If ever there was a family that embodied the true spirit of the mission of Special Olympics, it’s the Stephens family. Bob and Janice encouraged their son, Larry, to be involved as soon as he was old enough to participate and they’ve never looked back. Larry has played golf, tennis, bocce, basketball, swimming and volleyball, and has won so many medals he is running out of space in his bedroom to display them all. Larry even received a high school letter from Hickman High School through his participation in Special Olympics.
The family has traveled all over the country, and even the world, attending competitions. Photographs and collages of their trips decorate their living room walls. Larry’s about to add another set of memories to the display as he prepares to travel to New Jersey for the World Summer Games as part of the Special Olympics Missouri “MO Magic” Volleyball Team.
“It’s been a great experience for Larry and it’s something that he really loves. We all do,” says Bob, who has accompanied Larry on his Special Olympics-related travels. Janice has been volunteering for Special Olympics since Larry got involved. In fact in the mid-90s, the family relocated to Columbia from Edwardsville, IL for more opportunities for Larry to be involved with the organization. That is also when Larry began receiving services from Boone County Family Resources.
The agency supports Larry in his Special Olympics activities as well as provides OATS Transportation to and from his job at Mizzou Rec Center where he’s been a laundry specialist for more than 12 years. “He’s a favorite employee among his co-workers and the Rec Center users,” says Bob. “Everyone knows Larry. When we go out to the store or out in the community, he’s always seeing someone he knows from the Rec Center.”
Larry additionally is working with Jeff Mueller, BCFR Community Skills Specialist, on life skills training, specifically grocery shopping, and planning and cooking meals. “We all look forward to the nights that Larry’s cooking,” says Bob. “He’s made some fantastic meals including Irish Stew with lamb and Shrimp Newberg – all with his electric skillet. We’ve shared with the neighbors, too, so now they ask when Larry will be cooking next and what new dishes he’s working on.”
In addition to being an accomplished athlete, Larry has also gone through Global Messenger training and serves as an ambassador for Special Olympics. He speaks publicly about his experiences and shares the stories of his travels and competitions whenever he is called upon to do so. Bob credits Special Olympics for giving Larry the confidence and self-esteem that has helped him achieve so much in his life. “It really is a wonderful program and we’re thankful to receive the support from Boone County Family Resources to continue to enhance what Larry’s learned through his participation in athletics,” says Bob.
When Larry is not at work, cooking delicious meals or practicing for one of his many competitions, he also loves to fish at the Lake of the Ozarks and play video games on his Xbox 360. He’s also been known to channel a bit of his favorite musician, Elvis Presley, when he grabs the Karaoke microphone. “’Thank you, thank you very much,’” Larry says in his best impression of The King. “I even have an Elvis costume, including the hair.” Bob says Larry knows all of Elvis’ songs and has also donned his sequined jumpsuit a few times during his Polar Plunge fundraising efforts for Special Olympics. “I jumped into the Lake of the Ozarks in February with my Elvis costume on,” says Larry. “There was ice. It was very cold, but fun.”
We wish Larry and the rest of the MO Magic team the best of luck at this year’s World Summer Games!