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story.lead_photo.caption Emily Cole/News TribuneJames Reinkemeyer is the special populations program coordinator for the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

A chance to make a difference drew James Reinkemeyer to his position with the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

Reinkemeyer joined the department in June 2019 as JC Parks' special populations program coordinator.

In his role, Reinkemeyer oversees JC Parks Stars, a sports program for Jefferson City area residents with intellectual disabilities or other handicapping conditions.

JC Parks Stars athletes participate in Special Olympics games as a local club team. Other events like the Stars Night Out recreation program and the recently created Camp Star also fall under his area of focus.

Reinkemeyer helped restart the Camp Star day camp program this summer and is working on a new winter holiday version called Camp Star Goes to the North Pole.

He also oversees the Miracle League non-competitive baseball league for children with special needs.

While earning his degree in recreation, sport and park administration from Missouri State University, Reinkemeyer managed the school's softball team for three years. During this time, the team would volunteer with the Miracle League in the Springfield area, which inspired Reinkemeyer's eventual job choice.

"We would always volunteer for Miracle League, and something about that really sparked my interest with people with intellectual disabilities," he said. "Then I saw this job open, and it was a perfect fit."

Working for JC Parks also brought the St. Thomas native back to Mid-Missouri, while giving him the ideal combination of working with recreation and helping people.

Reinkemeyer previously completed internships with Special Olympics Missouri and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.

Interaction with the JC Parks Stars athletes is Reinkemeyer's favorite aspect of the position.

"It's a rewarding experience, just being with them, making their day and seeing them smile," he said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to make an impact on someone's lives."

In the future, Reinkemeyer hopes to continue drawing sponsorships and donations to the program and to increase awareness of it.

"One of my goals is to add another sport that our local team can compete in, maybe tennis or something along those lines," he said.

Despite any challenges that come with the job, the end result makes everything worth it for Reinkemeyer.

"Seeing them smile honestly is my favorite part," Reinkemeyer said. "They're all excited to see me and see one another, and it's always a good time."

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