COLUMBIA — When Kendall Scheidt was born, the doctors told his parents he wouldn’t be able to function effectively in society because he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Scheidt, who lives in Columbia, now competes in several sports, including bowling, where he scores about 130 in a good game. He was one of 19 athletes from central Missouri honored in a send-off Friday afternoon in front of the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex.
Next week, Scheidt, 23, is getting ready to join 3,000 other athletes in Lincoln, Neb., for the Special Olympics national games, which take place every four years.
“We’re very proud of him and everything he’s done,” his father, Bill Scheidt, said. “He’s turned out to be a wonderful blessing.”
The athletes honored Friday trained for the national games since being selected last June, said Mark Musso, Special Olympics Missouri CEO.
“Just soak up every moment of it,” he said to a parent. “The competition almost becomes secondary to the experience.”
This experience is what Jan Stephens loves about the games. She said the athletes want to win, but there are never any kinds of divisions between teams.
She said one of her favorite memories came in 1999, during the Special Olympics world games in North Carolina, when the U.S. team helped teach the Korean team how to do the “YMCA” dance.
“To see the athletes achieve their goals that they strive for all year and to just see the smiles and friendships they acquire through the games . . . its just great,” she said.
Jan’s husband and son will be with her on the bocce ball team. Her son, Larry Stephens, is an athlete and his father, Bob Stephens is a unified partner on the team.
“Next week is going to be a family affair,” Jan Stephens said.
Musso said unified partners play alongside athletes, but don’t have a mental disability.
“The real joy of nationals is making friends with other athletes and seeing our athletes recognized as the champions they are.”
Gov. Jay Nixon and Columbia Mayor Bod McDavid attended the sendoff ceremony.
Saturday, these athletes plan to join the 155-person state team in Kansas City for another send-off before reaching Nebraska. The ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Kaufmann Stadium.