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

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SOMO(ian) of the Month: Justin Baker, Athlete (Central Area)

This is the first in a series of stories compiled by Special Olympics Missouri to highlight those people within the organization who are doing great things. The Special Olympics Missourian of the Month will highlight an athlete, coach, family or volunteer who the SOMO staff members believe embody what the mission is all about. This month, the Central Area has singled out athlete Justin Baker of Bunceton as the October Special Olympics Missourian of the Month.

Athletes aren’t supposed to be artistic.

Artists aren’t supposed to be athletic.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities aren’t supposed to be good at anything.

Justin Baker defies the traditional narrative.

 

State Track and Field (43)
Justin Baker waves to the camera at the 2013 Central Area Spring Games Track and Field competition.

Athletic
At 26 years old, Baker is one of the most competitive athletes in the whole Central Area. Sure, most Special Olympics Missouri athletes are competitive by nature, but according to his coach, Lori Woods, Baker takes it to another level.

“What really sets him apart from the other athletes in the program is mainly his competitiveness,” Woods said. “He really wants to excel at everything he does. He likes to better himself.”

Judy Baker, Justin’s grandmother with whom he lives, said that competitive spirit has really been stoked and enhanced by participating in Special Olympics Missouri.

“SOMO has given him competition and that’s just great!” Judy said. “He’s committed to it and looks forward to it very much.”

Leadership
But as competitive as Baker is, those around him say that he doesn’t let that affect his attitude toward other people.

Woods, Baker’s coach of more than 10 years, said he relishes the fact that his peers look up to him.

“He’s fun-loving, friendly and really likes to be a leader with his peers,” said Woods. “The main thing for him is for his peers to look up to him. They’re always competing against him in bowling and he enjoys teaching them.”

New Conveyor (15)

Baker, second from left, enjoys the company of his co-workers while at work at Unlimited Opportunities Inc. Baker, 26, has worked in the recycling department there since he graduated from high school.

That lead-first attitude is also on display at Unlimited Opportunities Inc., where Baker worked part-time for a number of years before graduating from Bunceton High School. He has since taken a full-time job in the recycling department where Recycling Manager Kit Brewer has had the opportunity to work with Baker.

“He’s just a very happy-go-lucky guy. He’s a really hard worker,” Brewer said. “He’s a guy that likes to work on all of our different processing lines and he’s certified on nearly every machine.

“He’s always willing to help and when we have a new person in here that needs to be taught how a machine works, he’s the first guy there to teach them.”

Another way SOMO has helped Baker blossom is through trying new and exciting things even those closest to him are surprised he’d try.

“He’s one of those people who won’t even get up on a ladder,” his grandmother said with a chuckle. “It shocked me he was going to do this, but he said, ‘I told them I promised I’d do it so I’m gonna do it!’ Justin was so nonchalant about it.”

Justin Baker

Baker poses for a photo with SOMO Partnership Manager Stacy Jones on Oct. 12 while at the Over the Edge event in Jefferson City.

Baker spent his day off rappelling down the Jefferson State Office Building in Jefferson City Oct. 12 as part of the SOMO fundraiser with Over the Edge. All of the money raised directly supported other SOMO athletes.

“Diane Brimer (Central Area Director) had a sponsor (Diamond Pet Foods) who donated the money to get any athlete to go over and she thought of Justin,” Woods said. “I asked him and he was pretty nervous, but he did it. We were surprised, but so proud.”

Of everything that Baker has accomplished, Judy and the Baker family are most impressed with how helpful and outgoing Justin has become.

“If he can help somebody, he is wonderful,” Judy said. “He likes to help people. He teaches some of the other athletes and is proud of that. He’ll do anything anybody ever asks him.”

Artistic
In addition to excelling at sports such as bowling and track and field, Baker is a rather accomplished artist as well.

“He’s a really good artist,” Woods said. “He loves to draw. One of his goals … he says he likes to play that guitar so his goal is to become famous in the music industry.”

Brewer said Baker will often bring in some of his sketches to share with his co-workers.

“He also really enjoys writing poetry and song lyrics. It’s nice to see how he likes to write poetry and song lyrics. He’s a very talented guy,” Brewer said.

Mature
Growing up is never easy.

It’s not easy on the person doing the growing nor is it easy on the family dealing with said person.

Bowling Special Olympics 041

Baker, far right, poses for a photo with his fellow bowling teammates at a competition in 2008.

Since Baker started participating in Special Olympics Missouri more than 10 years ago, Judy said she’s seen a transition in him that was helped along because of SOMO.

“It’s a learning experience for all of us,” Judy said about raising a child with special needs. “We encourage him to do things, new things. I think he’s grown up a lot.”

One such recent instance of having to grow up is that Baker has been working for several years toward getting his driver’s license.

“He had a hard time getting his driver’s permit, but he finally got that and we’re going for the license now,” Judy said. “He drives with me on his way to and from work every day.

“We have family that really encourages him too. They all know his situation and like to encourage him.”

Judy said it hasn’t always been easy though.

“It’s sad that the circumstances he’s in, but we make the best of it,” she said. “He has his days sometimes, but we’ll let him know what he did wrong and talk to him about why he did this or said that; we talk it out.

“Practice makes it better.”

Judy said having such a close-knit family really helps.

The driver’s license will be one big step toward independence, but Judy said the biggest step for Baker could be right around the corner.

“He is looking forward to the day where he can get his own car and be off on his own,” she said. “That day might be coming sooner rather than later.

“We are incredibly proud of him and everything he has accomplished.”

That growth and maturity has also been seen by Brewer at work.

“Justin is still growing now. He’s a young guy and his personality and maturity level are still forming,” Brewer said.

Woods who, in addition to being his coach, is also the human resources manager at Baker’s work, said he takes his job very seriously; that wasn’t always the case though.

“He was in our children’s program when he was younger… he was kind of rambunctious as a kid, but he’s grown up so fast and now he’s a very dedicated person,” Woods said.

Judy said having a job has really brought the best out of Baker as well.

“At first he was really ‘It’s my way or forget it’ at work, but I think he’s learned to have more respect for his co-workers and bosses,” she said. “He respects them now because he knows what they say is right.”

From talking to Brewer, that respect goes both ways.

“I just hope that everybody knows what an effervescent personality he has. He always has a smile from ear to ear every time you see him,” Brewer said. “Not that he doesn’t take what he does seriously, but he’s just a happy guy.

“Everybody here on the crew enjoys having him around and we can count on him to keep that attitude up. That’s probably why someone nominated him (for the Special Olympics Missourian of the Month).

“You can’t help but smile with him around.”