Jefferson City hosts first Special Olympics statewide games since tornado

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) 2019 State Outdoor Games started Friday and will run through Sunday.

Special Olympic athletes will compete in bocce, golf, tennis, softball and flag football.

Kevin Kube, a long time SOMO athlete from the St. Louis Area, is competing in singles and doubles tennis on Friday and softball on Saturday.

"I played against a guy named Josh from Fulton, and it went down to the wire," Kube said after his first tennis match of the day. "It went down to the tiebreak [and] he edged me out 7-to-4."

Despite the match not going his way, Kube kept a positive attitude.

"It's always wonderful to see different people come aboard to have fun with all these activities," he said.

"When you fight hard enough and you're playing against someone very good," Kube continued. "It's always nice to have... encouragement."

This weekend marks the first SOMO state competition held in Jefferson City since the tornado in May.

Overall, the tornado did not affect the event, but SOMO's Training For Life Campus sustained damage during the storm.

This led to moving Saturday evening's events, which includes a dinner, dance and bingo, from SOMO's campus to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

"We miss not being able to have anything at the campus today, or this weekend," SOMO President and CEO Susan Stegeman said. "But we will be able to do that again next year."

Stegeman became SOMO's leader in April said she has seen a few changes in the organization since her involvement began 29 years ago.

"There used to be an offseason, now there really is no off season in special Olympics," Stegeman said. "Our athletes train and compete year round."

The other change Stegeman cited was the size of the events and the number of volunteers which she estimated at 30,000 statewide.

"We are a volunteer driven organization," Stegeman said. "We cannot do [this] without volunteers."

Athlete registration for this weekend has ended, but those wanting to volunteer can register on SOMO's website.