WESTON, Mo. — Flames of inspiration burn in Platte County this week.
Special Olympians from five states, including Kansas and Missouri, are gathering at Snow Creek Ski Resort, chasing their dreams of winning gold on the slopes and on skates. As many as 350 athletes are competing in six different winter sports at the 30th Annual John L. Cassidy Heartland Winter Games.
“Get up by yourself,” 36-year-old Jeremy Miller could be heard instructing other athletes while stretching Thursday.
Miller knows every athlete has to stands on their own. A native of Edgerton, Missouri, he’s become known for helping his fellow Olympian rise above.
At the 2018 edition of these games, Miller was chosen at Most Inspirational Athlete for his generous spirit. The honor afforded him the distinction of lighting the Olympic flame at the 2019 Games, which he did to a thunder of applause.
“The coaches think I did good,” Miller said Thursday.
Miller, a Platte County native, refuses to let a developmental disability slow him down. He’s proven to be a strong Olympic athlete, having won over 200 Special Olympic medals, according to his family.
And his abilities don’t stop in the snow. He also works two days a week in a Platte County factory, and helping other athletes excel is a payday for him.
“I love sports. The reason I’m doing this is to win medals from Special Olympics,” Miller beamed proudly.
Special Olympic officials said Miller is often seen helping his fellow athletes adjust their equipment, pick up dropped gloves or scarves, help other competitors stretch out before they perform, and, in general, serve as a means of spirited support.
His encouragement seemed to go a long way. That’s why he was awarded the right to light the torch, the brightest honor these games have.
“I loved it. I want to do it again next year,” Miller said.
“He likes to help, and anything he can do to get ready for something or to help them get their coat on or to fix their scarf — he’s always there wanting to help,” said Wanda Miller, Jeremy’s mother.
“You see him on the hill helping athletes improve their position, improve their skis and their attitude, which makes a huge difference,” John Cassidy, a board member from Special Olympics Kansas, told FOX4.
“I just want to help them run with them and stuff and help them feel better so they don’t fall down,” Miller said.
Remembering to persevere is his proudest prize to others.
The Winter Games continue on Friday in Weston. Some events are also taking place in St. Joseph. The ski resort reopened on Thursday, having closed on Wednesday due to extreme cold weather.