Samantha Greenough goes to Savannah Middle School and has been helping with our new track team there. She wrote the following after volunteering at the Northwest Area Spring Games April 27. 

Savannah Greenough with Harley and Christopher at the NW Area Spring Games

Savannah Greenough with Harley and Christopher at the NW Area Spring Games

I cried many tears today…many tears of pride, honor, and appreciation. All of the athletes that competed in today’s Special Olympics track meet have touched my heart and made me a better person. I have never felt better helping others than I did today. I appreciate the opportunity SOMO has given me to be able to help the community in a positive way.

After being at the track meet for a short period of time, you start not being able to tell the difference between the athletes and the volunteers, then you just feel like one big family. I am so proud of all of the athletes today especially the Savannah athletes that I have gotten extremely close to the past month and a half. I feel honored to have had the privilege to coach these AMAZING athletes. I look forward to volunteering more of my time to the Special Olympics organization.

When you walked up to the track you could just feel the love and compassion everyone there has for one another and especially the athletes. Volunteering has helped me strive to be a better person and impact the lives of others. Also, one of the sponsors that I was helping coach told me that in all of her years of coaching she had never had a better, more positive volunteer than me which made me feel even better about what I was doing. I loved getting to work with some truly amazing people and can’t wait to donate more of my time.

If you would like to get involved, visit our calendar at http://www.somo.org/calendar or email volunteer@somo.org

Advertisements

Capitol Hill Day 2013: A Day We Will Never Forget

On March 6, Special Olympics and Best Buddies representatives from all over the nation stormed Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to spread the good news of their life-changing programs for those with intellectual disabilities. Working for SOMO, this of course means so much to me. Getting a chance to speak to congress about the needs of our athletes is a huge honor! However, it means much more to me than that, and here is why.

31 years ago, my parents had a baby boy with Down syndrome and they named him Tanner Lee Hrenchir. That long ago, Down syndrome was still very foreign to most. They were told everything he wouldn’t do by the doctors. They spoke of institutionalizing him and were even told to have no more children because they too would be (pardon my language) retarded. Their dreams were crushed. However, they did not give up and decided even if every day would be a fight or a struggle, they would survive because they loved their son.

They found therapy and speech classes at a young age for Tanner. Tanner started growing and exceeding all their expectations. Then at age 10, they entered him into the great world of Special Olympics! After this simple enrollment into a program that seemed to be something he might like, our lives have NEVER BEEN THE SAME!

We have had so many special opportunities through Special Olympics. Most importantly though, Tanner and my family have found a place to call home. We have found a place where Tanner and grow and succeed on “his level.” We found a place where Tanner can be Tanner! Through this program, we have gained lifelong friends who have experienced the same struggles, battles, joys, and life situations that we have. As a sister, this is more than I ever dreamed of when we entered Tanner into this program.

Speaking of opportunities, Tanner has had the opportunity to travel to places near and far to compete. Tanner has had the great honor of sharing his courageous story about his life and Special Olympics to thousands of people over the past few years. Tanner also experienced what it felt like to be a National Games athlete in 2010 as a member of Team Missouri’s Track and Field team. Again, opportunities we never thought existed 22 years ago when he participated in his first bowling practice.

Tim Shriver, Tanner Hrenchir, Roy Blunt and Katie, Wanda and Jerry Hrenchir

Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver, Tanner Hrenchir, Senator Roy Blunt and Katie, Wanda and Jerry Hrenchir

Perhaps the most honorable and humbling opportunity to date was our Capitol Hill Day experience last week. Tanner, myself, and our parents, Jerry and Wanda, were all able to represent Special Olympics Missouri for this special day. The entire experience was filled with joy, nerves, shock, happiness, and most of all excitement. You could just feel the excitement in the air and buzz around town that we were there to make a statement!

Our main goal was to meet with representatives, senators, and other dignitaries to explain the benefits of our programs to people like Tanner with intellectual disabilities, to share our story, and to hopefully bring them on board to be co-sponsors of the EKS Act. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act has one main goal: to meet the persistent and critical needs of those with intellectual disabilities by providing funding for health, employment, and education.

Tanner Hrenchir, center, shares photos of his Special Olympics experiences with Senator Blunt and Tim Shriver

Tanner Hrenchir, center, shares photos of his Special Olympics experiences with Senator Blunt and Tim Shriver

We were able to share our story to the offices of Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, Representative Bill Long, and Senator Roy Blunt. Tanner was able to give his speech in each office – which was a huge success –  and share pictures of him competing in sports through Special Olympics. Again, watching my brother share his life story with these individuals will be a memory I will never forget. To know he got to share his story at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., really can’t be beat! We were also fortunate enough to meet Timothy Shriver during our meeting with Roy Blunt. That put the icing on the cake for the Hrenchir family! To meet the son of our greatest hero, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and to be able to sit across the table and just have simple conversation with him was a complete joy. To meet the CEO of a program that will forever be home to our family was the greatest honor of all. Again, another experience we never expected!

We can only hope our stories touched the lives of those we got to speak to. We know that our lives have been changed by this amazing experience and we can never thank SOMO enough for asking us to represent them on this huge day. Another story for the books of Tanner Hrenchir … we hope for many more to come!

Katie Hrenchir is the Northwest Area Associate Director. She has worked for SOMO for five years. Reach her at hrenchir@somo.org. 

Mystie Lucast’s Journey to the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games

By Julia Ray and Debbie Lucast, Mystie’s aunt and mom

Mystie with Missouri's other World Games delegate, Matt Krippel, at the Sendoff in Los Angeles

Mystie with Missouri’s other World Games delegate, Matt Krippel, at the Sendoff in Los Angeles

1/26/13

Mystie Lucast is in Seoul on her journey to the 2013 Special Olympics World Games. Yesterday the highlight of the day was visiting a school for students with special needs. The school is special because it has a skating rink. The students there learn to speed skate. They speed skated for the skate team and then the athletes had ice time and were able to skate for the students. It was great to be able to be on the ice.

1/27/13

Sunday they met the U. S. Ambassador at the Consulate. That was cool. All of Team USA went. They wore their dress clothes for the visit. Monday night Mystie Face Timed with her mom, aunts and cousin. It was great to be able to see everyone.

1/29/13

Today (Tuesday) the skate team heads to Alpensia for the Opening Ceremonies. Two family members can attend since there is tight security since the President of the Republic of Korea will be present. The skate team will be staying in a college dorm near their skate rink in Gangneung. It has been a wonderful trip so far.

1/30/13

OpeningCeremonies_MystiePOA

Mystie, far right, during the Parade of Athletes at the Opening Ceremony

Last night after the long bus ride from Seoul we went to the Opening Ceremony. It was amazing. It took one hour and forty minutes for the 2000+ athletes from over 110 countries, including many countries going to their first winter world games.

After the parade of athletes, many welcoming remarks were given by people from Special Olympics and Korea. They had singers and dancers as well as a light show. Everything was done in Korean and English so everyone could understand. This was the first time Mystie was able to see her mom, even if it was from across the arena.

Today we get on the ice! Mystie will be skating her compulsaries.

1/31/13

Mystie did her compulsory routine yesterday and did a good job. I would say probably she placed second. I also learned that she only has one opportunity to earn a medal. They take the compulsory score and combine it with her artistic program for a total score. Therefore, figure skaters can only earn one medal.

Mystie visits the Healthy Athlete Village for free screenings

Mystie visits the Healthy Athlete Village for free screenings

We got to visit with her before she competed, we found her in the hair and makeup room. After she was finished they let us go in the skaters dressing room. I got a huge hug and she wouldn’t let go. She was a little emotional but said she was having a good time. She hasn’t seen much of Korea or been able to shop, we still haven’t found any place to shop.

We are going exploring today and won’t be able to see Mystie. We’ve tried Korean food (really spicy, even when they say it is not). We’ve learned that if you don’t leave your hotel key in the slots inside the door, you won’t have any heat when you get back, so the room is really cold, of course the floors are tile and really cold. I think we have finally adjusted to the time difference and caught up from our 24 hours without sleep.

The Egyptian skiers are seeing snow for the first time. They practiced back home on sand dunes. Can you imagine! It’s surprising to see some of the delegations. There’s are athletes here from countries where individuals with disabilities are put to death or shunned. Some countries like England don’t even have a delegation but other tiny counties have two or three athletes. Walking around the village makes you smile.

After the Games 

Mystie medal

Mystie shows off her silver medal. Photo by SOMO athlete Kayla Ezell.

Mystie says, “The end of the 2013 World games came so quickly. We stopped in Los Angeles on our way back to adjust to the time changes. I made so many friends at the games. I now have friends from across the United States and Canada. After I returned home, Pastor Darrell asked me to come up in front of the church and asked me how scared I was to skate in front of so many people. I told them that I was not scared because I had a church praying for me.”

The World Games are such a special memory.

Seeing Mystie compete on the ice and do her best was amazing. she was so poised in dealing with the many people who wanted their picture taken with her. Some were even asking for her autograph on her trading cards, which was very special to watch. During the awards ceremony, she stood on the sidelines and congratulated everyone. She was excited to see her friends win medals or even ribbons.

Mystie started her adventure as a young teenager and finished it with such poise and grace it was hard to believe she is only 14. She is happy to b back at school and with her family. These special memories will be with all of us for a lifetime.

The Koreans were special hosts and had a massive network of volunteers everywhere to help you out. The buses ran like clockwork to go between the villages and they had wonderful cultural events and tours for the families. We were able to watch Mystie each time she skated and attend the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Los Angeles has their work cut out for them to live up to the standards of the 2013 Special Olympics World Games!

2012 SOMO Annual Award Winners

Matt Cepeda, Emily Reyes, Terri Dallas and the Rash family were all recognized for their outstanding contributions to Special Olympics Missouri at the 2013 Leadership Conference Jan 19-20 in Branson. Each year, Special Olympics Missouri salutes those who have made significant contributions to the Special Olympics movement throughout the past year. Each area nominee is submitted for statewide recognition, and the overall winners were announced at the Leadership Conference.

Outstanding Athlete Matthew CepedaOUTSTANDING ATHLETE: Matthew Cepeda, Kansas City Metro Area

At competitions Matt can always been seen trying his hardest and cheering for others. What is most impressive about Matt is his ability to be a leader in his school. He has become a huge voice around Missouri, but especially in Kansas City, for recruiting youth volunteers. He is the chairman for his school’s Fan Club and is the co-chair of Missouri’s Youth Activation Council. Beyond all this, Matt gives 100 percent to whatever sport he is playing, which says volumes since he plays eight sports!

Outstanding Volunteer Emily ReyesOUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER: Emily Reyes, Southwest Area

During her freshman year in high school in 2005, Emily volunteered to help with her school’s Special Olympics team. After that introduction, he became certified to coach bowling, basketball and track. Since that time, she has served as a counselor at Athlete Sports Camp and participated in many special events. Emily recently finished her four year term on the National Youth Activation Council for Special Olympics, Inc. She’s traveled the country as part of this prestigious group. She continues to stay involved even while in college.

Outstanding Coach Terri DallasOUTSTANDING COACH: Terri Dallas, St. Louis Metro Area

For the past 25 years, Terri has coached SOMO athletes. She has brought countless athletes out of their shell and introduced them to a new way to make friends and build confidence through sports. She organizes and coaches six sports and hundreds of athletes in Jefferson County. When one of Terri’s athletes qualified for the 2011 World Games in bocce, Terri was inspired to begin fundraising for a state-of-the-art bocce court for all the athletes through her program.

Outstanding Family RashOUTSTANDING FAMILY: The Rash family, Northwest Area 

The success of the Lake Viking Polar Plunge is due in large part to the Rash Family. Six years ago they stepped up to start the plunge at Lake Viking. Both Judy and James pour their heart and soul into the planning and fundraising for this event. James has become a coach for their son Pierce’s basketball and flag football teams. The whole family continues to seek new ways to improve our program and offer opportunities for everyone to participate.

Congratulations to all of our winners! Their outstanding contributions helped make this a great year for Special Olympics Missouri.

A once-shy, neglected girl becomes a skating talent

Mystie has faced many challenges through the years, but now she’s shining in the spotlight as she trains for her first World Winter Games

Seeing the Light Within

Mystie Lucast trains for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, set to start in January in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea. At age 14, she will be among the youngest members of Special Olympics Team USA’s figure-skating team.

When Debby Lucast first met Mystie, she was a neglected toddler who couldn’t walk or talk. Debby and her family have known a lot of children in need, after taking in nearly 90 foster children over the years. But it didn’t take long to see that Mystie was something special, despite her many challenges: intellectual disability, seizure disorder, ADHD, scoliosis, etc. “She has a lot to deal with,” says Debby, ”but all that really matters is that she’s a great kid.”

The Lucast family eventually adopted Mystie, who joined their family of three other adopted children. Mystie grew into a lovely girl, yet she found many things were difficult for her. She tried hard, but was often withdrawn, ducking her head down, avoiding conversation and eye contact.

Debby tried to find activities that would help bring Mystie out of her shell, but that wasn’t so easy. “She’d tried dance and gymnastics, but she really couldn’t keep up with the other girls,” says Debby.

Then Mystie got involved in Special Olympics and found a new comfort zone. The program gave her a foundation to grow and thrive – and Mystie gained both sports skills and social confidence.

Mystie and her coaches have found it’s easiest for her to learn by breaking routines down into small doses, reinforcing with practice after practice.

“It’s been great,“ says Debby. “It’s been a huge self-esteem builder for her. Everyone’s positive and it motivates her.” 

Eye on the Prize

Mystie has tried Special Olympics softball, flag football, track and basketball. But right now, it’s all about skating, especially since the 14-year-old has been chosen as one of the youngest members of Team USA’s figure-skating team. And Mystie is pretty excited!

“She’s excited, but we’re all excited. She’s been skating up a storm. She’s at the rink four times a week, two hours a session,” says Debby.

And that girl who seemed to be withdrawn? She’s also been chosen for training as a public speaker at Special Olympics and other events. And so far, she’s doing great. Says Debby, “Special Olympics has helped her so much, socially, emotionally and so many other ways.”

“I think every kid who qualifies needs to be in Special Olympics,” says Debby. “For any kid, disabilities or not, life can bring you down. But Special Olympics only builds you up.”

This article was originally posted on specialolympics.org.

Meet Missouri’s World Winter Games delegates!

The World Games are flagship events for the Special Olympics Movement. They take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games. The Games can be the world’s largest sporting event of the year.

Missouri is proud to have two members representing Team USA at the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea: Tim Jenkins and Mystie Lucast.

Tim Jenkins, 26, is from Lawson. He has been involved with Special Olympics for eight years and will compete in Alpine Skiing at World Games. Tim competed in the 2010 National Games in Nebraska and earned gold medals in Aquatics.

Tim finds joy in spreading the word of Special Olympics. “I used to be shy,” he says. “Now I have friends from all over the state.”

He is a beekeeper and works at Ideal Industries in Richmond. Tim is also in charge of taking care of horses in the GaitWay Therapeutic Riding Program. He loves to cook, with baked chicken as his speciality.

You can help send Tim to World Games by making a donation here.

Mystie Lucast, 14, is from St. Joseph. She has participated in Special Olympics for five years and will compete in Figure Skating. This is her first experience competing beyond the state level.

Mystie says that Special Olympics has allowed her to try sports that she has always wanted to try. In addition to Figure Skating, she also plays softball, track and basketball.

She attends Truman Middle School. “RIO” is her favorite movie and “Little House on the Prairie” is her favorite TV show. Mystie collects snow globes and aspires to be a professional ice skater. She is the youngest of four children and has two sisters and one brother.

You can help send Mystie to World Games by making a donation here.

For more information, visit the Special Olympics Team USA website or the 2013 World Winter Games website.

Annual Award Winners

Each year, we recognize those who have made significant contributions to our program. Areas announce their winners at Area Spring Games, and the statewide winners are unveiled at the Opening Ceremonies of our State Summer Games. Here are this year’s honorees.

Outstanding Volunteer

  • Charlie Aiken, Southwest Area
  • Dana Griesinger, Central Area
  • Elizabeth Janes, Northeast Area
  • Bill Morrow, Kansas City Metro Area
  • Jen Rose, Southeast Area
  • Kaylee Schoenfelder, Northwest Area
  • Rose Schwendemann, St. Louis Metro Area

This year’s Outstanding Volunteer is Rose Schwendemann. Rose comes to us from Shop ‘n Save, where she was the Manager of Front End Operations. Shop ‘n Save is one of our biggest partners, which you already know if you’ve been to any events in the St. Louis Metro Area. They do an incredible job of raising funds and awareness for Special Olympics Missouri, and Rose is cut from the same cloth.

She volunteered to be Shop ‘n Save’s “champion,” or point person, for our annual Wheels for Winners Raffle in 2010. She liked it so much that she returned as a champion for the raffle again in 2011. She played a key role in distributing raffle tickets, logging sold tickets, and scheduling times to have the 2011 Camaro parked in their store to boost sales. Her husband, Terry, and son, Jason, have gotten involved in the effort as well, volunteering with Rose to pick up the Camaro an hour and half away.

Rose became known for her elaborate, color-coded Wheels for Winners calendar in her office. Her goal was to beat the previous year’s Raffle total of $25,000. Well, thanks to Rose’s hard work, the 2011 Raffle total surpassed that by $12,000, raising $37,000!

Rose also volunteers at other events around the St. Louis Metro Area, including the Polar Plunge and Over the Edge. Her son, Jason, has already caught the SOMO bug and has begun fundraising to go Over the Edge in St. Louis this October! Rose – your efforts, passion, and enthusiasm are definitely contagious. We are so impressed and thankful for your support!

Outstanding Family

  • Berryhill Family, Southeast Area
  • Brokamp Family, Central Area
  • Janes Family, Northeast Area
  • Miller Family, Southwest Area
  • Rowell Family, Northwest Area
  • Tarry Family, Kansas City Metro Area

The Central Area staff cannot remember a time when the Brokamp family was not an integral part of the Special Olympics Missouri program.  In fact, we can’t remember a time when the Brokamps have ever said “no” to the Central Area.  Let’s say we needed someone on short notice to speak about what Special Olympics has done for them… the Brokamps always make themselves available.  They’ve been there to set up, tear down, score, escort, register volunteers, recruit volunteers… the list goes on and on.

Over the years, the Brokamps have brought that kind of enthusiasm to the Central Area and to the rest of Missouri, but in 2011 they continued to step up their involvement.  Beth has been asked many times to represent SOMO as a public speaker, especially following her induction into the Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame this year.  Linda served on the Columbia Polar Plunge committee as the Post Party Chair, and she has taken on additional duties this year as the Chairman of the State Summer Games and the Family Recruiting Chair of the Capital Campaign.  Ken is no stranger to the SOMO staff either – he’s always there as a volunteer in the souvenir stands, getting Beth to and from events, and working with Linda to accomplish her work.

The energy in this family is like none we’ve ever seen!  We feel honored to have the Brokamps as friends and to present them with this well-deserved award for Outstanding Family in 2011!

Outstanding Coach

  • Kathy Butler, Northeast Area
  • Steve  Farkas, St. Louis Metro Area
  • Kadi Haslag, Central Area
  • Dawn Jones, Kansas City Metro Area
  • Lyle Kirk, Northwest Area
  • Todd Koester, Southeast Area
  • Emma Vasquez, Southwest Area

This year’s Outstanding Coach honors go to Lyle Kirk.  Lyle coached the Grundy County DAWGS for many years and worked with teams in a variety of sports, including basketball, bocce, softball, and bowling.  Lyle had a special way of taking our athletes under his wing, developing trust, and encouraging them to become self-confident.  Lyle passed away on November 21, 2011.

We will always remember Lyle’s great attitude, amazing heart, and infectious smile.  At every Northwest Area Tournament you could count on Lyle coaching his teams to be respectful and to play with honor.  If Lyle happened to be watching another team from Grundy County play, you could always count on him to be the loudest fan, encouraging his athletes to do the “DAWGS” chant on the sidelines!

Lyle also helped to start up the first-ever Young Athletes Program in Trenton, MO which continues to this day.  On Young Athlete Nights, he always made sure every athlete had a buddy, they all understood, and they all could participate.

At Lyle’s funeral, one of his athletes said, “It didn’t matter if we won or lost, Lyle always said all that matters is that we did our best.  We always did our best and it shows because at our last tournament we won the sportsmanship award.  Lyle helped us do that.”

As you can see, Lyle instilled in these athletes what our coaches are meant to instill:  sportsmanship!  His athletes will live on remembering what Lyle taught them. They will continue to play with honor and heart in the name of Lyle Kirk.

Lyle Kirk was a special man and a very special coach for the Northwest Area.  We will miss him greatly.  Another coach from Grundy County, Brenda Thorne, put it quite nicely: “HE IS OUR HERO!”

Outstanding Athlete

  • Justin Bernhardt, St. Louis Metro Area
  • Joey Breeden, Northeast Area
  • Brianne Chavez, Southeast Area
  • Jenny Dayton, Southwest Area
  • Kizzy Dutton, Northwest Area
  • Leanna Krogmann, Central Area
  • Brittany Selken, Kansas City Metro Area

We are proud to honor Leanna Krogmann as our Outstanding Athlete in 2012.  In 2011, Leanna reached a major milestone in the career of any Special Olympics athlete: attending the World Games in Athens, Greece.  Better still, she competed in her favorite sport, swimming.  Leanna moved from Hannibal to Columbia and immediately began her training as a swimmer.  Every parent, coach, and athlete she comes into contact with takes notice of her infectious “never give up” attitude.  Always looking for a new challenge, she joined a new team to work with a college-level swim coach and continued to flourish as an athlete.

She’s more than an athlete though.  Leanna worked with her parents to raise over $5,000 to pay for her trip to the World Games.  Always an ambassador for Special Olympics, she embodies the spirit of competition, learning, determination, and teamwork.  Her coaches recall that after she won a gold medal at Athens, she returned home to Columbia wearing all four of her medals at once with the gold medal underneath the rest.  She was wearing them in the order that she received them, none more important than the others.  Each of those medals represented a unique achievement and Leanna wore each of them with pride!

Today, Leanna Krogmann trains and competes as hard as ever.  For her, Special Olympics is a way of life, full of opportunities even after competing at the World Games.  Thank you for representing us so well, Leanna!

View photos of all of our nominees on our Facebook page.