Team Missouri Selected for Special Olympics 2014 USA Games

Every four years, Special Olympics conducts a National Summer Games in the United States that includes athletes from all 52 US Programs.  New Jersey is proud to have been selected as host of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, the Games of Welcome and Acceptance.

logos galoreThe 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will showcase athletes competing in 14 official and 3 demonstration sports.  Competitions will be offered in both traditional and Unified play, bringing together the community to support and play side-by-side with our athletes, in what expects to be the most inclusive Games in Special Olympics History.

While the Games will highlight competition, special events including Opening and Closing Ceremonies, athlete events and educational programs throughout the week, will create an experience of a lifetime for all athletes, families and volunteers in attendance … leading to a change in understanding and acceptance of persons with intellectual disabilities in communities throughout New Jersey and throughout the United States.

WHO:  3,500 athletes from all 50 states 10,000 volunteers coaches and official delegates family members and friends of athletes spectators


AQUATICS:  Kirstin Carlson, Jennifer Neihouse, Elizabeth Waddell, Cody Anderson, Nathan Baldwin, Logan Hulett, Terri Hilt-Coach, Amy Wurst-Coach and Trey Leigh-Coach

ATHLETICS:  Shelley Antle, Maria Arnett, Paige Hall, Jane Highland, Allen Tobin, Octavio Daviel Topete, Wes Whitten, Eric Wright, Genice Fisher-Coach, Julie Busken-Coach and Irvin Jones-Coach

Boys:  Patrick Andrews, Lucas Blattel, Daniel Fultz, Landon Hume, Tim Kunz, Wyatt Leonard, Eric Leslie, Paul Mize, Dalton Myers, Scott Wright, Robin Anderson-Coach, Michael Lowry-Coach and Stan Smith-Coach

Girls:  Aliyah Blue, Dominquie DeChant, LaShayla Gillespie, Dakota Perkins, Raquel Raney, Azalea Ray, Leslie Rojas, Makayla Slawter, Samantha Snow, Tabitha Wheeler, Amy Grace-Coach, Emily Reyes-Coach and Keith Patterson-Coach

BOCCE:  Melissa Buss, Morgan Coombe, Rebecca Tincknell, Matthew Cepeda, Pierce Rash, Lonnie Thornton, Jeanie Byland-Unified Partner, Courtney Patton-Unified Partner, Linda Tyler-Unified Partner, Scott Copeland-Unified Partner, Ron Deringer-Unified Partner, William Reese-Unified Partner, Alisha Glasgow-Coach, Kathy Lowry-Coach

BOWLING:  Lindsey Hawkins, Tanya Johnson, Tiffany Wright, Ryan Fant, Michael Lunceford, Chris Miller, Amanda Geno-Unified Partner and Cecil O’Neil II-Unified Partner, Berma WebbCoachMandi Steward-Coach

FLAG FOOTBALL:  Simon Caldwell, Gary Crossfield, Cody Curran, Joseph Hochard, Tanner Hrenchir, James Kindred, Nikollaus Nuernberger, Brandon Simmons, Matthew Waelterman, Jason Wilmesherr, Kaylee Schoenfelder-Coach, Chase Crane-Coach and Steve Wilmesherr-Coach

GOLF:  Tina Jones, Stephanie Litrell, Tere’e Trussell, Thomas Cleek, Nicholas McMullen, Chris Ringot, Jocelyn Diehl-Unified Partner and Jerry McMullen-Unified Partner, Ken Neff-Coach, Steven Wiederholt-Coach

POWERLIFTING:  Brianne Chavez, Darry McIntyre, Ed Blaylock-Coach and Linda Wiederholt-Coach

TENNIS:  Brittany Selken, Bobby Williams, Jeremie Ballinger-Unified Partner, Ashley Wurst-Unified Partner, Peggy Llewellyn-Neff-Coach, Linda Wiederholt-Coach

VOLLEYBALL: Jean Buersmeyer, Shaina Galloway, Dena Muskopf, Harry Besleme, Jason Boyd, Matthew Hood, Matthew Montgomery, Arthur Murphy, George Richardson, Kendall Scheidt, Larry Stephens, Jan Wood, Diane Brimer-Coach, Brittany Busken-Coach, and Curt Yaeger-Coach

STAFF: Susan Shaffer, Tim Schuster, Johnathon Hankinson, Gary Brimer, Renee Abbott, Brandon Schatseik and Rachel Antal 


Be a part of Team Missouri for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games!

Every four years, Special Olympics conducts a National Summer Games in the United States that includes athletes from all 52 US Programs. New Jersey is proud to have been selected as host of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, the Games of Welcome and Acceptance. The Games are set for June 14 – 21, 2014 and will feature 3,500 athletes from across the country.

logos galoreTeam Missouri will consist of 114 athletes and coaches in the following sports: aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, powerlifting, tennis and volleyball.

This is an incredible opportunity to be part of something inspiring and energizing. The USA Games allow our athletes to showcase their skill on a national stage, which brings out their best both on and off the playing field. Look back at some of the memories that were made at the 2010 USA Games.

All athletes who achieve gold medals in the sports listed above at either the 2012 State Fall Games or the 2013 State Summer Games will be eligible to be nominated for a chance to be on Team Missouri.

Athletes may be nominated by anyone. The nominations must be sent to the Area Office and must be approved by the Area Director. Nomination forms are due by May 17, 2013. Download an athlete application.

Coaches may apply for any sport that they are certified to coach. The applications must be sent to the Area Office and be approved by the Area Director. Nomination forms are due by May 17, 2013. Download a coach application.

At the conclusion of the 2013 State Summer Games, athletes that have been nominated and coaches that have applied will be screened by SOMO staff and a selection of two or three people per slot will be invited to attend the National Games Selection Camp June 16 – 21, 2013. There will be 250 people selected to attend National Games Selection Camp.

At the conclusion of the National Games Selection Camp, 114 people will be selected by SOMO staff to represent Team Missouri.

In August or September of 2013, all participants will be required to attend a Team Missouri weekend with their parents or guardians.

In March of 2014, all delegates for Team Missouri will have a training weekend.

In May of 2014, all Team Missouri delegates will meet to try on and label their general wear and uniforms and train with their teammates.

My SOMO Story: Crystal Chalk

I stood in the gym and watched as the athletes brought in their luggage and said goodbye to their parents/guardians.  Some had great big smiles on their faces while others had a look of apprehension – for this would be the first time that they had spent a week away from home.  This sounds like a typical beginning to any summer camp, but this was not just ANY summer camp – this was the Special Olympics Team MO National Games selection camp.

This was my first time to go to athlete camp as well, and I was so excited to see what was in store.  I was paired up with a basketball team from St. Louis – 10 athletes and two coaches that I had never met before.  I was thrilled to have the chance to get to know these athletes, but I had no idea what a life changing experience I was about to encounter.

As the week began, I watched these athletes train – running drills and scrimmaging for 3-4 hours a morning, and then doing cross training for 3-4 hours each afternoon.  I was amazed at how they soaked everything in, and never once complained about being tired or asking to sit out.  I watched how some struggled with some of the new drills that they were asked to do, and just as they were about to get frustrated, a fellow athlete would come over and take the time to help them out.

As the week went on, I watched these same athletes do these drills over and over and by the end of the week, I had a complete different set of athletes standing before me.  Sure it was the same group, but they had grown so much!  They not only changed out on the basketball court, but they changed with the way they interacted with the other teams, they changed with their independence, they changed their attitudes and their confidence grew, but most of all – they changed me.

I will forever cherish the week that I spent with this team, whether it was talking, laughing, running, dancing, or shooting hoops with them, the memories that I have will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Their outlook on life and their cheerful spirits are something that I will strive to imitate each and every day.  Thank you for making this week possible for so many athletes, and I encourage you to come and spend a few hours with these amazing athletes at camp next summer.

Crystal Chalk is the Central Area Associate Director. She has worked for SOMO for seven years. You can reach her at

Why I Love My Job

Mandi Steward is the Marketing Manager for SOMO. She has worked here for six years. Reach her at

I often have a really hard time describing why I have such a passion for my job and what the athletes have brought to my life. So today, I’ll share a story of one of the moments that keep me hooked.

The summer of 2010, we had Special Olympics National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was an incredible week with so many powerful moments. There are a ton of memories that I’ll treasure for years — Team Missouri’s fans were named the Super Fans of the Games; our softball team was so good that they were defaulted gold medals because there was literally no competition for them; our young flag football team overcame the odds to win the national title; and I watched dozens of my friends reach their personal bests, earn medals and make their families proud.

If I had to choose one moment that really exemplifies Special Olympics, it would be from one of our powerlifters, Nick. Nick is a little shy, but his face always lights up when someone talks to him. So in the few years I’ve known him, I’ve always made a point to say hi when I see him. We only had two powerlifters at National Games (our other one, Rob, is quite charismatic as well), so everyone knew them.

A little background: Powerlifting was held in a theater on campus. Both of our guys did the bench press and the dead lift. And then they’re done. All their training comes down to two lifts. Luckily, in scoring they also get a combination score, so they have the chance for a total of three medals.

I didn’t get a chance to watch Nick lift, so I couldn’t miss his awards. The theater was packed with cheering fans, which is such a cool atmosphere that there’s no way I can convey it here. All I can say is that Special Olympics fans are the best. Our athletes are treated like celebrities. Each time a heat of powerlifters got their medals, the crowd exploded into cheers, giving them praise and attention that no one could have anticipated.

Nick’s division was up pretty early. As they walked out, we could see that Nick was going to be placed at the gold medal, so Missouri fans were immediately on their feet. Luckily, his family had seats that were front and center. As soon as Nick stepped onto the stand, a huge smile broke out across his face. When the gold medal was placed around his neck, he threw his arms up into the air, victorious. He caught sight of his family and beamed even brighter. He looked out at the crowd, probably a bit overwhelmed for a split second.

And then.

Nick flexed his muscles. The crowd erupted. He struck a pose. The crowd howled. He struck another pose, and the entire audience was on their feet. Suddenly, the two other athletes on the stand figured out what was happening, and they simultaneously struck poses of their own. The three engaged in a full pose-off for a good two or three minutes before anyone could coax them off the awards stand. And the crowd loved it.

That, I thought, is what a champion looks like. That is the type of sports figure we should look up to. That is someone who deserved to milk that moment for all it was worth. That moment will be forever etched in my brain. Even now, my heart swells with pride and it makes me a little teary.

Nick ended up sweeping his division, winning all three gold medals. He was the talk of our dorm. It was early in the week, so everyone wanted to see the medals. Each night, our coaches would all gather in a conference room to run down the day’s events. That night, we were in the middle of our meeting when we heard this clank-clank-clank from down the hall. We all knew what it was, so the room fell silent. Nick was about three steps past the window into the conference room when he realized we were all staring at him. He turned, almost in slow motion, and held up his three gold medals as this sly smile crept across his face. We all cheered, again.

It’s hard for me to describe the way Special Olympics makes me feel, but I’ll say this: it’s addictive. I get to witness these moments of greatness. For just a second, the world stops for our athletes. They own it. To see this for a group of people who are often ignored, avoided or ridiculed is simply incredible. It’s a happy place, a place where everyone is celebrated and accepted. And that includes me, too — I won’t pretend there aren’t benefits for me. Our athletes are the stars, but a quick hug or a high five tells me that they’re glad I’m there. When I see an athlete seek me out from across the room, I’m reminded that they want friendship more than almost anything. When they show me their medals, I feel like I’ve won, too.