Columbia Special Olympian chosen for Hall of Fame

Beth Brokamp was inducted into the Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame after 25 years of involvement in the program as an athlete, volunteer and ambassador.
Saturday, January 28, 2012 | 5:58 p.m. CST; updated 7:36 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 28, 2012
Beth Brokamp waves to the crowd before the basketball game against Texas Tech at Mizzou Arena on Saturday. Brokamp is participating in Special Olympics Missouri, a program that teamed up with the Big 12 Conference to promote the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign.

Beth Brokamp's experiences with the Special Olympics might best be summed up by the motto of the 1999 World Summer Games she participated in: "It's all about attitude." 

Since joining the program when she was 15, Brokamp, 40, has participated in the Special Olympics as an athlete, volunteer and ambassador. On Jan. 15, Brokamp was inducted into the Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame. 

Brokamp will be recognized for this honor on Sunday at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in Springfield. The ceremony will also honor former Missouri basketball player and current play-by-play man Jon Sundvold, former Missouri football player Mel Gray and former Missouri football coach Al Onofrio, among others. 

Brokamp said her participation in Special Olympics has taught her how to work hard and be a good sport, among other things.

"I like to help Special Olympics because Special Olympics is helping a lot of people out," she said. "They can't run very well or are in wheelchairs and we try to help them out." 

Special Olympics Missouri Central Area director Diane Brimer, who nominated Brokamp for the honor, said Brokamp is a perfect example of what a Special Olympian should represent. 

"When you meet Beth for the first time, she's an athlete who's very enthusiastic about many things, about what she does and the people she has in her life," she said.

Brokamp's path to the Special Olympics began with a grim prognosis from her doctors.

"When she was two, she wasn't able to walk or talk," Beth's father, Ken Brokamp, said. "We were told she should be institutionalized. We didn't agree with that. We've come a long way."

Since joining Special Olympics 25 years ago, Brokamp has participated in all levels of competition. Brokamp participated in the 1999 World Summer Games in Raleigh, N.C., where she won several medals, including a gold medal in softball toss. She also played in the 2006 USA National Games in Ames, Iowa, and represented Missouri at Special Olympics Lobby Day in Washington D.C. in 2005.

Brimer met Brokamp at the World Summer Games in 1999. She said Brokamp loved meeting and talking to athletes from other states.

"She always had a smile on her face," Brimer said. "She could talk to anybody. I mean, everybody in our dorm knew who Beth Brokamp was when we left." 

Brokamp has participated in basketball and track and field, but currently trains for bowling and golf skills competitions.

"I'd like to live in the greenhouse and have the golf course outside," she said. 

Outside of her training, she is a big fan of the Missouri Tigers and enjoys attending football, basketball and softball games. After being named Big 12 Special Olympian of the Year, Brokamp rode with Missouri Athletics Director Mike Alden in the 2011 Homecoming Parade.

Currently, she is working with the Special Olympics and Missouri Athletics on their "Stop the 'R' Word" campaign. As part of the Global Messenger program, Brokamp makes presentations about the program to various groups around the area. 

Brokamp's mother, Linda, is serving on the board for the Special Olympics State Games, which will be held in Columbia in May. Beth and her father help with souvenir sales at local events. 

Brokamp said her favorite Special Olympics memory was when she met Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, at the 1999 World Summer Games. Five years later, when they met again, Shriver remembered her. 

Her father's favorite memory came a few weeks ago, when Brokamp's induction was announced at a leadership conference in Branson. She was unaware that she was nominated until right before the ceremony and teared up when she went on stage to accept her award.

"It'll be hard to overcome that one," he said. "It was a pretty good memory, I think." 

Before the ceremony, Brimer told Brokamp she was nominated but that she might not be chosen for the Hall of Fame. She said her reaction was a testament to her character.

"She said, 'I'm just happy to be here,'" Brimer said. "For Beth to say that, that's a big thing. That's kind of who she is. 'I'm just happy to be here.'"

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Francis Morris January 29, 2012 | 9:37 a.m.

What a lovely lady!

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