Blog Round-Up

We try to give you interesting, informative, fun content each week from our supporters and participants. However, we know there’s a lot going on in the disability world outside the state of Missouri as well as outside of Special Olympics. So, this week, we’re rounding up a few of our favorite blogs. You may have seen some of them before, but hopefully you’ll find one or two new sites to add to your reader.

Enjoying the Small Things – Kelle Hampton
Enjoying the Small Things began in 2007, shortly after my first daughter Lainey was born, as a way to combine my writing and photography hobbies.  It since has evolved to much more, providing not only an outlet for creativity (without which, I’d go nuts), but a home for the gratitude I feel for all of my inspirations, and most importantly, the moments we share as a family. 

January 2010, we welcomed our second girl, Nella Cordelia, and were stunned to learn, upon her delivery, that she had Down syndrome.  My world was rocked to the core, and I was sure life as I knew it was over. How wrong I was.  Between the outpouring of love and support we received, some hardcore life analysis and therapeutic insights I made on this blog through it all, I have arrived at the very beautiful place of Life is hard.  But it’s also amazing, and I will rock the hell out of it.

Love That Max – Ellen Seidman
A blog about kids with special needs who kick butt. I launched Love That Max in October 2008 as an inspirational, informational, occasionally irreverent blog. A longtime magazine editor, I am very adept at grasping pencils. Also, I’ve held senior positions at Redbook, Good Housekeeping, SELF, Child, Teen People and Glamour, where I spent eight years as deputy editor and helped relaunch Max, Ellen’s son, has cerebral palsy.

Noah’s Dad – Rick Smith
Our world was forever changed when our son, Noah, surprised us by being born with Down syndrome; shortly after we started this blog. We are doing something really unique by telling the story of our son’s life via one-minute, daily videos. We believe that he has a story worth sharing, and we hope you’ll help us share his story; the story that all children (regardless of a disability) are so worth loving.

Anybody Want a Peanut? – Jennie
Anybody Want A Peanut? is a portrait of my life raising a preschooler on the autism spectrum. I write about day to day challenges, navigating early intervention and the school system, and all of the feelings, from the heartbreaking to the hilarious, that go along with it.

Special Olympics Project UNIFY
The Special Olympics Project UNIFY blog is a place where youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities will share their experiences as they advocate for inclusion, respect and acceptance in schools across the United States.

There are tons more out there. Leave a comment with your favorite special needs blog!

The facts about Natalie

Mike and Amber Elwood are parents to Natalie. Mike was on staff with SOMO for about nine years before he joined the force at the Sedalia Police Department, and Amber is a teacher. They are both Unified Partners. The family lives in Columbia.  

The words “we’re pregnant” brought bounds of excitement to our family. We had no idea the words “1 in 160 chance” would bring rushes of tears and would change our lives forever. We heard those words from our doctor indicating the possibility of us having a child with Down syndrome. We decided that our baby was given to us for a reason and we were having the baby no matter what and would not take the risk of losing our baby for further testing. Our fear was relieved after our ultrasound indicated our baby girl was developing typically with no signs of Down syndrome. We knew that didn’t guarantee she didn’t have Down syndrome, but it was a good sign that the baby did not have the typical indicators.

When our beautiful baby girl was born, we knew we were blessed with a typical baby girl. She looked just like her daddy and was perfect. The thought of Down syndrome never entered our mind until a hospital doctor suggested that we have her tested because our risk factor was so high. He told us her routine newborn testing did not indicate anything out of the ordinary, but we should probably have her tested so we could have early intervention if she did have Down syndrome. We felt she had been tested enough and chose not to do any further testing until it was recommended by our doctor or we felt it was necessary.

When Natalie was six weeks old, we had her blood drawn to test for Down syndrome. That was both one of the hardest and easiest decisions we ever made. Easy, because we would know for sure if Natalie had DS. Hard, because we would have to face the fact that Natalie had DS. When we heard the words “Natalie does have Down syndrome,” we cried for hours. We cried because of the challenges Natalie would have to face in her lifetime, not because we felt sorry we had a baby with DS, and not because we were sorry for Natalie.

Amber and Natalie at the Columbia Polar Plunge

What we didn’t know is that the facts associated with Natalie’s Down syndrome would be the best experiences we have ever faced.

Fact, Natalie loves us.

Fact, we love her.

Fact, she is healthy.

Fact, she successfully nursed for one year.

Natalie as a ladybug with Mike on Halloween

Fact, she learned to hold her head up, roll over, sit up, feed herself, wave hi and bye, clap, play with toys, say “Mom” and “Dada,” and simple sign language.

Fact, she is stubborn (just like her mother and father).

Fact, Natalie will walk.

Fact, Natalie will grow up.


We could not have asked for a better addition to our family. Yes, Natalie has Down syndrome. Down syndrome does not define who she is, nor what she is capable of now and will be capable of in the future. We define who she is and who she will grow up to be. We know Natalie will grow up to do great things because we see it every day!! We see it in the smiles of every person with special needs who takes the oath to “…be brave in the attempt.” We are so thankful to have a family in our SOMO community who support us and Natalie with education, sport and love!


My Brother, Tanner

Katie Hrenchir is the Northwest Associate Area Director and proud sister of SOMO athlete Tanner. She can be reached at

My special brother, Tanner, was born with Down syndrome 29 years ago. Back then, doctors did not know as much as they do now about Down syndrome. It was still a very foreign disability to most. When Tanner came into this world on March 4, 1982, my parents held their baby boy for the first time. Seeing him, they knew he was different, but they loved him all the same. They still had the same dreams for him and couldn’t wait to share this bundle of joy with their friends and family. That is when their dreams seemed unravel.

My parents have told me stories of what the doctors told them when Tanner was born. These stories hurt me to the core because of the negativity streaming from the doctors about my brother. As my parents were cradling Tanner, the doctors told them everything he would NOT be able to do in life. They told them he probably wouldn’t walk or talk. They told them “Don’t expect much out of him.” That line hurts the most. That line seems as if they were treating my older brother as a thing, not as a person. Then they stated that he would be better off in an institution. My wonderful parents, full of faith and expectations for Tanner, did not listen.

They were very scared, angry and sad at first. They had nowhere to turn. The doctors and hospital gave them no advice or any places to turn to for support. They knew they would have to do this on their own. They turned to family and friends, who immediately accepted Tanner (who in my opinion was one of the most adorable babies to grace this Earth). Tanner was such a loving, sweet and happy baby. He had everything to give and more.

When he was old enough, my parents found therapy and speech classes to enroll Tanner in. He started growing and succeeding! He was already surpassing all of the doctors’ expectations and hurtful words.

Then, at age 10, my parents enrolled Tanner into Special Olympics Missouri. Our lives have NEVER been the same. From Tanner’s first-ever bowling practice, to the 2010 National Games, to the present … the Hrenchir family will always call Special Olympics Missouri home.

Special Olympics Missouri has given my brother so much. This program has given him hope, happiness, joy, confidence, determination, and most importantly … acceptance. This program has shown Tanner that ANYTHING is possible. It has shown him that dreams really do come true. Through this program, Tanner has traveled, Tanner has competed, and Tanner has gained lifelong friends.

In school, it wasn’t always easy for Tanner or me growing up. Having a sibling with special needs can be very hard. It is something very hard to explain to others. When his peers would make fun of him, I always felt I needed to step in and stand up for him. Back then I didn’t always have the support I needed as his younger sister, and people with disabilities were still trying to be accepted in this society. I was always looking out for Tanner and felt as if I had to protect him all the time. There were some peers that were very fond of Tanner, but of course there will always be bullies in every school, and we had our fair share of those experiences.

The great thing about Special Olympics is that Tanner is always accepted by everyone. There is no bullying. When Tanner enters a gym for SOMO practice or a field for a SOMO flag football tournament he knows he is HOME. He knows everyone there is his friend, he knows they will all be on his side, he knows they will all include and accept him.

Unified Sports has also been great for Tanner. Being that his peers in school did not always accept him, having Unified Partners on the field with Tanner really makes a huge difference. Seeing that all youth are on his side now is incredible. It is a great feeling to know that Special Olympics Missouri is educating all youth that people with intellectual disabilities have the right to be accepted and included too. This is a program I would have loved to be involved with when we were younger. However, I am so happy it is in full swing now throughout the whole state of Missouri.

Special Olympics has not only helped Tanner, it has helped our whole family. Seeing Tanner in his daily struggles and witnessing people bully him was so hard to endure. Through Special Olympics, my family has found happiness and so much joy. We were given a program that Tanner could succeed in. We were given a program where we could watch Tanner grow and be happy. That is all we could ask for. Our family has met other families who have gone through the same struggles. It has been so nice to be able to network and communicate with other families who share our joy, pain, successes and struggles. Together, the families of Special Olympics Missouri have a bond that can’t be explained. We can relate to each other. We can see that this program has worked wonders in our loved ones’ lives and our lives as well.

I now work for Special Olympics Missouri. It is dream job that was meant for me. This job was just waiting for the right time to appear on my plate. I now get to plan and coordinate sporting events for my brother and the other 862 Special Olympics Missouri athletes in the northwest part of Missouri and couldn’t ask for a more satisfying job.

For anyone who donates their time and/or funds to our special program, please know that you are making a difference in so many lives. Not just the lives of our athletes, but their families and friends as well. Special Olympics has a snowball affect. If you help out once, you have touched many lives, which in turn touches more lives when you aren’t even looking. As a sibling of a Special Olympics Missouri athlete I can say that anyone who volunteers at our events and gives Tanner a high five or a “good job” touches my heart as well.

Special Olympics Missouri is a life-changing program, and the Hrenchir family is proof of that.