By Andrew Kauffman, Special Olympics Missouri
Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) is proud to continue its partnership with the United Way!
SOMO is a year-round program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Thousands of athletes participate in 16 Olympic-type sports throughout the state. SOMO provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with their fellow athletes, their family and friends, and communities across Missouri.
Earlier this year, SOMO was awarded $8,000 thanks to the United Way Community Support Grant. SOMO used these funds to purchase a golf cart, which prominently displays the United Way and SOMO logo. In just a few months, SOMO has already utilized this golf cart in several different ways.
“It helps support activities and events at the Training for Life Campus by transporting equipment and athletes,” said Sr. Program Director Melinda Wrye-Washington. “We will continue to use this for events throughout the year. We greatly appreciate our partnership with the United Way and its contributions to the athletes across the state.”
SOMO could not provide the lifechanging opportunities to thousands of athletes across the state without its generous partners, like the United Way. These partnerships are the backbone of SOMO.
“Special Olympics Missouri is very grateful to the United Way for giving us the opportunity to apply for their Community Support Grant,” Health Partnership Manager Carol Griffin said. “Being awarded funding for the purchase of a golf cart is very beneficial for the many events that are provided for our SOMO athletes. From hauling equipment to transporting injured athletes from a competition, it will be a great asset. With the golf cart displaying the United Way logo and the Special Olympics Missouri logo, everyone will be able to see that together we are making a difference!”
SOMO finished the year making a positive impact on all of its athletes. In September, SOMO hosted ALPs University Weekend at the Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City. ALPs is SOMO’s Athlete Leadership Program.
“The ALPs University weekend was fabulous,” ALPs coordinator Kayla Hull said. “Our SOMO athletes are so impressive. I was proud of each and every one of our athlete leaders for their commitment to their own personal and professional growth. They were engaged in their learning and always looking for ways to support their peers.”
ALPs provides an opportunity for all of its athletes to pursue higher education. There are a variety of majors athlete leaders can choose to study to further their education. ALPs University is truly a program for everyone, regardless of their learning style or prior education.
Jefferson City was once again the place to be during the first weekend in October! SOMO hosted its 2022 State Outdoor Games, October 7-9, in the capital city. Hundreds of athletes and Unified partners participated in five different sports: bocce, flag football, tennis, golf and softball.
“I’m just excited to spread the word on all of the great things SOMO stands for,” SOMO President and CEO Larry Linthacum said. “I’m just excited to get more people involved, whether that’s our athletes, coaches, volunteers or financial partners.”
Along with the competitions, SOMO also held its health and wellness clinics – Healthy Athletes and Sports Zone.
“SOMO is about so much more than just competing in sports,” Griffin said. “These events give us a great opportunity to offer free health screenings to our athletes.”
In total, medical professionals performed 532 health screenings leading to 92 referrals over the weekend. You can see the full breakdown below:
Healthy Hearing: 78 Screenings, 43 Referrals
FUNfitness: 61 Screenings, 17 Referrals
Special Smiles: 84 Screenings, 14 Referrals
Fit Feet: 98 Screenings, 7 Referrals
Health Promotions: 67 Screenings, 11 Referrals
Strong Minds: 40 Screenings
Opening Eyes: 83 Screenings
Medfest (Sports Medicals): 21
SOMO is dedicated to improving the overall health and fitness of its athletes, not only through organized sports training and competition, but by also providing free health screenings through the Healthy Athletes program. All of these screenings were provided for SOMO athletes free of charge.
SOMO held Healthy Athletes and Sports Zone at different times throughout the weekend. These were incredible opportunities for the SOMO athletes. Some of the perks included the potential to get free glasses or goggles. SOMO athletes could also get a free physical, which is good for three years. For more information on these free health screenings, visit somo.org/health.
In late October, SOMO hosted its annual Leadership Summit. This event honored its most outstanding athletes, coaches, volunteers and donors. The 2022 award winners are as follows:
Outstanding Athlete of the Year: Tanner Hrenchir
Outstanding Coach of the Year: Leslie Franklin
Outstanding Volunteer of the Year: Aaron Shillcutt
Outstanding Family of the Year: Southern Family
The event also served as the 2022 ALPs graduation. There were 13 ALPs graduates this year.
The ceremony continued with SOMO officially inducting its Hall of Fame Class of 2022:
Tanner Hrenchir – Athlete | North Area
Simon Caldwell – Athlete | North Area
Jeffery Fugett – Volunteer | Southwest Area
SOMO is looking forward to continuing to make a difference in 2023. This amazing organization will kickoff the year with its annual Polar Plunges. There are 10 different locations across the state to choose from. This "unbearable" event is a unique opportunity to show your bravery as you support local SOMO athletes by walking, running or crawling into the frigid winter waters that Missouri has to offer.