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Guest post: Father lauds Special Olympics, Team Missouri for sons’ health improvements

Ed. note: This article was written by Paul Burnett, Sr., whose twin sons Paul, Jr., and John who will compete at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle on the softball team.


Paul (left) and John (right) have found their love for the game of softball. This photo is from the two of them during a competition in their first year with SOMO.

My sons, John and Paul Burnett, both 33, have been enjoying Special Olympics sports since 2010. During this time they have enjoyed bowling, bocce and tried their hands at basketball, but their first love has always been softball.

They have made life-long friends and grown a tremendous amount as athletes and as young men. Special Olympics Missouri means the world to them partly because they love sports and competing but also because they enjoy the company of their friends and having a good time.

A few years ago, the boys started having issues that doctors traced to their livers. It turned out that their A1C levels (the higher your A1C levels, the worse your blood sugar control/the more complications you’ll have from diabetes) started going up and, as a result, they were diagnosed with diabetes.

Their mother and I have been fighting to try to help them lose weight, eat right, (stay off the soda) and improve their overall health. The boys seemed at times to not take the issue seriously enough. They just wanted to go on like nothing was wrong or it was not that big of a deal. Then along came a chance to try out for Team Missouri in softball.

They have wanted to do this for a long time — to represent their state at the USA Games. We told them they had to work to earn it. Then that special evening came when Susan Shaffer announced that the boys made it. While their mother and I shed some tears, they just clapped, looked at each other and said it was time to go to work.


Paul pitches during the 2017 SONA NIT Softball Tournament in Bismarck, N.D.

They were given workout sheets by their coaches to get ready for Seattle. Amazingly mom and dad did not have to force them to work. They started working out hard five or six days a week rain or shine.

They started losing weight, and getting stronger and healthier. They had a complete physical in March where we found out they lost nearly 40 pounds between them. Their A1C levels came down to 5.1 and 5.3 but the greatest thing, their livers started to function normally for the first time in almost 10 years. The doctor said they’re doing so well they may be able to stop taking their medication before they leave for Seattle!

All of this has taken place in the last four months since Team Missouri unveiled its MO Magic Bucks program. (Ed. Note:  This program is a point-based system that allows Team Missouri delegates to earn points for eating/drinking right, exercising, sharing their progress with friends and more. The cumulative total of points can be used to purchase items such as a FitBit, a water bottle/smoothie blender, exercise equipment and more.)


John hits a line drive for a base hit during the 2017 SONA NIT Softball Tournament in Bismarck, N.D.

Their mother and I cannot thank Special Olympics Missouri enough for this. As most parents know, children do not always like to listen to us parents (apparently we do not know what we’re talking about). It took something that they really wanted, to light a fire under them. They talk about going to Seattle to represent Missouri with their friends and bring back gold medals, all the time.

As parents, SOMO has been a great adventure, not only with our children but the friends we have made. We talk to other parents that go through the same things and we can lean on each other. From the very first time we went to a Special Olympic event in 2010 we knew we found our second home.

Thank you, SOMO!

Exercise MO Magic bucks_fill in own total

Here is what our MO Magic bucks look like that we’re giving out to our Team Missouri athletes for training and eating right. They can then cash them in for prizes. It has the picture of our HOD Susan Shaffer on it, which our athletes certainly got a kick out of when we unveiled them.