Stacy Barnes, Northwest Region
Stacy Barnes has made Special Olympics Florida an important part of her life since she was a middle school student. An accomplished athlete, she has excelled in tennis, athletics, soccer and bocce, but she has competed in virtually every sport offered by Special Olympics Florida. Stacy is much more than an athlete. Over her 26-year tenure with Special Olympics, she has built a long record of service. She has been an Athlete Leader since 2007 and currently serves as chairperson of her area’s Athlete Leadership Council. She has lobbied federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill Day, participated in Athlete Congresses, and spoken at multiple leadership conferences. Most recently, Stacy helped create the Aging and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Task Force.
is no better advocate for her fellow athletes than Stacy Barnes,” her
nominator wrote. “Stacy is a natural leader who has never shied away
from stepping up for her peers.”
Rick Buckingham, Central Region
Rick Buckingham gave 34 years of his life to Special Olympics Florida. He was an athlete, an Athlete Leader and committed fundraiser. In 2016, Rick was chosen as the Inspirational Athlete of the Year, and in 2017, was named Athlete of the Year. During his 30+ year connection with Special Olympics Florida, Rick competed in a range of sports including bowling, bocce, swimming, basketball and equestrian. He became a compelling ambassador for our mission, speaking to civic groups and appearing at Special Olympics meet-and-greets.
Rick’s motivation was straightforward: Special Olympics was a powerful force for good in his life, and he wanted everyone with an intellectual disability to have the same opportunities. Shortly before his passing in 2023, Rick was in the hospital, and his family noticed he was whispering something to himself. They leaned in and, after a moment, recognized the words: Rick was reciting the Special Olympics athlete oath.
John “Lucky” Meisenheimer Jr, M.D., Central Region
John “Lucky” Meisenheimer has supported the athletes of Special Olympics Florida for 30 years. As founder of the YMCA Aquatic Center Special Olympics Florida swimming program, he coached countless athletes for 25 years. He served as swim-meet director for Orange County, several area games, and for two state championships. Lucky launched “Lucky’s Lake Swim” – our first Swim for Inclusion event – and hosted the open water swim competition of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. A former champion swimmer himself, Lucky has worked tirelessly to tear down barriers faced by people with intellectual disabilities.
“Coaching Special Olympics athletes is like coaching any other athlete; I can’t emphasize that enough,” he says. “They fall in love, they get into spats, they have a great sense of humor. So, treat them like you would any other athlete.”
MJ Weibling, West Coast Region
MJ Weibling has championed the cause of Special Olympics Florida since the mid-1990s. She has been a coach for swimming, bocce, and bowling, has worked as a Unified Champion Schools county coordinator and served as the Head Delegate for multiple State Games. MJ’s greatest impact on Special Olympics Florida has been through her commitment to developing the sport of Stand Up Paddle. She was instrumental in the effort to have SUP recognized as an official Special Olympics sport. She helped write rules for SUP competitions, trained SUP coaches across the state and served as an SUP technical delegate for the 2018 USA Games in Seattle and the 2022 Games in Orlando.
MJ has been a remarkable supporter, driven by a singular purpose: To give the athletes of Special Olympics Florida every opportunity to live out their dreams.
Related Link: Full list of Hall of Fame Inductees since 1993.