At Special Olympics Missouri, we have phenomenal athletes, coaches, volunteers and sponsors who give their all to this organization day in and day out. Because we want everyone to know that their dedication doesn't go unnoticed, we honor them. The 2016 winners are listed below with an excerpt from their nominations along with a video of their acceptance speech (just click the photo to play the video).
outstanding volunteer -- genice fisher, central area
Volunteers are the backbone of our organization and Genice Fisher is definitely proof of that. There are so many events within the Central Area that we truly couldn’t do without her. Genice also serves as the volunteer sports commissioner for track and field.
Even beyond that, she helps work several other fundraising events. She is the gal you can call at the last moment to come help if you’re short of volunteers! Recently she has stepped into a new role as a mentor for our Athlete Leadership Programs University. She also serves as an event manager for state events and volunteers at SOMO’s Headquarters and Central Area offices.
outstanding coach -- esther pfeiff, north area
Esther Pfeiff coaches for Tri-County Association for Handicapped Persons and is one of the founding members. Esther has been coaching for 30 years, but took over the role as head coach in 2012 and has kept the team going with the help of other families ever since. Esther is one of those coaches that every staff person loves!
She always has her scores in on time, she comes to events with a smile on her face and most importantly, she always makes sure the athletes are having fun.
She does a great job promoting the program and giving the athletes great coaching wisdom and advice.
outstanding family -- the blattels, southeast area
The Blattel family is a perfect example of the impact one family can have on Special Olympics. They are involved on multiple levels, from athletic participation to coaching, volunteering, serving as Unified Partners and raising money.
Wanda coaches multiple sports, and is very active in fundraising. Her son, Lucas, is a multi-sport athlete, who is well-known for training hard and earning gold medals. He has participated in more than 200 events in more than 100 competitions. In addition to playing, he helps coach the Cape Tornadoes with his mom.
outstanding athlete -- robb eichelberger, central area
More than 20 years ago, Robb Eichelberger started his journey as a Special Olympics athlete. Throughout those years he has truly grown to broaden his role in our organization. Robb has gone above and beyond to advocate for SOMO and to rise up to become a voice for our athletes.
He served on the Board of Directors and had perfect attendance, so they created an award in his name for other board members who never miss a meeting.
He is an incredible fundraiser and has raised more than $5,000 for the TLC to earn a Charter Class ring and letter jacket. Robb is a true leader. He is always looking for what is best for the athletes and wants their voices to be heard.
SOMO Hall of Fame
In two separate, surprise ceremonies on Jan. 17 in their respective hometowns, SOMO inducted longtime athlete and board member Robb Eichelberger and dedicated volunteer Zim Schwartze into the SOMO Hall of Fame. To qualify for the Hall of Fame, you must have participated in Special Olympics for at least 15 years (at least 10 years with Missouri) and demonstrated behavior and conduct associated with integrity and good sportsmanship. Click here for more information on how you can nominate someone to the SOMO Hall of Fame.
Zim Schwartze, Springfield
Zim’s passion for Special Olympics Missouri began in 1995 through the Law Enforcement Torch Run. She serves as an inspiration to other officers around the state by the pure joy she exudes when she is around the athletes. She was recognized as the 2005 Letz award winner – the highest honor in Missouri’s LETR program.
Zim has served on many Games Management Teams and fundraising committees throughout the years. She was Missouri’s representative as a Final Leg runner at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games and then selected again as a route runner for the Unified Relay Across America in 2015 from St. Louis to Colorado for the 2015 World Summer Games.
Zim’s spirit is contagious and she passes that on to those around her. SOMO athletes are her No. 1 priority in everything she does for the organization and they love her just as much as she loves them.
She makes Missouri proud on a daily basis and SOMO is blessed to have her in its family.
Robb Eichelberger, Boonville
Robb got his start with Special Olympics Missouri in 1998 as one of the first athletes in Unified Sports. He became a national champion in tennis after placing first at the 2006 National Games in Iowa. He has competed in Unified golf with his Unified Partner Ryan Brimer for eight years.
He was elected to the Board of Directors in 2007 and didn’t miss a single meeting during his tenure through 2016. He was one of the first athletes to sign up for the Athlete Leadership Programs University in 2015 because he wanted to face his fears and become a public speaker to share his SOMO experiences with the world.
Robb is an active member of his community, especially with his local Knights of Columbus council. He was awarded the 2016 Knight of the Year from his council.
Robb has set the bar for other athletes, board members and athlete-leaders in the state and is a true example of what Special Olympics Missouri can do for its athletes and what its athletes can do for the organization.
Award of Excellence -- Shop 'n Save
Shop ‘n Save raises more than $500,000 annually through Law Enforcement Torch Run activities and special events. It hosts or participates in the following: Shop ‘n Save Trivia Night, Round Up campaign in their stores, Torch Run T-shirt sales, Shop ‘n Save Gala and Golf benefit, raffle ticket sales, Polar Plunge and Over the Edge STL. The annual gala and golf benefit is its largest fundraiser, raising more than $2 million since 2003.
Its relationship with SOMO reaches beyond fundraising. It provides in-kind food donations for many events and competitions in St. Louis and the employees have a personal connection, volunteering on committees, at competitions, hosting, planning and participating in events and much more.
Shop ‘n Save is one of the longest running sponsors in SOMO history (since 2000), is one of the top fundraising partners annually and has incorporated the Special Olympics Missouri mission into its corporate culture. You can see its commitment to Special Olympics Missouri on signs throughout the stores and associates who often wear Torch Run T-shirts. This award is the most prestigious award given by the SOMO board of directors.
2016 Letz Unsung Hero -- Officer Amanda Geno, Lee's Summit P.D.
Officer Amanda Geno of the Lee’s Summit P.D. was awarded the 2016 John Michael Letz Award, the highest award presented by the Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run® program at a surprise ceremony Dec. 8. Geno’s dedication to the Law Enforcement Torch Run® over the past seven years has made all the difference, especially to Special Olympics Missouri athletes in the Kansas City Metro Area.
The John Michael Letz Award recognizes an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. The recipient is an individual who constantly works to do more, not for recognition, but rather in support of SOMO athletes.
Geno has been involved with every aspect of Special Olympics Missouri including fundraising with the Polar Plunge, competing as a Unified Partner in multiple sports and serving as a mentor for an athlete-leader during Athlete Leadership Programs University. She has also served as the LETR agency coordinator, raising more than $630,000 over the last seven years.