Special Olympian leaves legacy in Jefferson City
JEFFERSON CITY - More than seven years after Gordon Barnes passed away, he is still making his mark in Jefferson City.
Barnes died in 2011. A year later, the local Law Enforcement Torch Run with Missouri Special Olympics was named the "Gordon Barnes Memorial Route."
Barnes was an athlete with Special Olympics of Missouri, earning a spot in the hall of fame. He was also a greeter at local church for 27 years, an eagle scout, and regular presence at Oak Hills Golf Course.
"He always had a smile and was always ready to help them if they needed help and he loved it,” said Gordon's mother, Sarah Barnes.
Barnes said sports meant a lot to Gordon.
“Gordon Allen would go to church on Sunday morning and he'd have his medals on and he'd go clatterin’ down the aisle at church and everybody would say, 'Well Gordon's been to a tournament this week cause here comes the medals’ and he sounded like a cow or something with all the medals coming," Barnes said.
Gordon had close relationships within Special Olympics, including one with former Jefferson City Police Department Sergeant, Randy Werner. Werner first met Gordon when he became a softball coach for the local Special Olympics team.
“I saw how it changed their lives and not only that, it changes the lives of everybody involved in one way or another. For the athletes, they become more confident, more self-sufficient, more mainstream if you will," Werner said. "Even though they may have some cognitive disabilities, it’s a point and time where none of that matters and they don’t struggle during these times when they're practicing and playing during the special Olympics and everybody accepts them for who they are."
Werner said Gordon’s condition did not slow him down because he displayed great fortitude, and said it was fitting to name the Jefferson City torch run route after Gordon.
Derek Sandbothe partcipated in this year's torch run. He used to work with and compete alongside Gordon in the Special Olympics. Sandbothe said it was important to take part in the run as a tribute to his friend.
“I’m doing this in memory of him. I think it would mean a lot to him, to all of us, you know, being able to tribute this to him. He has done so much for Special Olympics and for our company I work for. He’s done immense things and so this means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to him as he watches us run today,” Sandbothe said.
Barnes said she is proud that her son could leave a feeling of hope for the other athletes to keep trying and to never give up.
“If you don’t know handicapped people the people who are having these difficulties, it’s hard to understand what they’re doing or why they’re doing what they do but if you just give yourself a chance to get to know them, to understand them you’ll love them too,” Barnes said.