2015 World Games: Day 4 — An Experience They’ll Never Forget

This is the fourth blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

Competing at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games and representing the red, white and blue is something that all 13 Missouri athletes (12 softball and one tennis) will never forget, but I think it’s the off-field/off-court activities that our guys are going to remember more than anything. Today the softball team was afforded on such opportunity — to attend a Los Angeles Dodgers game and be on the field during batting practice.

But before they could do the fun stuff, they had business to attend to — a match-up vs. Bharat (India).

DSC_0778 (2)This team is nothing if they aren’t consistent and they have consistently (from scrimmages vs. Arizona and Southern California earlier in the week and throughout the first three games against Australia, Canada and Mexico) been a slow-starting team. In divisioning, teams bat through their entire order in the first inning, so organizers can get a good look at everyone to make sure they end up in the right division against comparable competition.

So far, the guys have consistently been behind teams following the 1st inning because of fielding/throwing errors and untimely hitting. They were down 11-4 vs. Canada, 7-3 vs. Mexico and 7-4 vs. India again on Tuesday. Then they’re forced to try and claw their way back in it and it’s worked out pretty well against everyone but Canada so far. That trend continued Tuesday with India scoring 7 in the first inning and leading 7-4 at the end of the 1st.

The guys had great pitching and defense in the 2nd inning and forced India to go three up, three down. Then at the plate USA scored eight straight runs to begin their half of the inning and they were able to hold onto a huge 12-10 win.DSC_0773

Coaches mentioned that they’ve noticed their team starts out flat, but they’re kind of at a loss as to how to change it at this point — “it’s just who they are,” said coach Stan Smith with a smile. “We just need to fight through it.”

“I really do think their heads were elsewhere today, especially with them going to the Dodgers game following their game,” coach Dana Griesinger said. “It’s all they talked about this morning.”

Following divisioning play, they’ve now been placed in the 2nd division with Canada and Mexico. They will play Mexico at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and Canada at 10 a.m. Thursday.

We’ll get to their Dodger Stadium experience in a bit, but first, how did Bobby fare on Tuesday?

Bobby and his doubles partner Jeff Scott from California lost both matches vs. Costa Rica and Belgium. His mom said that she missed nearly all of the matches because they were stuck in traffic for two hours. Have you ever heard people talk about LA traffic? Yeah, it’s that bad.

She got the rundown from the coaches who said Bobby and Jeff also got off to a slow start on Tuesday and while they did a good job of finishing strong, it put them in a hole that was too hard for them to dig out of completely. Bobby and Jeff are set to begin their competition schedule today now that divisioning is completed. They play at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the UCLA Tennis Center. Good luck Bobby and Jeff!

Immediately following the win vs. India, the softball guys hurried to the locker room to change and hop on the bus that was arranged for them. Because they had plenty of time, the bus took the long way and traveled all the way down Sunset Boulevard where guys could ooh and ahh at the multi-million dollar homes. A few freaked out when they saw some guy from the TV show Storage Wars driving an old car in front of us. I’ve personally never seen the show to tell you one way or another, but Tim Kunz was adamant it was him and was really excited.

DSC_0107 (Copy) (Copy)

Mark McGwire talks to the guys

Mark McGwire talks to the guys

High fives with Joc Pederson

High fives with Joc Pederson

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly with Allen Cameron

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly with Allen Cameron

Group photo with Billy Butler

Group photo with Billy Butler

Group photo with Andre Ethier

Group photo with Andre Ethier

Once we arrived at the stadium, we took a few photos and then headed inside where we were met by Dodgers PR/Marketing staff and two people from a TV crew who mic’ed up Jason Parrish for the experience. He was a little hesitant at first, but we couldn’t have picked a better athlete and all-around person to be on camera representing USA and Missouri.

You know the guys are in awe of what they’re experiencing when the most talkative guys on the team who NEVER shut up are silent. As soon as we stepped on the field most of them just stood there, not saying a word, just soaking it all in. So many of them knew the players (from both teams) that were in front of them and could tell you their statistics for the year. Again, it’s just another way to show that sports as a whole means so much to them. Sure it’s nice to compete and win, but it’s more about that shared experience and they can relate to a lot of what professional athletes deal with just on a smaller scale.

Several players and coaches came over to greet the team and take photos with them including Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, Don Mattingly and more. The two guys who got the largest cheers though were former Cardinals great Mark McGwire (hitting coach for the Dodgers) and former Royals player Billy Butler (now with the Oakland Athletics). They were SO excited when they saw them and kept yelling their names until they came over to say hi. No matter who it was that came over to see them, it wasn’t a quick photo and then they left, they were genuinely interested in how the softball games were going, asking who the hardest hitter on the team was (Jason Parrish), the fastest player on the team (Tyler Scott), etc. It was a ton of fun getting to see them just be like anyone else and forget about everything else that’s going on in their lives right now and just be able to talk athlete-to-athlete.

I was really hoping that Joc Pederson (one of the best young players in the game and probably leading candidate for National League Rooking of the Year) would come over because he could relate even more to the guys than most because his older brother has Down syndrome and competes in Special Olympics. You also might remember him from this touching moment during this year’s Home Run Derby. Of course, some of the guys already knew this and instead of “talking shop” and asking him about hitting or fielding and getting tips, they asked more questions about his brother. I think Pederson appreciated that the guys were genuinely interested him his story.

I know I’ll never forget that moment, not because it was cool for me to be down on the field and meet the players (which it totally was 🙂 ) but because the looks on all of their faces were priceless as they took the field and player after player came over to meet them.

The game itself was meh with the Dodgers losing 2-0 and only getting three hits, but our guys were treated like royalty and I know it’s an experience they’ll never forget and we’re all greatly appreciative of Justin Turner and the Dodgers staff making this happen.

This post is already more than 1,300 words, so I’ll end it here and just to let you know, Thursday’s post is going to be a little light because we’re taking the day off to do some touristy things, but we’ll still have information on how Bobby and the softball team fare on Wednesday.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).


Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 7 & 8

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Day 7 – Several Posts

Day 7 Jeff and Oxnard athletesThe days have been exciting and tiring at the same time. The excitement and energy of the community recharges our batteries and motivates us for the next run. The members of Route 1 (Root 1!) continue to impress.

Our first stop today was Oxnard. I was going to try and recap yesterday, however the last hour in Oxnard can not wait to be mentioned. Groups or athletes were waiting at each corner we turned at to help us reach the ceremony. We arrived to a Police Commander who emceed the event and did a great job. This was the most inspiring stop to date.

Our Team 5 athlete, Dale Smit, made me so proud today. His nervousness was apparent and when he got up, he struggled in a few spots. As I stood and watched Dale this morning I witnessed what real courage looks like. He conquered each word that slowed him down and did not let it get the best of him. I was as proud of Dale Smit this morning as I have been of my own son at times in his life. My pride began to create a bit of a glare in my vision and an ache in my chest. I hesitate to share this knowing many of my teammates may see this. Emotion got the best of me this morning and I wasn’t sure why at first? (One person spotted me but I know she wont tell.). G. lol As I looked around, the realization of where I was and the opportunity that was given to me just sunk in. The excitement and joy in that community, for our arrival, was amazing. Eric Smith and Dale Smit killed it on a news interview today as well. It was so good a dance party literally broke out at nine in the morning. Thank you Oxnard, you have set the bar!

Today continues to be a good day in Cali! The weather was almost as beautiful as the town. They are hosting the athletes of Team Britain and the town was decorated nicely. We ran into a well attended ceremony where Jen Riley and our athlete Joshua spoke to the crowd. They both did a fantastic job representing our family.

On a side note, if you’re ever in California, this is the car you want to escort you around (CHP Dodge Viper.)

Day 7 WG cheerleaderTHOUSAND OAKS
We shut down Thousand Oaks Blvd for almost 2.5 miles and ran into a spectacular crowd. Patrons and shop owners were coming out of the stores and cheering us along. Those in vehicles honked, in support not in frustration, waving and video taping as well.
My teammate and roomie, Otis Stevens, gave his speech today alongside Nigel Davis. Nigel continues to shine with each speech. Thousand Oaks brought out the “Sparkles” unified Cheer Team. Amazing young ladies…

SIMI VALLEY 99 degree
First off, nice views and great hills, too look at! A nice mile-long climb up to a shopping center that rounded out the day with a huge crowd. I have been most impressed with the quality of the ceremonies and community turnout today. The Simi Valley PD organized some great entertainment after effectively spreading the message and the mission of the Final Leg.

Day 7 Jeff and athleteWe headed out after meeting a few locals and stopped by the local Toyota dealership after another hilly Simi Valley run.

There’s barely time to post between stops, fortunately they arranged for wifi on the bus. Posting in the evening is a challenge because it cuts into what we have realized is most valuable sleep time.

We are having dinner at the Ronald Reagan library this evening!

Day 8
Day 8 With  cheerleaderWe were quite a wake up call for the city of San Yisidro / San Diego County. We shouted cadence for about two miles through the street to spread awareness and make our presence known. The local supporters did not hesitate to put on a fantastic show of support. The Xolo Girls and the mascot for the Caliente futbol team from Tijuana were there along with a great mariachi band. As with most stops these days when music kicks off, the dancing follows

As the military chant starts … Didn’t come to Coronado for the sun, we’re running for the athletes in the Torch Run!

What a beautiful city, looks just like the movies. We ran along the bay front and then through town to a community orchestra waiting for us. US Olympic Champion Layne Beaubien emceed the event. Today has started out as good as yesterday, just a little cooler with rain sprinkles. We finished with a quick trip to Hotel Del Coronado and finally coffee! The community and local law enforcement did another job showing great respect for the Flame of Hope.

Mother Nature decided to poke fun of the other Routes. There were in places in the desert and we were at Seal Beach in LaJolla with the ocean. Change of plans, lighting, thunderstorms and water by the buckets. The storms shut down both cities nearly with flood warnings and storm drains filling at capacity.

Our trip was cut short, however, San Diego PD adapted like true Torch Run Guardians and we brought the ceremony on the bus. Their message was shared in an abbreviated fashion, however, we appreciated all their efforts. I’m sorry to San Diego their efforts and preparation was minimized to being on the bus, I know they had great stuff in store for us. We’ve been granted some rehab time which will be appreciated.

What an awesome morning running along the ocean in San Clemente. There was a weekend festival that still had a lot of people out already. The view was Fantastic and the ceremony was impressive.

A couple of days ago in Visalia we witnessed our athlete Graccianno Corozza from Italia smile and give Tammy and kiss on the cheek at the end of her speech. This was the most emotion we had seen from Gracciano the entire trip.

Day 8 Jeff and NigelToday was Nigel’s turn to pierce my heart. He came up today and for the first time he did not read his speech, he went off the cuff and did it from memory. Actually he did it from his heart, his great big smiling heart. Nigel spoke of how he was a little concerned about being on the bus with all of the officers and new people however now he loves his new family.
The pride in my chest for Nigel swelled and I had to tell him. I went to Nigel afterwards and gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him and he squeezed me back tightly. Nigel then became emotional and started crying in my arms out of joy, acceptance and pride in himself. Life does not provide many moments like this however Special Olympics and Torch Run family is like no other.

The beauty of this beach was only shadowed by the inspiring Torch Runners that took it over. Jacqui Robertson and Graziano gave outstanding speeches, relaying the mission and personal experiences with LETR. We had a great lunch at the beach and even go to kick our shoes off and play in the sand a little.

As for Graziano “Buon lavoro il mio amico”. Good job my friend.

Day 8 Jeff  running with the torchAnother California city set the stage for a wonderful welcome. We started our run at the Finish Line of the 1984 Olympic Games Cycling event that finished in Mission Viejo. It was a very nice setting in a beautiful community. Olympic Champion Bob Goodell, a gold medalist swimmer in 1984, was also on hand.

We ran in to a Pipe and Drum band playing with a large community turnout. Bob Cormier gave his speech, followed and outdone, by Team 5’s Dale Smit. Dale followed suit with his teammates stepped up in his public speaking. Dale did an amazing job with his eye contact and voice strength today. He used his script, however, he looked up and spoke in his normal speaking voice more than his slightly nervous reading voice.

I wish that his mom and dad could have been here to see him and his progress the past 8 days. Today showed the power of support, confidence and courage for Dale. FANtastic!

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 5 & 6

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Day 5 – (what a day)
Stop 1 – Golden Gate Bridge
Stop 2 – San Francisco’s famous Pier 39
Stop 3 – San Fran Union Square
Stop 4 – San Fan City Hall
Stop 5 – San Fran Overlook
We up extremely early and nearly saw the sun rise at the Golden Gate Bridge. We made multiple stops and saw some great people. The highlight of the day was running down to Pier 39 and saw a line of middle school students along the road who had made up and were displaying posters with our names on them. Seeing all our names on posters put a lump in my throat. It was a long, fantastic day.

Day 5_1 Day 5_2

Day 6
Stop 1 – Stockton CA
Stop 2 – Modesto CA
Stop 3 – Fresno CA
Stop 4 – Visalia CA
As the days go by there seems to be less time to recap each event before running to the next one. We are logging our miles in some great cities and well received by so many. Our presence as we make our way though the city streets being people out of their shops and homes to see what this chanting was all about.

Though each location was unique, Fresno had one of the larger and more formal ceremonies of the day. We were blessed to be inside their city council chambers after running at in 100+ degree heat for the first couple stops. Gorgeous weather and the sunshine is a blessing, however, a little warmer than necessary.

Senior Constable Claire Hawthorn of New South Wales and athlete Nigel Davis of Jamaica spoke at this ceremony. They both did a bang up job and met their goal of spreading awareness in exemplary fashion. The community and law enforcement turn out was appreciated by everyone of us representing our programs at home and around the country.

Day 6_1` Day 6_2

Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 3 & 4

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Day 3 / Stop 1
Breakfast at the dining hall followed by a great run through downtown to the State Capitol. What a great turnout and representation by the Governor, Lt Governor, Commander Highway Patrol and several other dignitaries. This was a great kickoff event. The Final Leg advance team did a great job to start the ball rolling. Next stop lake Tahoe!

Day 3 / Stop 2 – Lake Tahoe
A great ride out to Lake Tahoe and a fantastic reception by the Governor of Nevada, LT Gov., Police Chief, Sheriff and local residents and athletes.

We came in loud and proud leaving our mark in Tahoe.

Day 3-1 Day 3-5

Day 4 /
Stop 1 – Davis CA
Stop 2 – Fairfield CA
Stop 3 – Napa CA
Stop 4 – Vallejo CA
Stop 5 – Pleasant Hill CA

Great start to the day in Davis at a small ceremony at a Bank of America location. We moved on to Fairfield and then Napa. In Fairfield, our Italian athlete, Gracciano, gave a moving speech in Italian that showed his passion and heart as his voice quivered and eyes watered. A language I did not understand still left many of us glassy eyed, myself included.

The city and scenery in Napa was as nice as expected. We saw a great Mexican dance presentation on our stage at the riverfront. The hilly port city of Vallejo was another great stop with good media coverage and a great view.

The teams all came together for our last stop in Pleasant Hill. 124 strong loudly belted out our cadence as we made our way to a large reception and ceremony. A splendid turnout by the people of Northern California. The pictures will barely do it justice.

Dinner at Fredo’s Italian Restaurant was magnificent. A very long and eventful day comes to a close. The Torch Run did its job and spread the word.

Day 4_3 Day 4_2

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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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!

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.