.  Coulter had the chance to stick up for people and denounce bullying and hate, but Coulter refused.  Nobody can change Coulter or her feelings.  It is up to our community to say, “I am not okay with hate and bullying.”  “I am not going to tolerate people being hurtful.”  We are all members of this community.  Life is too short to live in a society where we hurt each other.

My SOMO Story: Chairman of the Board Randy Boehm

Randy Boehm, left with Ralph Biele, founder of the Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run

My name is Randy Boehm and it is my honor to serve as the current Chairman of the Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors. Our Board is made up of individuals from all over the state with many different backgrounds. The one thing we all have in common is our passion for SOMO and our desire to help our athletes. I have served on many boards over the years but none as engaged and involved as our SOMO Board.

My relationship with SOMO started in 1987 through the Law Enforcement Torch Run®. I am the retired Chief of the Columbia Police Department having served for 32 years on that department, my last eight years as the Chief. In 1987, Major Carl Antimi put out a memo about a Torch Run for Special Olympics. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was but I liked to run and even then I knew that being involved in our community was a good thing. This was long before the term Community Policing was heard. I raised a few dollars for SOMO and participated in the Torch Run. I really enjoyed meeting and running with officers from around the state and so the tradition began. To this day I participate annually in a portion of the Torch Run. Of course, now it is just part of the celebration for the work that is done annually by law enforcement to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics.

Randy Boehm hands the Flame of Hope to then-Governor Mel Carnahan

In 1987, the Torch Run was a simple run from Columbia to Jefferson City. It ended at the Capitol steps. Each agency was responsible for a mile of the run and then we all ran the last portion to the Capitol together. Now of course, we have legs of the Torch Run all over the state who all come together to run the Final Leg at the Opening Ceremony at the Summer Games. It was and is a lot of fun. At this point I still didn’t fully understand what Special Olympics was all about. I just knew it felt like the right thing to be doing.

In 1994, the Missouri Police Chief’s Association, the founder of the LETR in Missouri, made a decision to expand their involvement in the LETR. They formed an LETR committee and selected Regional Coordinators to help organize LETR events in the state. I was asked by my Chief to serve as the Region Coordinator for the central area and gladly accepted. This allowed me to serve on the LETR committee and to learn more about the LETR and SOMO. By this time I was attending some Special Olympics events and meeting athletes. That’s when I really started to understand how important this all was. I recognized how much the athletes appreciate what we did for them. I also recognized that it made me feel good to be around them.

Missouri delegates at the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference

In 1999, I had the opportunity to represent Missouri on the LETR Final Leg team at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in North Carolina. I had teammates from all over the world and we ran the torch all over North Carolina. I consider it one of the highlights of my career. I have friends from that team that I still have contact with to this day.

I continued to serve as a Regional Coordinator through 2002. Then in 2003 I was asked to serve as the Chair of the LETR for Missouri. I served in that capacity for the next 10 years, stepping down at the end of 2011. I still serve on the committee today. As the Chair of the LETR, I got the opportunity to work with some of the best, most caring law enforcement officers in the state. We are proud of our accomplishments and I am proud to call my fellow committee members friends. Chief Chris Pigg agreed to take over as the Chair of the LETR and he is doing an outstanding job in his first year as Chair.

Randy Boehm, center, with SOMO staff Susan Stegeman and Crystal Schuster

One of those friends is Susan Stegeman. Susan is the Chief Development Officer for SOMO and has been the Liaison to the LETR committee since its founding. She is the “glue” that holds all of this together and has learned to deal with being in a room full of cops at our LETR meetings. Not always an easy task. We can be rather vocal at times. I have had the opportunity to be around many LETR programs around the country. Missouri has one of the best and a huge part of that is Susan.

In 2009, I had the opportunity to be elected as a Regional Coordinator for the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Executive Committee. Our Region is Region 6 and covers Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Again, a great opportunity to meet and work with great law enforcement officers from around the country. Also, a great opportunity to meet law enforcement officers from around the world that share our same passion for Special Olympics.

Chairman of the Board Randy Boehm addresses a crowd including Governor Jay Nixon

In 2007, I was honored to be asked to serve on the Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors. I thought I knew a lot about SOMO, but I have learned so much more by serving on the Board. This has given me an opportunity to take off my law enforcement “hat” and really look at the big picture of SOMO. Let me tell you that it is an impressive organization. We have a tremendous staff that work every day to make sure that every dollar raised is used to help our athletes. I was elected as the Chair of the SOMO Board for 2012 and 2013. It is a privilege to represent SOMO throughout the state. People recognize what a credible, worthwhile organization this is. I truly believe that is why we are able to continue to set records for money raised in these difficult economic times.

People still ask me why I am so involved in Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run. I don’t have a specific moment or event I can point to. I don’t have a loved one who is an athlete. Although I certainly now have many friends who are athletes! All I can say is that it felt like the right thing to do when I ran in my first Torch Run in 1987, and it still feels like the right thing to do today.

I can tell you this: I have gotten more from Special Olympics than I have given. It helps me keep perspective. The athletes remind me daily that my small problems are just that, small. If they can meet their daily challenges with a smile, how can I not? I’m a better person because of the LETR and SOMO.

Diary of a Super Plunger

Amy Wurst is a long-time volunteer as well as a SOMO Board Member. She is Vice President at Henry Wurst, Inc., in Kansas City. This was her fourth year participating in the Super Plunge.

Only 24 hours till the start of the SUPER PLUNGE!
I’m busy getting many outfits ready for my 24 plunges – there are a few new ones this year. I’m excited that my 10-year-old nephew is going to come join me for an afternoon plunge. Craziness must run in the family.

Thank you again for your generosity. I exceeded my goal thanks to you. The athletes of Special Olympics Missouri thank you as well. Without your support, they would not be able to train and compete year round in wide variety of sports.

SUPER PLUNGE is about to begin!
The good news is that the lake is not covered in a thick coating of ice this year! The search and rescue divers don’t have to do any chain sawing to clear us a path to plunge. And, the water won’t refreeze between plunges in the middle of the night. Yay!

The bad news is that the water is still VERY, VERY COLD!! The forecast is for rain later this afternoon – that would not be very pleasant. Let’s hope the forecast is wrong.

The first plunge is at noon and then every hour after that through the night. We are in a tent down by the water’s edge.

I’m all checked in and have my computer set up so I can get some work done between plunges and send updates.

Plunge #1 is over!
No matter how many times I’ve done it, the shock of that first plunge takes my breath away and feels like needles on my legs. Gee … only 23 more to go.

The three polar bears are Bill, Brian and me who are the lifers of the KC Super Plunge group. This is year #4 for the three of us and we just keep coming back.

The really great news is that as a group, the Super Plungers have raised almost $50,000! We couldn’t have done it without your support. Thank you!

Plunges #2 & #3
Well … in order to make up a couple of hours so we are done by 9 am tomorrow, we do a few double dips. We just finished plunges 2 & 3 – going in and out and in and out is pretty painful! My toes are still tingling.

Plunges #4, #5 & #6
We’re 25% done on plunges … time seems to be passing quickly. We’ll see if that trend continues into the wee hours.

We have a hot tub, but it sprang a leak and had to be refilled. Right now its water temperature is about the same as the lake water. I sure hope it warms up before nighttime!

A new Plunger takes a dip!
My nephew Andrew came out for plunge #7 –  he raised over $300 so he could do a plunge too. Gotta love his Root Suit! He says it didn’t help keep him warm at all. It couldn’t have been that horrible for him because he said he wants to do it again next year! Welcome to the craziness Andrew!

More Plunging
Thanks to Amy Skeels for coming out and bringing her dogs and all that chocolate! Plunging continues and now we have a country music band playing some kickin’ music for our entertainment. And big thanks to Andrew’s family for bringing me a fabulous gluten-free SPIN pizza – so yummy!

9 plunges down … 15 to go.

And the Plunging continues
We have now completed 13 plunges … over the halfway mark! Thank you to Amy & Ginger, Brenda & Stevie, Julie & Jackson & Mackenzie for coming out and bringing me some doggy love and great treats (hot tea, cheese soup, coffee, hot chocolate and snacks). You’d be surprised  how many calories you burn when you are running into freezing water and shivering! At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I continue to stuff my face.

Plunging through the night
Some dog visitors enjoyed watching me take a few plunges. I’m pretty sure Jackson the collie wanted to save me from the very large “well.”

It is now just after 6 am and we have completed 21 of 24 plunges. We double dipped at midnight, 2 am, 4 am and 6 am so that we can be done by 9 am. We’ve got to clear our stuff out of the tent by 10 so that it can be ready for the 1000+ plungers starting at noon.

We ran out of propane for the heaters in the tent so it is quite chilly now … makes it hard to warm up after being in the water. Thank goodness there are only 3 plunges left.

Rumor has it that Channel 9 will be out here for the remaining plunges – watch that clip here.

DONE!
Sunrise over the water sure was a welcome sight! We got some new propane tanks hooked up and got heat going again thank goodness. We made an executive decision after our 6 am double dip to do one more double dip at 8 and then a final plunge at 8:30.

I made it through yet another year of 24 plunges in 24 hours … next year will be my 5th anniversary! You’ll be hearing from me toward the end of the year for next year’s plunge! Thank you so much for your support.

Why Special Olympics?

Randy Reddick is Senior Vice President of Operations at Shop ‘n Save, one of SOMO’s biggest supporters. Randy has volunteered for several years and also serves on our Board of Directors.

One of my earliest memories of our involvement with Special Olympics was in 1999 when SOMO Board Member Dave Pudlowski approached SHOP ‘n SAVE with a routine request. Dave asked if we would agree to sell the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) T-shirt in our stores. Such a request was common for a retailer with multiple locations and fit well with our company’s desire to support those in law enforcement, while increasing our level of community involvement. However, the response from both customers and associates was unlike any fundraiser we had ever promoted.

Randy Reddick, second from left, first got involved with SOMO through the Law Enforcement Torch Run

The Torch Run campaign generated not only sales, but a heightened awareness of Special Olympics’ mission to provide year-round athletic competition for their athletes. The extraordinary success of the T-shirt promotion led to a discussion of future events that would benefit from the collective efforts of law enforcement, SOMO, and SHOP ‘n SAVE. Beginning with annual events such as the Polar Plunge and St. Louis Metro Area Spring Games, SHOP ‘n SAVE associates demonstrated their commitment and enthusiasm by participating in multiple events each year. The Trivia Night introduced in 2009 attracted over 600 SHOP ‘n SAVE associates who raised $35,000 in donations. With over 200 volunteers participating, some SHOP ‘n SAVE sponsored events have surpassed even those of the St. Louis Metro Area, with this year’s car raffle sales setting a new record of $46,000 in donations. Raising over $300,000 in 2001, the annual St. Louis Golf Classic is now one of the largest golf tournaments in the region.

Today, Shop 'n Save is one of SOMO's biggest supporters.

While SHOP ‘n SAVE has been an ardent supporter of Special Olympics through its fundraising efforts, it is the spirit of the “volunteer” that truly makes the difference in our commitment. Our SHOP ‘n SAVE associates look forward to these annual events and take pride in knowing that they are supporting the athletes’ ability to experience the excitement of training and competing in a sport that they enjoy. Special Olympics volunteers stand apart, exhibiting humility and energy for the mission, as they focus on what is best for the athletes.

Therefore, our answer to the question: “Why Special Olympics?” is crystal clear.

I can think of no greater group to support than the athletes, who appreciate the opportunities afforded them and demonstrate the will to succeed. They handle both winning and disappointment with a dignity that should be modeled in all competitive sports. The evolving partnership between SOMO and SHOP ‘n SAVE has provided our associates the experience of both “a volunteer and a fan.” As a result, the spirit of Special Olympics is embedded within our culture and the lives of those who volunteer.

Soaring Through SOMO

By: Lt. Col. Ray Lauer, SOMO Board Member

If one were to describe my experiences with Special Olympics Missouri as an airplane ride, you might say it was a flight that began uneventfully, but believe me, I predict will have a nice soft landing. I was a cop at the time in a high level position with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Assuredly, I was familiar with Special Olympics because we had a contingent of officers who were participants, in various capacities, supporting the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). My wife and I donated money to the LETR, purchasing shirts and the like, but as a deputy chief with tremendous responsibilities, I was really busy and didn’t find the time to do more. 

Then one weekend in 1991, the chief asked me to attend a Missouri Police Chiefs meeting at the Lake of the Ozarks, and my wife Bev accompanied me. That entailed attending the Saturday evening banquet that was arranged and sponsored by Special Olympics Missouri. At the conclusion of the meal, we received a true surprise. The program featured a young man, an athlete from the Kansas City area, who revealed how he had participated in Special Olympics, displayed medals he had earned, and told the audience in glowing terms what Special Olympics meant to him and his family. He received a standing ovation. That served as a wake up call. How can anyone be so busy they couldn’t do more to support this wonderful organization? That was my thought, but also a question Bev posed to me while we traveled home. 

The flight had begun. The following week, I called the officers in our department who were most involved in the LETR and informed them of my weekend experience and inquired how I could help. They had several suggestions, one of which was to use my position to encourage other police department personnel to get involved. That was easy. Another idea was for me to join them as members of the Torch Run Committee. That was easy, too. Euphoria followed when I witnessed more clearly how the law enforcement community in St. Louis and throughout Missouri proved to be such a great benefit to the athletes. 

Soon, I was attending athletic contests and witnessing those who were my new heroes, Special Olympics athletes. They were pleased seeing us in our uniforms, when we offered high fives, and hung medals around their necks, but I as an individual was more impressed by their pure joy and dedication at being participants in sporting events. I recognized these tremendously talented individuals had expended a great amount of time and effort as they competed in their respective sports. 

Within several years, there was to be a change in leadership for the LETR Committee, and Susan Stegeman along with officers of our department approached and asked if I would fill that role. That request was humbling, since I wasn’t sure I qualified for that important position. Besides, others had served on the committee far longer than I. But, I consented and was privileged to serve as the chairman of the LETR Committee during the years 1997 – 2003. I would have loved to continue in that role beyond that year, but it was time for me to retire from the police department. And with retirement I was made to surrender my uniforms, too. An old geezer not in uniform isn’t very impressive when awarding athletes the medals they have earned. 

Bev encouraged my continued involvement in Special Olympics and it was only 30 days after my retirement that I received a telephone call at home. Would I accept a nomination to serve on the SOMO Board of Directors? I did, but now after nearly eight years of Board involvement, and due to term limits, it is now nearing time for me to step aside from that role. 

Does one think I would now abandon Special Olympics? No way. I truly believe God has additional plans for others and me in our family. Our sons and daughter and their spouses have volunteered in various capacities through the years to support Special Olympics, most notably by going Over the Edge and plunging into frigid lake waters, but also attending Trivia Nights, buying T-Shirts, chances for the car raffles, and making other financial commitments. 

But a deeper involvement for us occurred in November 2008. Our son Matt, who is the St. Louis Metro Area Director for SOMO, and his wife Tracy welcomed their first child, Anderson. He affectionately is known as Andy, and was born with Down syndrome. 

So, as we prepare for the SOMO flight to end, we can only envision what the future holds, and surely it will be a safe landing. 

That’s because we all look at Andy as he progresses, smiles continually, and wows everyone … family, friends, day care counselors, and even strangers he encounters with that affectionate smile … and we dream about what his future holds. In near term, he’ll qualify to be a participant in the Young Athlete Program, and thereafter as he matures, we suspect he will become a premiere athlete and, later, one day step up to a microphone to offer his comments as a Global Messenger. 

So, we’ve landed and as we approach the tarmac, suffice it to say all the Lauers are now on board and qualify as members of the Special Olympics family!