Partner Highlight: Missouri Association of Student Councils

fort osage bowling socialThe Missouri Association of Student Councils (MASC) chose Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) as their charity of choice 24 years ago. Since that time, they have been raising funds and awareness in junior high and high schools across the state. Member schools are encouraged to assist with Special Olympics events in their areas. Many of the schools host events, volunteer at events, do fundraisers, participate in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign and take the Plunge. The students volunteer an average of 12,000 a year, equating to 288,000 hours they have given to Special Olympics Missouri in 24 years. The students learn the importance of serving others and their commitment to SOMO extends beyond high school graduation.

MASC volunteer at YAP“There is not an event I attend that I don’t find a volunteer who learned about Special Olympics because of their involvement with MASC,” SOMO Sr. Director of Programs Trish Lutz says. “Recently, at the Jefferson City Regional Basketball tournament, I was talking with a group of girls who came from Mizzou to volunteer. I asked how they got involved and one girl said ‘I was in student council in high school and we were members of MASC and SOMO was our charity of choice. I would always volunteer at the Area Spring Games in St. Louis and I wanted to continue volunteering in college so I invited a couple of my college friends to join me today.’”

Dexter STUCO plungeIn 2009, MASC stepped up the commitment and really promoted the Polar Plunge. That year, 700 youth raised more than $99,000. The momentum they have generated since 2009 has resulted in a grand total of $624,888.33 being raised just through the Polar Plunge. This amount does not include all the other fundraising the individual schools do throughout the year.

MASC promotes and teaches acceptance, respect and inclusion for all. Our athletes are included in the MASC Summer Leadership Workshop where they work side by side with their peers developing their leadership skills, confidence and building a bridge of acceptance and change for all. The interaction between the youth leaders and the athletes is amazing! Athletes grow from timid, unsure individuals to outgoing, confident leaders who are ready to get involved with their student council as representatives, run for office and plan school activities. Youth leaders learn to embrace individual differences and the value of inclusion.

Savannah Middle SchoolMASC received the 2013 Special Olympics Missouri Award of Excellence. This is the highest honor the board bestows on an individual or organization for their years of service and impact on the SOMO program.

Special Olympics Missouri is lucky to have found a true friend in the Missouri Association of Student Councils. They are educating the leaders of our future to be agents of change, fostering respect and dignity through service to others.

If you know of a school that would be interested in being a member of MASC, visit their website at www.masc1.org.

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Special Athletes, Special Associates

Paul Meyer and his brother Ken enjoyed weight lifting together.  When Ken moved away to college, Paul continued his lifting routine on his own.  In 2009, Paul’s dad discovered that Special Olympics had a weight lifting program, and Paul began working with a Special Olympics coach at the YMCA in Festus two to three days a week.  His favorite event is the bench press, where Paul can press an impressive 300 pounds. 

Terri Dallas, Leisure Services Coordinator for Next Step for Life, encouraged Paul to apply for a job at Shop ’n Save, and in August of 2011, Paul began working at the South County store.  He enjoys working outdoors, especially when the weather turns cool.  Paul also has an interest in bocce ball and is considering learning the sport.

Steve Holley has participated in Special Olympics for more than 30 years.  He plays softball in the summer, but his true passion is bowling – and he has the trophies and medals to show for it!  On Saturday mornings, you can find Steve at Crest Bowl, where he maintains his 212 average.  The youngest sibling of three sisters, Steve lives independently at Kensington Square Apartments in Florissant and takes a bus to work at the Flower Valley Shop ’n Save.  In fact, Steve recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as an associate there.  Prior to working at Shop ’n Save, Steve had worked at a local hotel, but he prefers the interaction with customers and fellow associates that he enjoys at Shop ’n Save.  “I like the other workers and my bosses,” he says.  “I keep the carts caught up during the day and help anybody that needs my help with their groceries or their cart.”  Now the senior courtesy clerk, Steve helps new associates learn their job duties.  “I show them the right way to bring in carts and make sure they wear their safety vest.”

Shop ’n Save is proud to include special athletes as part of our team.  Their contribution is a valued element of our focus to deliver outstanding service to our customers.  Under the leadership of President Marlene Gebhard, Shop ’n Save developed a corporate partnership with Special Olympics Missouri, and today we are one of SOMO’s primary sponsors.  Working with local organizations like SOMO allows us to see how our donations are being put to work and allows us to be personally involved.  Many of our managers and associates volunteer their time in fundraising efforts and as buddies and helpers at the Area Spring Games.  Supporting local charities is important to us as a corporate citizen, and our partnership with Special Olympics is part of our commitment to the communities that we serve.

– Paul Warden, Operations Communication Manager, Shop ’n Save

Why Special Olympics?

Randy Reddick is Senior Vice President of Operations at Shop ‘n Save, one of SOMO’s biggest supporters. Randy has volunteered for several years and also serves on our Board of Directors.

One of my earliest memories of our involvement with Special Olympics was in 1999 when SOMO Board Member Dave Pudlowski approached SHOP ‘n SAVE with a routine request. Dave asked if we would agree to sell the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) T-shirt in our stores. Such a request was common for a retailer with multiple locations and fit well with our company’s desire to support those in law enforcement, while increasing our level of community involvement. However, the response from both customers and associates was unlike any fundraiser we had ever promoted.

Randy Reddick, second from left, first got involved with SOMO through the Law Enforcement Torch Run

The Torch Run campaign generated not only sales, but a heightened awareness of Special Olympics’ mission to provide year-round athletic competition for their athletes. The extraordinary success of the T-shirt promotion led to a discussion of future events that would benefit from the collective efforts of law enforcement, SOMO, and SHOP ‘n SAVE. Beginning with annual events such as the Polar Plunge and St. Louis Metro Area Spring Games, SHOP ‘n SAVE associates demonstrated their commitment and enthusiasm by participating in multiple events each year. The Trivia Night introduced in 2009 attracted over 600 SHOP ‘n SAVE associates who raised $35,000 in donations. With over 200 volunteers participating, some SHOP ‘n SAVE sponsored events have surpassed even those of the St. Louis Metro Area, with this year’s car raffle sales setting a new record of $46,000 in donations. Raising over $300,000 in 2001, the annual St. Louis Golf Classic is now one of the largest golf tournaments in the region.

Today, Shop 'n Save is one of SOMO's biggest supporters.

While SHOP ‘n SAVE has been an ardent supporter of Special Olympics through its fundraising efforts, it is the spirit of the “volunteer” that truly makes the difference in our commitment. Our SHOP ‘n SAVE associates look forward to these annual events and take pride in knowing that they are supporting the athletes’ ability to experience the excitement of training and competing in a sport that they enjoy. Special Olympics volunteers stand apart, exhibiting humility and energy for the mission, as they focus on what is best for the athletes.

Therefore, our answer to the question: “Why Special Olympics?” is crystal clear.

I can think of no greater group to support than the athletes, who appreciate the opportunities afforded them and demonstrate the will to succeed. They handle both winning and disappointment with a dignity that should be modeled in all competitive sports. The evolving partnership between SOMO and SHOP ‘n SAVE has provided our associates the experience of both “a volunteer and a fan.” As a result, the spirit of Special Olympics is embedded within our culture and the lives of those who volunteer.