Law Enforcement Torch Run Celebrates 30th Anniversary: Part 3

Law enforcement officers serve selflessly every day to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. This year, we are celebrating a wonderful 30-year partnership with law enforcement in Missouri. How can you sum up 30 years? It’s not possible, but we can take a look back and try. What drives these officers? The constant light that Special Olympics athletes give through their inner and outer strength. Thank you to all of our law enforcement officers for your bravery every day in protecting us, and thank you for all your efforts to support our athletes.

30 years – one decade at a time

The final of a three–part series
Written by: Crystal Schuster – SOMO/LETR Development Manager

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

2006 – 2016: Many Milestones Hit and Many memories created
officers_timAlthough 2006 saw a hit, along with the rest of the word’s economy, officers still hit the pavement running. LETR funds raised dipped just under the $1million mark, but our officers never gave up. They sold over 21,000 t-shirts and added two new Polar Plunges to the mix – Branson and Kirksville. There was a photographer, in Jefferson City, that stepped forward and offered to do some photos for SOMO, and from that photo, a LETR poster was created that represented all agencies involved (PD’s, Sheriff’s Dept., MSHP, Corrections, Military Police) and showed them with their inspiration – a SOMO athlete.

In 2007, our LETR started seeing some new growth again by adding two more plunges – Cape Girardeau and St. Joseph – and they once again raised $1 million. This is also the year that Susan Stegeman, SOMO’s VP, was inducted into the International LETR Richard LaMunyon Hall of Fame!

red-w-banner2008-2009 saw growth yet again and our officers felt that there were more locations that could benefit from hosting a Polar Plunge. In these two years we added Polar Plunges in Louisiana (later moving to Hannibal), Columbia, Joplin, Mexico, and Maryland Heights. The Super Plunge was first introduced in 2008 as well. This event takes the Polar Plunge to new extremes by having Polar Bears Plunge 24 times in 24 hours! This event is held at Lake of the Ozarks and Kansas City. Officers increased their fundraising efforts tremendously in 2009 when they raised over $1.5 million. Part of this growth was due to a new, extreme event the officers decided to try in order to take their fundraising efforts to a whole new height – Over the Edge. This event still takes place in two markets today, St. Louis and Jefferson City, where “Edgers” rappel from the Jefferson Building and the Hyatt in downtown St. Louis. Also in 2009, LETR officers were honored to have Attorney General Chris Koster run with them in the final leg, in Springfield, although he felt that it was his honor to run amongst our LETR officers.

psa-taping-with-gov2010 was a memorable year, as officers celebrated the 25th annual Torch Run. Governor Nixon filmed a PSA in support of Missouri’s LETR and he welcomed runners back to the Capitol for a fun ceremony, after they recreated and ran the original torch run route. T-shirt sales went up in 2010, as it was a special shirt that represented every shirt that the officers had sold over the years.

In 2011-2014, new milestones were reached as officers pulled together like never before and raised over $2 million dollars consistently during these years. Events like Tip-a-Cops started expanding (and have continued to grow tremendously) and the Special Olympics message was being shared more and more. As the message spread, and athletes continued to inspire, our runner numbers grew – which meant we were consistently welcoming new officers into the LETR family. SOMO lost a great friend in 2011, SOMO athlete/hall of fame member, Gordon Barnes. Gordon spent a lot of time with his local LETR family in Jefferson City, and he never missed a Torch Run. Due to his contributions and support of his LETR family, the Jefferson City Torch Run route was officially named the “Gordon Barnes Memorial Route” in 2012. To this day, Gordon’s mom, Sarah, still comes to the run and supports her LETR family. She also volunteers to help at events whenever she can.

In 2015, LETR members in MO reached an all-time high for funds raised for Special Olympics MO – $2.5 million! Officers were commended for their efforts and were awarded with the Platinum award at the International Conference. During this same conference (which took place in Sept. of 2016), Chief Randy Boehm, Columbia PD, retired, was inducted into the International LETR Richard LaMunyon Hall of Fame.

Shop ‘n Save has remained an incredible partner through the years, and not a day goes by that we don’t appreciate all of their support. From Trivia Nights to Golf Tournaments and raising money through their “Round-up” promotions, they do whatever they can to support our officers and athletes.

Through these years, many deserving men and women received the highest award given in MO’s LETR – The Letz Award:
2006 – Sgt. Randy Werner, Jefferson City PD
2007 – Sgt. Rick Hayes, St. Louis Co PD
2008 – Capt. Don Spears, Belton PD
2009 – Lt. Jim McNiell, MHSP Troop E
2010 – Capt. Joseph Chapman, Kansas City PD
2011 – Officer Jeff Cook, O’Fallon PD
2012 – Sgt. Mark Koeller, St. Louis Co PD
2013 – Mark Wiesemann, Lee’s Summit PD
2014 – Sgt. Jeff Fugett, MSHP Troop D
2015 – Lt. Steve Davis – MSHP Troop I

As we end this 3rd decade of Missouri’s LETR, words simply cannot express our gratitude for all that Law Enforcement does. Through 2015, they have raised over $26.5 million dollars for the SOMO athletes. They don’t do it for the recognition or any glory they might receive. They do it because they see the impact that SOMO has on its athletes and the bond that they have with our athletes is truly inspiring. Law Enforcement officers go above and beyond for their communities every single day – but what they do for Special Olympics MO is indescribable. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough, but on behalf of all 15,000 Special Olympics MO athletes, THANK YOU for being our HEROES!

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Law Enforcement Torch Run Celebrates 30th Anniversary: Part 2

Law enforcement officers serve selflessly every day to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. This year, we are celebrating a wonderful 30-year partnership with law enforcement in Missouri. How can you sum up 30 years? It’s not possible, but we can take a look back and try. What drives these officers? The constant light that Special Olympics athletes give through their inner and outer strength. Thank you to all of our law enforcement officers for your bravery every day in protecting us, and thank you for all your efforts to support our athletes.

30 years – one decade at a time
Second in a three–part series

Read the first post of the series here

March to the Million $ mark: 1996 – 2005
In 1995, the LETR efforts raised just over $200,000 gross. We sold over 10,000 LETR shirts in a year. The next decade was our largest growth.

1996: Polar Plunge introduction
While attending the International LETR Conference in Wisconsin, Missouri delegates heard about this amazing phenomenon called Polar Bear Plunge. They brought the idea back to Missouri and the SOMO liaison had the assignment of calling the Chief of Police in Osage Beach to see if he’d support such an idea.

Jamie Graham

Jamie Graham

Susan Stegeman recalls that phone call. “While on maternity leave with my first son, I planned the call. A lot of people were intimidated by Chief Troutman’s rough exterior, including me!” The Chief’s response was immediate and included “I think we could do that, and I’d love to see my community embrace this idea. If it’s for Special Olympics, of course.” Chief Troutman’s connection to SOMO began with his close relationship to athlete Jamie Graham. Jamie is a huge part of SOMO’s LETR in large part of the photos he draws and presents to the Missouri Police Chief Association President each year. The Polar Plunge debuted in 1996 at the Lake of the Ozarks and resulted in 54 plungers who raised $8,200. This was the only plunge in Missouri for 9 years. In 2005, we added St. Louis and Kansas City. In 2017, Missouri will have 13 different Plunge locations. (Registration will open soon!)

1999: hosted the LETR Conference in St. Louis with more than 800 attendees
Group w Jim RayMissouri was the first program to host “host night” off site. We transported attendees via school buses to the Arch. We were also the first program to utilize our athletes as presenters to introduce speakers and sessions. This really jump started our program because we were able to bring in more law enforcement attendees as conference volunteers/attendees and also incorporated the Department of Corrections and their vendor relationships. This conference was a first also in that it was the last event ever held at the Henry VIII Hotel prior to its demolition as part of the St. Louis Lambert Airport expansion project. Our officers were great hosts in planning everything from airport transfers, local transfers wherever attendees wanted/needed to go, and a hospitality room that is still revered. Due to great planning and support from local organizations and sponsors – we also generated revenue!

1999: Began region awards in four categories presented at the annual Missouri Police Chiefs Conference in December
Outstanding agency participations (chosen by each Region Coordinator)
Outstanding volunteer effort (chosen by each Region Coordinator)
Highest percentage increase in dollars raised
Greatest overall gross dollar increase

2000: Shirts sold at Shop ’n Save locations peak to 41,000 sold and sparked a great relationship that exists still today
The Shop ‘n Save T-shirt sales promotion began in 2000, but according to Dave Pudlowski, it was a dismal failure. What happened the next year resulted in $17,017 in sales of LETR shirts and hats at 14 Shop’n Save stores. St. Louis County PD coordinated the effort but connected the local municipalities to each store where a relationship began to form. From 2001, this event continued to grow year over year. Shop ’n Save employees became volunteers at Special Olympics events, they brought their families with them, and they started hosting their own events to support their charity of choice. Events like the I-55 Raceway and bowling tournament have gone by the wayside, but Trivia Night, Gateway Golf and Gala and Round Up remain as their fundraising events. Shop ’n Save is an awesome partner with law enforcement to support our favorite charity.

Jeff Ottenad, third from left

Jeff Ottenad, third from left

2001 – St Louis Route named Jeff Ottenad Route
In 2001, the St. Louis Region 8 Route was named after Jeff Ottenad, a SOMO athlete who always ran with the torch runners. After cancer took his leg, Jeff still participated but from his wheel chair.  After his death, the route was named in his honor. The Ottenad family continues to participate annually to continue the legacy of their brother and son.

2001 – First auto raffle
We partnered with the Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers and Shop’n Save to sell tickets statewide. The giveaway was hosted at the I-55 Raceway and more than $60,000 was raised in year one! This event is now called the Drive It Home Raffle.

2002 – Department of Corrections support took off and Corrections Officers raised over $98,000 from 23 institutions and Central Office.
The Department of Corrections began supporting Missouri’s LETR in 2002.  Corrections Officers and employees from their adult institutions and Central Office raise funds by hosting internal fundraisers like chili cook-offs, bake sales, and sell Torch Run shirts. They also participate in SOMO events like Over the Edge, Polar Plunge and selling Drive it Home Raffle tickets.

Rich Banahan, right

Rich Banahan, right

International recognition followed:
Rank in World – we were recognized among the top 10 programs at the Conference in Nashville – at #5!
2000 Dave Pudlowski was inducted into the Hall Of Fame
2001 Jim Moran, St. Louis Metro PD, won the John Carion Unsung Hero Award at the Conference in Wichita, KS, where the international LETR began.
2004 Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD, was inducted into the Richard LaMunyon Hall of Fame at the Conference in Virginia

Rays notesMarch to Million runners agencies gross
1996 349 116 $314,764
1997 706 172 $409,300
1998 900 176 $595,380
1999 806 188 $811,245
2000 803 181 $908,316
2001 711 170 $756,305
2002 975 165 $864,000
2003 963 167 $929,472
2004 931 173 $1,055,196
2005 887 172 $1,000,000

Created the Letz Award – Missouri highest LETR Award for Unsung Hero recognition: 

Ralph Biele, third from left

Ralph Biele, third from left

1994 – Ralph Biele, MO State Highway Patrol, and founder of Missouri’s LETR program
1995 – Major John Cira, Hazelwood PD
1996 – Sgt. Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD
1997 – Chief Randy Boehm, Columbia PD
1998 – Mary Branstetter, St. Ann PD
1999 – Lt. Tim Goebel, Crossroads Correctional Center
2000 – Major David Pudlowski, St. Louis County PD
2001 – Janelle Waterman, MSHP Troop A
2002 – Capt. Graham Burnley, Chesterfield PD
2003 – Capt. Jim Moran, St. Louis Metro PD
2004 – Chief Jim McCart, Osage Beach DPS
2005 – Capt. Zim Schwartze, Columbia PD

Loretta Claiborne speaks at the LETR Kickoff

Loretta Claiborne speaks at the LETR Kickoff in 2005

2005 ended with a $1 million dollar LETR program with many funding projects poised to support SOMO and our athletes for years to come.

Law Enforcement Torch Run Celebrates 30th Anniversary

1st poster photo - LuetkemeyerLaw enforcement officers serve selflessly every day to keep our communities safe places to live, work, and play. In partnership with Special Olympics Missouri, law enforcement officers are participating in the 30th Anniversary Law Enforcement Torch Run across our state.

Each year, more than 2,000 officers carry the torch on a relay through the state. The culmination of this incredible journey will take place at our State Summer Games in Springfield on May 20. The final torch will be handed off in celebration of 30 years and the constant light that Special Olympics athletes give through their inner and outer strength.

This beautiful symbol of unity brings together communities and individuals of different backgrounds and abilities to celebrate the best in each of us. We cherish the relationships that the Torch Run builds each year. Thank you to all of our law enforcement officers for your bravery every day in protecting us, and thank you for all your efforts in support of Special Olympics Missouri.

30 years – one decade at a time

(First in a three–part series)

1986: Ralph Biele was a patrolman with the Missouri State Highway Patrol trying to think of a way to raise money for Special Olympics. In 1984 and 1985, there was an annual “Missouri Run for Special Olympics.” For two years, about 100 runners raised about $4,500. He thought, “How can we make this bigger?” He knew he had the support of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was integral from the beginning. They provided everything from financial donations from employees and photography support, to runners and support vehicles.

Watch Ralph describe the early days.

It wasn’t that it didn’t raise money – but they were working really hard and not getting very far. Ralph knew that in order to make it happen, he needed to get a more broad-based support. He approached the Missouri Police Chiefs Association about SOMO and growing the support from law enforcement. They voted in 1986 to make Special Olympics Missouri part of the Association’s efforts, and gave birth to the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The next five years hovered right around $40,000!

The first 5 years of LETR: runners, agencies, gross $
1986: 87, 35, $15,000
1987: 135, 40, $33,000
1988: 116, 40, $42,000
1989: 143, 42, $40,000
1990: 145, 44, $38,146

early years torch handoffHistory was captured in the spring edition of the Patrol News annually. Page 7 reported the results of the 5th annual run (1990), stating 44 police agencies participated and raised $40,000. Employees were encouraged to donate and “set an example” for others to follow. The MSHP was leading from the beginning.

During the seventh year, T-shirt sales were introduced and the Torch Run fundraising efforts expanded beyond the run itself. The idea was for agencies to host their own fundraising events and donate the proceeds to Special Olympics. These funds were literally brought to the site of the State Summer Games each year, held at Fort Leonard Wood. The Ramada Inn was the site of the pre-game meal, “fried fish and all of the trimmings,” hosted by Lou and Shirley Prentiss, retired Commanding General of the Fort. This was a long-running tradition. Even though runners didn’t like the idea of running (after the meal) the nearly 5 miles to the main gate, they still did it! The Army Military Police accepted the torch at the gate, and as a group, they proceeded to the site of the Opening Ceremony.

Committee Chair / Agency
1986 – 1990 Mel Fisher and Ralph Biele, Mo. State Highway Patrol
1991-1992 Chief Robert Scheetz and Dave Heath, St. Louis Metro PD
1993 – 1994 Chief Mike Snavely, Rolla PD
1994 – 1996 Chief Clarence Harmon and Sgt. Rich Banahan, St. Louis Metro PD
Colonel Ron Battelle and Lt. David Pudlowski, St. Louis County PD

In 1994, a phenomenon happened that got everyone really excited. Officers from 81 different agencies raised more than $100,000 for the first time! The announcement brought shouts of exclamation and joy when $124,392 was announced! T-shirt sales soared to over 4,800 shirts. 1995 rounded out our first decade with an awesome increase to $207,885. More than 10,000 T-shirts were sold!

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 9 & 10

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Disneyland —
Mother nature struck again and though it rained in southern California, the show must go on. We got about 90 minutes of free time to wander around downtown Disney. We spent time spreading the word to a group of 8th grade girls from Oregon who were here for a soccer tournament. We talked about Special Olympics and the Torch Run.
The torch was run, during a slight drizzle, and welcomed by a cheerleading team and several hundred guests of Disney. A little time for goofing around helped the aches and pains of the day.
Disneyland 1

IrvineLagunaNewport Beach

Irvine, Laguna, Newport Beach 
Up early and rolling again this morning. This will be the lamest post yet. We have been hitting stops back to back and they have been awesome. Good receptions at each with some amazing little guys that stole the show.

Huntington Beach —
The new Huntington Beach Bad Boys and Girls just took the beach. An amazing reception in Huntington Beach that will be repeated. They are a host city for the athletes coming to the U.S. from Australia and the Netherlands. The excitement is building in the communities around L.A.Torance

Huntington Beach

Torrance —
Toyota welcomed the LETR Final Leg team with an amazing setup, concert, ceremony and lunch.

Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach —
Here we ran along the beach. We had a gorgeous weather day and the event pulled in several people along the way to a large outdoor ceremony at the pier.

El Segundo (Mattel HQ) —
The employees of Mattel had a quality set and we’re ready to receive the Flame of Hope. They had great area set up and the LA Lakers Girls standing by. Another dance party broke out, you can’t give this crew a DJ and ice cold Gatorade because a party is bound to break out. Even Graziano danced tonight.

LongBeachEl Segundo