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SOMO announces Drive it Home Raffle winner and honors law enforcement

Joe Peart and Daxton Miller carry the Flame of Hope at the conclusion of the 2022 Law Enforcement Torch Run Celebration Lunch on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 at the Training for Life Campus.

JEFFERSON CITY – Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) hosted its 2022 Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Celebration Lunch at the Training for Life Campus on Friday, Dec. 9.

This event helped SOMO celebrate all of Missouri law enforcement’s incredible efforts throughout the year and previous years. In 2021, 133 law enforcement agencies across the state raised more than $1.4 million for SOMO. In fact, Missouri law enforcement ranked No. 8 worldwide in fundraising for a Special Olympics program. Members of law enforcement in Missouri are also some of SOMO’s most active volunteers, consistently donating their time at local and statewide events.

Law enforcement’s relationship with SOMO dates back to 1986. This is the 36th year that Missouri law enforcement officers have supported SOMO. The LETR is a statewide sponsor.

“Special Olympics Missouri is so fortunate to have such a great partnership with law enforcement all across the state,” said SOMO’s Sr. Director of Community Development Crystal Schuster. “These officers work so hard all year long to raise awareness and funds for SOMO athletes – so it’s only appropriate that we take the time to recognize them and thank them for all that they do.”

The day of festivities kicked off with the Drive it Home Raffle giveaway! Six area finalists were on site for the final drawing. Georgia Powell, from the Southwest Area, was the winner of the brand new 2022 Ford Ranger XLT 4×4 truck. You can watch the amazing reaction video here.

Georgia Powell, from the Southwest Area, poses for a picture next to her brand new 2022 Ford Ranger XLT 4×4. She was the winner of the 2022 Drive it Home Raffle

“I’m speechless,” Powell said after winning the truck. “This is wonderful. I can’t thank everybody enough.”

Georgia Powell, from the Southwest Area, celebrates after learning she was the winner of the 2022 Drive it Home Raffle.

Powell added, “I actually had a brother and a sister that competed in Special Olympics in the past, so it’s always been special to my heart and this is just wonderful.”

Karen Garrison from Springfield was the winner of the 50/50 raffle.

The six area finalists pose next to the Ford Ranger after the final drawing for the 2022 Drive it Home Raffle.

The annual raffle is powered by the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association and LETR for SOMO. Since July 1, law enforcement agencies across the state have helped sell raffle tickets, raising more than $107,800 for SOMO! You can find more photos from the drawing here!

After the drawing, SOMO held its annual awards banquet for roughly 200 members of law enforcement.

“The awards banquet is a perfect opportunity to bring them all together, along with SOMO staff, board members and athletes,” Schuster said. “We can’t wait to honor them for all of their hard work and accomplishments this year.”

SOMO athlete Daxton Miller emceed the program alongside Chief Jeffrey Beaton. Miller is a longtime SOMO athlete. He recently competed at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando, Fla. Beaton is the Chief of Police at the Glendale Police Department, and he’s the new chair of the LETR committee in Missouri.

During the banquet, SOMO announced several regional and statewide awards, most notably the 2022 John Michael Letz Award. This award is the highest honor given within the LETR for SOMO. It is SOMO’s unsung hero award. The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting the LETR for SOMO more than 30 years ago.

This year’s winner was Corporal Joe Peart with the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop I, based in Rolla. Peart’s involvement with SOMO started in 2010 when he was asked to hand out medals to athletes at a regional event in Waynesville. He had helped at various events throughout his life, but this was really when decided he wanted to become more involved. His involvement has skyrocketed since then. Most recently, Peart served as a track coach at the 2022 USA Games.

“First and foremost, it’s all about the athletes,” Peart said. “I’m honored and thrilled. It’s an honor to stand beside all these people that have gotten this award before, and for all you guys that keep me going every day, especially the athletes.”

You can watch Peart’s full speech here.

You can find more photos from the event here!

SOMO is so grateful for all of the amazing support it receives from law enforcement in Missouri!

Thank you to our great sponsors for this event: Lighting Associates, Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Missouri and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association.

Special Olympics Missouri

Special Olympics Missouri (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.

SOMO is proud of our financial health, returning 78% of every dollar back to program services. We are privileged to be recognized with these honors: Better Business Bureau A+ Charity Accreditation, Guidestar Gold Level and Charity Navigator 4-star rating. Special Olympics was also recently named Morning Consult’s No. 4 most trusted nonprofit.

Thank you for trusting us with your donations, volunteer time and your goodwill.

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