A Springfield police officer with a long history of helping the Special Olympics will be heading to Abu Dhabi this March to represent Missouri as our state’s representative of the Law Enforcement Torch Run at the Special Olympics Summer World Games.
The Run is held to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics.
Officer Mark Priebe told OI how he began working with Special Olympics.
“Originally I started when I was an officer in Aurora,” Priebe said. “I was young and new and it was a chance to run and help a great cause. When I got to Springfield, around 2007, a co-worker who was the coordinator for all the fundraising we do approached me about our local run.”
“Back then, we did it with the Lebanon police department,” Preibe continued. “We would run up I-44 to Lebanon which pretty much took all day.”
Priebe then became involved with the actual Special Olympics events in the area.
“The next year, they used to have the Summer Games at Fort Leonard Wood,” Priebe said. “They decided to move them around the state and decided to bring them in 2008 to Springfield and MSU. We were the host agency along with the State Highway Patrol Troop D. So that year I got more involved because we did the final leg [of the Torch Run].”
“I also started to do the medal presentations,” Priebe said. “They have law enforcement, usually from the area of the event, come in and award the medals to the winners.”
Priebe told OI of the joy he feels working with Special Olympians.
“As negative as things can be with our job, these athletes…the camaraderie, the fellowship, the happiness,” Priebe said, “they’re not just about winning, they’re about their fellow competitors doing well too. It’s so different than most events these days.”
Priebe shared one of his favorite memories of this work with Special Olympics.
“I was up in Jeff City for the outdoor games,” Priebe said. “The Chief allowed me to take the day off to represent our department at the event. They were doing bocce ball and I was presenting the medals. The man who won, I presented him with his gold medal.”
“Afterward, he came up to me and gave me the medal. He told me that he wanted me to have the medal because it meant so much to him that we [law enforcement] were there.”
Officer Priebe is the SPD’s department coordinator for SPD/Special Olympics events. He has previously been honored for his work with Special Olympics through the Gift of Time Award and the Unsung Hero Award.