Special Olympics plans Columbia training center

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A $1 million donation from a St. Louis-based health plan company has launched a campaign to build a training facility for Special Olympics Missouri, which also plans to move its headquarters from Jefferson City to Columbia.

The donation from Centene Corp. was announced Thursday to kick off fundraising for the proposed 44,000-square-foot facility on 11.2 acres in south Columbia, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/n5cppZ ).

"The facility will be a great contribution to the state and will help young people and adults," said Centene CEO Michael Neidorff. "It's an opportunity here they might not otherwise have."

Neidorff and Missouri football Coach Gary Pinkel will be honorary chairmen of the campaign.

Organizers expect construction on the $7.5 million campus to begin by 2013 on the site, which will be called the Centene Charitable Foundation Training for Life Campus. Plans are for the campus to be open year-round and house basketball and volleyball courts, a health and fitness center and fields to support 21 sports.

The campus will offer athletic programs for Special Olympians and provide on-site dental, vision and hearing screenings but will also be available for other community groups.

Jim Ritter, a member of the Special Olympics Foundation board, the fundraising arm of the organization, said he expects the campaign to succeed despite the struggling economy because the public understands and supports the benefits of the program.

The $1 million donation is the largest gift ever given to Special Olympics Missouri.

About 15,000 Missourians compete in Special Olympics Missouri, said Mark Bussen, who is chairman of the organization's endowment fund and will oversee the campaign.


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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