Curt Yaeger "doesn't take the glamorous jobs" when volunteering for Special Olympics Missouri, a spokesman for the organization said.
The retired Jefferson City Schools math teacher and coach doesn't miss a statewide SOMO event. Most recently, Yaeger took the initiative to hang up all signage ahead of the State Outdoor Games in October, which helped direct more than 1,000 athletes to the Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City.
He has served as an event manager and referee, and this year participated in three of 23 Super Plunges across the state.
"Curt Yaeger is just an amazing human being," Special Olympics Missouri spokesman Andrew Kauffman said. "He is always there when we need him, not just in the central area but really across the state."
Special Olympics Missouri named Yaeger its 2023 statewide Outstanding Volunteer of the Year on Saturday.
"We need people like Curt," Kauffman said. "He's always willing to go above and beyond for our athletes."
In addition to Yaeger, Special Olympics Missouri recognized its other statewide award winners, regional award winners and 2023 Hall of Fame inductees with a banquet at its Training for Life Campus.
Kauffman said the event went well as about 200 athletes, volunteers and supporters gathered to celebrate.
"So much emotion throughout the day, you know, just tears of joy," he said. "For me, to see how much Special Olympics Missouri means to our community, it's really heartwarming. What we're able to do to really impact lives across Missouri is just amazing."
Patrick Baker, a Jefferson City High School alum, was named the Central Area Athlete of the Year.
Baker immersed himself in bowling after the 2019 tornado closed his local alley, traveling to California two or three times per week to practice. In 2021, he was selected to join Team Missouri.
Baker then competed in the 2022 USA Games at Disney World and took home the gold medal in singles bowling.
Being named the Central Area Athlete of the Year put Baker in the running to become SOMO's Outstanding Athlete of the Year, but the top award went to southwest area winner Jody Davis.
KRCG-TV, a CBS affiliate serving Mid-Missouri, received the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Award of Excellence during Saturday's ceremony. The award is the highest honor Special Olympics Missouri grants to people and organizations for their years of service to and impact on the organization.
KRCG-TV has provided more than $300,000 worth of in-kind donations to SOMO since 2002. The station also sponsors the State Outdoor Games and Lake of the Ozarks Polar Plunge. Chief meteorologist Zach Paul, who has personally raised nearly $150,000 for SOMO as a super plunger, accepted the award.
Genice Fisher, a longtime volunteer and retired physical education teacher from Columbia, was one of four people inducted into the SOMO Hall of Fame on Saturday. Fisher was inducted along with another volunteer from the southeast region and two athletes, one from the southeast region and the other from the Kansas City Metro area.
In 2022, Fischer was named the Central Area Volunteer of the Year and coached a gold medal-winning basketball team at the USA Games in Orlando, Florida.
Other area award winners include the Petterson Family, who won the Central Area Family of the year, and Jessica Nunan, who won Central Area Coach of the Year.
It's through people giving their time and energy that Special Olympics Missouri continues to support athletes with intellectual disabilities, Kauffman said.
"Special Olympics Missouri would be nothing without our athletes, without our coaches and without our volunteers," he said. "We are a nonprofit organization that relies on the goodwill of people, as well as our financial partners."