Over the weekend, Columbia’s Matthew Montgomery celebrated his 20th birthday with two of his closest friends, but that’s not the only reason he’s smiling.
On Monday, Montgomery ran in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Missouri.
“Matthew did a great job,” his mother, Lynn Montgomery, said. “I think he really had fun.”
Matthew Montgomery was in Jefferson City at 12:30 p.m. for a ceremony with the Jefferson City Police Department to kick off the run. He, special Olympic athlete Derek Sandbothe from Jefferson City, and members of the police department ran from the police station to the Capital building then along U.S. 63 to Ashland. The group stopped for water breaks and rests, and Chief Randy Boehm of the Columbia Police Department, the chair of the 2007 LETR Committee, said patrol cars drove with their lights on along the shoulder of the highway to ensure the runners’ safety.
Matthew Montgomery’s participation in this year’s torch run is one more opportunity SOMO has given him to gain life skills and confidence. Lynn Montgomery said the organization has affected her son’s life tremendously.
“I can’t imagine what Matthew’s life would be like without the Special Olympics,” she said. “Besides gaining sportsmanship, becoming physically fit, staying active, developing friendships and learning to get along with others, he has gained confidence.”
Matthew Montgomery, who was born with Down syndrome, is a swimmer in the Special Olympics and will be competing today in the aquatics portion of the 2007 SOMO State Summer Games.
Last year, his team won a gold medal and he won an individual silver medal at the Special Olympics national games in Ames, Iowa, but Lynn Montgomery remembers a time when he didn’t have the confidence in himself to make it down a length of the pool.
“He would grab the rope, and grab the rope again. I knew he could do it, but he didn’t,” she said. “Now, everything is transformed. He can do different strokes and he enjoys competing.”
Matthew Montgomery even has experience competing with the Rock Bridge High School swimming team for two years. Both his mother and his former coach John Hamilton agree that he worked hard to accomplish his goals.
“He gave everything he had. He worked hard all the time, and the guys on the team thought a lot of him,” Hamilton said. “We had nothing but pride when he would compete.”
But the way that Matthew Montgomery came to compete for the Rock Bridge team was a bit surprising, even to his mother. Lynn Montgomery said that one day he came home with the swimming program circled on a daily announcements paper, and said, “I want to do this.”
“You know, at first I was a little skeptical. I had never really thought about it before, but we gave it a shot and it ended up being a great experience for Matthew,” she said.
Swimming isn’t the only event Matthew Montgomery will participate in during this year’s state games. He will also be one of the many Special Olympic athletes attending the Elvis-inspired dance at the MU Rec Complex.
“I’m going to dance,” he said.