Michael Myers, 22, walked away with a fifth-place ribbon on Thursday in the softball throw at the 2004 Special Olympics Missouri Summer State Games, but he was just as pleased as if he had won a gold medal.
“Michael competes because he loves to compete,” his mother, Darla Myers, said, “It’s more about the fun. Michael does the best he can.”
Myers of Bonne Terre also won a sixth-place ribbon in the 50-meter dash and a silver medal in the standing long jump. Myers has participated in the Special Olympics since he was 8, and at age 10, he started competing in the regional events at Cape Girardeau.
Myers makes it to the state games every year. His mother says he owes it all to his teacher, Ruby Buchheit, who first got him involved in the Special Olympics.
“She puts her heart and soul into it and we love her,” Darla Myers said. “She’s part of our family.”
Buchheit has taught students with mental disabilities at the West St. Francois County school in Leadwood for 22 years. She expanded the Special Olympics program at the school and makes sure students get to go to the state games every year. This year she took 15 students from the elementary, middle and high schools.
“They learn teamwork, they learn to get along, and they learn good sportsmanship,” Buchheit said.
Buchheit taught Myers for seven years before he graduated in 2000. “She’s nice,” Myers said. Both Myers’ parents and his brother and sister come to support him every year. “No matter what happens, we come to the Special Olympics,” Darla Myers said. This is literally one of our vacations.”
Roughly 2,000 athletes are competing in this year’s games. Track and field, aquatics, powerlifting and bocce took place Thursday on the MU campus. Tennis will take place this morning at the Green Tennis Complex along with handball at the MU Recreation Center.
First, second and third place winners receive gold, silver or bronze medals, but all athletes receive ribbons.
“Everyone wins something,” Myers’ father, Gary, said. “Nobody’s a loser.”