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Banahan Honored By Special Olympics

December 16, 2013

Rich Banahan  
Richard Banahan

Richard Banahan once raised more than $20,000 for Special Olympics by sitting on a billboard at I-170 and Page Avenue for four days in 1993. The Forest Park campus police chief continues to raise considerable sums of money for a cause he holds dear, having spent 30 years as a runner, volunteer and fundraiser for the organization.

“I still consider it the greatest privilege. No matter how many times I’ve been involved with the athletes and recognized for my achievements, I always receive a lot more from the athletes than I could ever give,” Banahan said.

Recently, Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) honored Banahan by electing him to its board of directors.  This 21-member statewide board oversees the strategic planning, governance and funding for Special Olympics statewide programs, which include 320 competitions annually in 21 year-round sports for 17,000 athletes. 

“Chief Banahan has been a longtime supporter of SOMO in his role on the statewide Law Enforcement Torch Run committee.  This year, those efforts will result in over $2 million for SOMO,” said Mark Musso, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri.

Going to Great Heights to Raise Money

Besides his dedication to the run, Banahan has dipped into frigid waters taking part in the Polar Bear Plunge and written questions for the annual Trivia Night. The billboard-sitting fundraiser was one of his highlights. So was standing on top of Busch Stadium in 1994.

“I raised more than $34,000 before lightning and storms forced me off the Busch Stadium roof,” Banahan said. “While on the roof, I was interviewed by Jack Buck on two different occasions, and then honored to throw the first pitch prior to a Cardinals game with my family by my side.”

Banahan joins the board Jan. 1, along with Eric Hymas, president and CEO of Shop ’n Save, and will serve through Dec. 31, 2016. He may be re-elected up to four terms for a total of eight years.

“It is an honor that brings with it a great amount of responsibility,” said Randy Reddick, SOMO board chairman.

Torch run to trivial Pursuit

Banahan started out running in the second annual Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Torch Run when the course went from Columbia to Jefferson City,

“During the first few years, the run raised about $15,000 a year," Banahan said. "In 1992, I was selected to be the co-chair by the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, and we raised $125,000. The structure that we instituted continues to this date, and this year, the Torch Run raised nearly $3 million.”

Twenty-five years ago, he helped create the Trivia Night sponsored by the St. Louis Police Department, and he has worked on it every autumn since, writing the questions every year. To date, the event has raised more than $175,000 for Special Olympics.

In 2000, Banahan received the John Michael Letz Award from the Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), which was established in 1994 to recognize an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the run’s success.

Over the years, Banahan's participation grew from the run’s state chairman to regional coordinator of eight states, and then elected to the International Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Hall of Fame in 2006. Induction recognizes outstanding individuals who demonstrate a sustained and significant contribution to Special Olympics and the SOMO LETR at the local, national and international levels.

He served on the LETR’s Final Leg Committee for 10 years, and traveled to Japan, Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, Austria, England, China and Canada, where Special Olympics was being introduced to those countries and their special needs communities.

Banahan still serves on the Missouri state committee, and is the local development committee chair. He directs events such as “Over the Edge,” where they rappel off the roofs of local skyscrapers to raise money, and they’ve raised more than $600,000. He has participated in Polar Bear Plunges in Missouri, Idaho and Alaska.

More Career Achievements

Banahan has worked 16 years at the college. He currently heads the Campus Police department’s IACLEA accreditation, which is a national certification for campus police departments. He was among the team that won the campus Innovation of the Year Award for the Armed Intruder “Live” Drill during 2011-12.

He has been the vice president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's “Do the Right Thing” Board of Directors for more than 10 years. Since 1994, more than 1,000 children have been recognized. He hosts a kickoff breakfast annually at STLCC-Forest Park.

For the past 10 years, he has served as president of the High School Soccer Referees Association, and has refereed both high school and college soccer games for 25 years.

During a 25-year career with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Banahan served as a patrol officer, then a detective in the robbery division, narcotics unit and homicide unit. He earned 15 Chief’s Letter of Commendation for exceptional police work, and also was honored by the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration for separate cases.