Special Olympics receives $1 million for training center

Thursday, September 1, 2011 | 6:57 p.m. CDT; updated 7:23 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 1, 2011

COLUMBIA — Special Olympics Missouri received $1 million from the Centene Charitable Foundation, marking the first step toward a $7.5 million training center in Columbia.

A capital campaign for the center was announced Thursday morning. The initiative is a result of a partnership between MU football coach Gary Pinkel and CEO and President of Centene Corporation Michael Neidorff, both of whom serve as honorary co-chairmen for Special Olympics Missouri.

The 44,000-foot Training for Life Campus will serve people with intellectual disabilities. In Columbia, this makes up about 1.5 percent of the population, said Laurie Shadoan, Special Olympics Missouri endowment fund vice president of development.

The center will offer courts and fields for training for 21 sports, including flag football to baseball, as well as provide a place to hold camps, wellness screenings, coach training and a young athletes program.

Construction for the campus is expected to begin in 2013 on 11.2 acres of land off of Bonne Femme Church Road, Shadoan said.

The center is intended to give athletes increased opportunities to succeed.

In announcing the campaign, Shadoan said, Pinkel talked about how new facilities have benefited the MU football team and Shadoan expects this facility to do the same for Special Olympics.

"Special Olympics athletes have never had a place to call their home," Shadoan said. "This, it would bring that whole feeling of self-worth, self-esteem."

Pinkel has a personal connection to Special Olympics. Both his sister and brother were diagnosed with a rare, hereditary neurological disease when they were teenagers. Both use wheelchairs as adults.

“I know I’ve heard him say that they never complained a day about their situation,” Chad Moller, University of Missouri associate athletic director of media relations, said. “He just drew a lot of strength from that and from them.”

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