I’ve been part of Special Olympics Missouri since I began assisting my dad* at events. When I was 10 years old, I participated in the Polar Plunge. In 6th grade, I became a Unified Partner where I assisted with basketball. Over the past eight years, I’ve grown and formed friendships with other athletes and Unified Partners that will last a lifetime.
words + photographs CONNER PRIEBE
My journey with Special Olympics has opened my mind to how I was created. It has helped show me who I can be. It has shown me all the things I can do through Special Olympics, and it has helped change my life for the better. I’ve been able to help serve people with disabilities and help them enjoy life and sports.
This past summer, I was chosen to attend the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida, as part of the Leadership Experience. I had the opportunity to take a fellow athlete, Riley, from our Republic team. We spent the week learning how to better our Youth Leadership Experience by making improvements to our program in Republic.
While my road with Special Olympics has been amazing, there have been those occasional bumps along the way. But through these bumps, I believe I was created to help others and help serve the community. Through my time attending events with my dad, I feel I was given the opportunity to recognize and help spread awareness for those with intellectual disabilities.
Over the years, my time with Special Olympics has helped me grow as a person. It has made me more aware of people with disabilities, the importance of inclusion, and treating everyone the same. Over the past eight years, my time as a Unified Partner has grown many friendships with RepMo athletes, as well as other Unified Partners and athletes across the state. Seeing the athletes in the hallways at school, having small conversations with them, and cracking jokes on bus rides to and from events helped me become more outgoing in public and more comfortable in front of groups of people.
The first event I attended with my dad was Missouri Summer Games at Missouri State University. It was after that event my heart for assisting with Special Olympics grew.
Special Olympics has given me a second family. It has shown me what I can do and what I want to do with our program in Republic. My goal moving forward is to bring more awareness to the importance of Unified Partners within Special Olympics. I hope to continue to help spread the word about inclusion through our schools. I would like to start this at the elementary level and bring awareness all the way through high school. This will take some time, but it has the chance to grow into something great. I believe doing this will help others, while also helping our community. CP
* Conner’s dad is Springfield Police Officer Mark Priebe. In 2019, Officer Priebe was one of only 88 law enforcement officers globally to be chosen for the honor of participating in the Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run in Abu Dhabi. Read more about Officer Priebe’s involvement in this article from 2020.
Conner Priebe is a senior at Republic High School. Aside from Special Olympics Missouri, he enjoys golfing, working out and spending time with family and friends. To learn how you can support the Priebe Foundation, visit its website at priebestrongfoundation.com. The mission of the foundation is to support emergency responders in Missouri who become injured in the line of duty.
COVER Teammates: Riley Hesterly, Conner Priebe, Chris Lawrence