Help us put on our biggest sporting event of the year!

With more than 200 sporting events across the state each year, one thing Special Olympics Missouri knows well is that we would not exist without volunteers. More than 30,000 individuals give their time, expertise, manpower, and encouragement to the SOMO athletes each year. And right now we are on the cusp of our signature event, the event that makes people ask “When are the Special Olympics this year?” when in reality, “the” Special Olympics is a year-round program offering training and competition. You know, I’m talking about the State Summer Games May 29 – June 1 in Columbia.

This year is particularly special for us, because we have made some major changes to our sports competition schedule and are adding some new sports to the State Summer Games and welcoming more athletes than ever before to this special event. Where better to host this bigger and better State Summer Games than Mizzou?! The University of Missouri, Columbia College, and Town & Country Lanes will be hosting our competitions, and we’re thrilled to offer our athletes world-class facilities to showcase their abilities.

There are always challenges when it comes to change, and the one YOU can help us with is our volunteer needs. In the past, we had around 1,200 volunteer positions to fill, but with the new competitions, extra days of activities and additional athletes, we’re looking to fill more than 1,500 volunteer positions. Here are some examples of the jobs we have available; you can find the complete list here.

  • Track & Field running events volunteer: help as a timer, finish line holder, picker (you are responsible for finding the person who crossed the finish line 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, etc).
  • Basketball scorekeeper/timekeeper: help keep the scorebook, scoreboard, or managing the time clock.
  • Opening Ceremonies setup crew: help set up equipment, decorations, chairs, and more to put on a rockin’ Opening Ceremony!

All of our jobs are open to the general public. We love to have corporate groups, student groups, families, or groups of friends come, but you can volunteer all on your own as well. There are dozens of types of positions, and no sports experience is necessary – we offer training on site. In exchange for your help, you will walk away with a volunteer T-shirt (sizes subject to availability), and an experience you’ll be talking about for weeks. Come witness the courage, strength, and talent of thousands of Special Olympics athletes. Sign up today.

Volunteers, fans and teams staying off campus can park in the CG1 lot or the RP10 lot and use our free shuttle bus service! Cars and vans for teams staying on campus may park in their residence hall lot. Please park on the west side of the lot at bowling.

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:

Special thanks to our sponsors this year: Shop ‘n Save, Law Enforcement Torch Run, Knights of Columbus, Southwest Dairy Farmers, Columbia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Zimmer Radio Group, Columbia Missourian, Levy Restaurant, Mid-America Wireless, Town & Country Lanes and Break Time.

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I AM A FAN!

I am a die-hard Mizzou Tiger fan. It was just meant to be. I was a Pleasant Lea Junior High Tiger, Lee’s Summit High School Tiger and then blessed to be a Mizzou Alumni! In the middle of March Madness, I am reminded of all the highs and lows of being a Tiger fan. We beat KU, lose to KU, win the Big 12 tournament then lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Through all the seasons I remain a true fan – win or lose!

Some wish to have a team that wins every time, but really that would not be fun. It is called sports because, by definition, it is a source of recreation, diversion and pleasure. If we always knew who was going to win, it would no longer be called “sports” it would be “beatings.” It would not teach us much or give us anything to cheer about. The fun would be gone. What we learn every year during March Madness is that anything is possible and at any time something unexpected will happen. That is where the thrill is!

Special Olympics’ March Madness reminds me that I am an even BIGGER fan of another team. That would be Special Olympics Missouri and all the exceptional athletes and thrills they bring to my sports experience. Sure, Mizzou can treat you to a great game, but to watch a Special Olympics basketball game with all that hinges on its outcome can bring you to the edge of your seat. These games are the epitome of pure sport and pure joy. It brings real meaning to “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” To each athlete on the court, this is where they have worked to be. They want nothing more than to be there and to take in all that sports have to offer them. All those highs and lows and what it will teach them in the end. The greatest part is that there is nothing else on the table for them but the experience. No money, no contracts just the love of the game.

It was at Mizzou in the spring of 1989 that I first volunteered with SOMO athletes. It was a spring day when many Greeks from Mizzou went to be assigned as buddies at the track meet. I went that day and got hooked on pure sports! I saw athletes giving everything they had and I was amazed at their commitment along with the commitment of the coaches. I knew then and there that I had to remain a part of this program. My many years in the program have taken me from volunteer, to coach, to staff member, back to volunteer and now a coach again. It has been a true joy to be around for so many sports stories that may not be printed in the pages of Sports Illustrated but have been imprinted on thousands of hearts and minds.

One of my favorite stories of Special Olympics competition happens at least once a year for me. It always makes me smile and often makes me cry. It is when an athlete has a ribbon placed around their neck and they celebrate like it is the gold medal. They cheer and applaud their efforts and the efforts of others. I think, as a coach, this is one of the most important lessons that come from being in a competition setting. The quality of knowing when you did your best and to celebrate all your efforts, not just the ones that bring to top honors.

The next most thrilling thing to see is an individual athlete or team meet a goal they have never accomplished before – running or swimming to beat their best time, lifting their heaviest weight ever, serving a game of tennis with no double faults, scoring their first goal, making their first basket, catching a pop fly, bowling their best game ever, finally winning a team gold medal when they had never won a game before. There are so many “first evers” that happen in Special Olympics, and you never know when you will be there for that snapshot of athletic history.

This kind of exhilaration in competition is what makes people who have  professional or college sports backgrounds exclaim that Special Olympics is a pure form of sports. I sat with a local sports talk radio personality during a 3-on-3 game one day years ago. I listened as he took in the intensity and was shocked at the level of competition in “just a 3-on-3 game.” By the end, he was won over. It only took that one game and he felt the emotion and power of what sports brings to the athletes. I have seen these kinds of awakenings happen with Chiefs, Royals and Mizzou athletes who become wistful for the days when the sport they love was this joyful, free-spirited and pure. It reminds me of what Special Olympics provides to the athletes. It is so much more than a medal or the chance to compete. It is what the actual experience of competing brings. A chance to win, lose, work as a team, have a goal, beat a personal best, learn skills, experience exhilaration, thrill the fans.

I am a fan of SOMO and the athletes. It was just meant to be. Through seasons of change, paperwork, 40-degree track meets and blazing hot softball tournaments, I will remain a fan. For none of these things can overpower the experience, the lessons and joy of pure sport. I am blessed to be there for those thrilling moments and get to share in these athletes’ magnificent achievements!

Dawn Jones was the Kansas City Metro Area Director from 1996 – 2005 and currently coaches in Lee’s Summit.

The Power of Friendship

This post was originally published on the Special Olympics Project UNIFY blog.

William and Emily of Special Olympics Missouri know firsthand the true power of unified sports — friendship!
 
My name is William Reese, I am 16 and am a partner with Special Olympics at my school, Warrenton High School in Warrenton, Missouri.
 
What I really like about Unified Sports are all the opportunities I have been given.  I am a member of the Youth Activation Committee (YAC) and through YAC I have done a lot of awesome things.  We have had a lot of training on promoting unified sports and how to promote it in our school.  I have been able to go to Mizzou and promote Spreading the Word to End the Word. I am going this summer to volunteer at sports camp and in just two weeks I am going with my friend Emily Carroll and some other people to Denver Colorado for a Unified Sports workshop.
 
Through all of the things I have had the opportunity to do with Unified Sports, the most important are the friendships I have been able to build.  I have met Emily and we team up a lot for YAC events, and when she gets nervous, I am there to help her.
 
Being a leader
This last weekend at a unified basketball game we played a team that was younger than our high school team, so we did not play as aggressively as we normally would.  All of the partners were able to talk with our teammates about why we were not going to play as aggressively as we usually do. You could see how much it meant to the athletes on the other team and it was a great feeling, every time the other team scored we cheered just like with our own teammates!  As partner we were there to lead our teammates, but the athletes were also given the opportunity to be leaders.  Being a part of Special Olympics Unified Sports really teaches you to be a true team player!
 
My friend Emily
My friend Emily Carroll is 15 and has been a Special Olympics athlete at in our school district since she was 8.  What Emily likes about Special Olympics Unified Sports are “all of my friends.”  Emily is a member of YAC and she was really excited about going to Mizzou to promote Spread the Word to End the Word, what she really liked was “spending the day with James Franklin, her friend.”  James is a first string quarterback for Mizzou and he was there volunteering his time!
 
Emily has made a lot of friends through unified sports and she has become much more outgoing, I see her coming out of her shell more all the time!  She even went to the Torch Run Kickoff Conference a few months ago to introduce some speakers.  When I heard Emily was going to do this I was amazed because she gets so nervous, but she did an amazing job!
 
The end that is not the end…
Emily and I both really enjoy unified sports, it has changed us both so much and it is something we will both be participating in for a really long time!