COLUMBIA — Beth Brokamp’s neon yellow, green and orange bowling shoes slid across the floor as she released her first ball Wednesday at the Special Olympics State Summer Games.
Then she stood there, knees bent, eyes on the navy ball rolling, and rolling, and rolling toward the pins.
Brokamp stood there watching and waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
Brokamp half-hopped around to face her teammates, arms high, thumbs up, a huge grin across her face.
Her teammates, Annette, Lena and Howard King, cheered and high-fived each other, up high and down low. Later, the four of them were awarded gold medals — "Three Kings and a Queen," the emcee announced as the team came forward.
As they hung the ribbon around Brokamp's neck, she smiled and did a little dance. "Party tonight," she said. Her teammates laughed.
Brokamp, 41, of Columbia, has been involved in Special Olympics Missouri since junior high school almost 24 years ago. Her commitment was recognized in January when she was inducted into the Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame and, later, into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
She was named Big 12 Conference Special Olympics Female Athlete of the Year in 2010 and rode in the MU Homecoming Parade in 2011 alongside Director of Athletics Mike Alden.
As of Tuesday evening, though, Beth Brokamp was no longer the only family member to receive such honors. During the games' opening ceremony at MU, she and her parents, Linda and Ken Brokamp, were named the Family of the Year.
Linda Brokamp acknowledged that winning the award is humbling and feels "really awesome, honestly," but she said the awards are never their focus.
"We don’t do it for the accolades," she said. "We do it for the athletes."
Linda Brokamp has been involved with Special Olympics Missouri as long as Beth has been competing. She is the chairwoman of the Games Management Team and family chair for the Fit for Life Campus campaign, which is working to build a year-round training facility for the athletes.
Ken Brokamp said his duty is to make sure his only daughter gets to and from events. The couple also volunteer wherever needed during the games.
At first, the Brokamps said, they were simply parents who helped out their daughter. Their dedication grew over time.
"We just got swept up in the whole thing," Ken Brokamp said.
"Special Olympics is the kind of organization where once you’re involved, you want to go back," Linda Brokamp said.
The reason is the people who make up the organization, she said.
"I've met a lot of amazing families that do a lot for their athletes and families," she said. “Organizations like Special Olympics draw families together to become part of a bigger family."
Asked how her parents helped her at the games, Beth Brokamp put her index fingers to her temples.
"With my focus," she said before looking down again at her medal.
"I'm happy to have a gold medal," she said. "I worked very hard for it."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.