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.