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May 23, 2009

Laura Leigh Culp Botgat Passes Away in Paris

Laura Leigh Culp Botgat
September 29, 1977 - May 2, 2009
Paris, France

Laura Leigh Culp Botgat, 31, of Paris, France, formerly of Warrensburg, passed away Saturday, May 2, 2009, in Paris.  She was born on Sept. 29, 1977, in Kansas City, the daughter of John and Sandra Kite Culp. 

On Nov. 1, 2008, in Warrensburg, she married Philippe Botgat at the First Christian Church in Warrensburg.  Laura graduated from Warrensburg High School in 1996. She lettered in tennis, basketball and track. Her senior year, Laura received the Fred B. House award, College Prep Certificate and graduated in the top 10 percent of her class. She was also a part of the National Honor Society for three years.  Laura went on to pursue a college education at the University of Central Missouri. She received her B.S. in Political Science, Summa Cum Laude, spring 2001. During this time, Laura received numerous awards, including: The President's Scholarship; Leadership Award; Political Science Achievement, Regents Scholarship and Hibdon-Vogel Geography Scholarship.

She completed her master's degree in College Student Personnel Administration, fall 2007. From January 2006-December 2007, she was a graduate assistant for the UCM International Office.  Laura worked in Paris at Norphone/RTC Industries as a contact agent for the United Kingdom Team. She was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Warrensburg.
Survivors include her husband, Philippe Botgat of Paris, France; her parents, John and Sandy Culp of Warrensburg; a brother, John David Culp and his wife, Stephanie, of Ozark; a nephew, Dayln Culp; two nieces, Ashlyn Culp and Selah Kilgore; maternal grandmother, Wyota Kite of Odessa; paternal grandmother, Dorothy Culp of Warrensburg; one uncle, Ron Culp and wife, Linda, of Overland Park, Kan.; and two aunts, Glenda Brooks of Lexington and Carolyn Tuttle and husband, Jim, of Higginsville; and several cousins.
She was preceded in death by her maternal grandfather, Herbert Kite, and paternal grandfather, Clarence Culp.
The family will celebrate Laura's life at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 23, at the First United Methodist Church of Warrensburg, with the Rev. Dr. Sally Haynes officiating.
Burial will be in the Warrensburg Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Pallbearers are Scott Dunham, Bob Lotspeich, Russ Hough, Kelly Donohoe, Willie Fritz, Bobby Baker, Phil Gower and Larry Kratz. Honorary pallbearers are Mike Hough, Dan Plott Rod Pock, David Allie, Pat Denney, Louis Theobald, John Hicklin and Terry Santone.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 9 p.m. today, Friday, May 22, at the Sweeney-Phillips & Holdren Funeral Home in Warrensburg.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Laura Leigh Culp Botgat Memorial Fund or UCM Athletics in care of the funeral home.
Our prayers and sympathy go out to Laura Culp-Botgat's parents, "Coach" John and Sandy Culp, her husband, family and friends on her tragic passing in Paris, France. The Class of 1973.
Laura Leigh Culp Botgat Memorial Scholarship
•be an incoming freshman student that has been accepted to UCM •be a graduate of Warrensburg High School in Warrensburg, MO
•plan to pursue a degree in teacher education, political science, modern language and/or international studies
•demonstrate service to community and high school
•preference shall be given to a student interested in studying abroad

New law targets eating disorders

Teresa Shane
Staff Writer
Warrensburg - John Culp says his daughter, Laura Culp Botgat, is "smiling down from heaven" after Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill establishing the Missouri Eating Disorders Council.
Under the bill, the departments of Mental Health, Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education must develop and implement awareness programs that the council will oversee. The council also will make sure adequate treatment and diagnostic services are available in Missouri.  Botgat, 31, battled anorexia nervosa since high school and died in May 2009, her father said.
The Culps did not know much about Laura's condition at the start.
"She was running a lot and I thought she was just trying to improve," he said. "We didn't understand it, we didn't put two and two together."
He said the mental illness became physical. At the worst, she weighed 58 pounds and had been hospitalized numerous times. A heart attack led to her death.
Culp said he and wife Sandy do not want other parents to have the same experience.
"I am elated that the bill was signed," Culp said. "This is a first step of what we are trying to do to help others in Missouri."  Senate Bill 754 passed on the last day of the legislative session after some lawmakers removed wording in the original bill that would have required mandatory insurance coverage for the condition. Sen. David Pearce carried the original bill, passed by the House, in the Senate.  "I was carrying Bill 744 and that bill by itself was not going to pass. The insurance companies have major concerns about it and the committee needed more time to understand the issue," he said.  Pearce said Sen. Tom Dempsey agreed to have the Missouri Eating Disorders Council proposal attached to his Senate Bill 754, ensuring the council's creation. Pearce is "thrilled" the bill passed.
"The Eating Disorders Council is a tremendous first step to making people aware of this illness," he said.The Department of Mental Health director will have the authority to determine the number of council members and who they are.
Pearce said the Culps "would be excellent additions to the council."  Culp said Pearce and Reps. Denny Hoskins, Rachel Storch and Rick Stream proved "instrumental in getting the bill passed."  "If it hadn't been for them, it wouldn't have passed," he said.  Culp is the program development and retention coordinator for student athletes at the University of Central Missouri where he said he sees people with eating disorders.  "Down the line, I'd love to see a support group and program at UCM," he said. "There isn't anything formal here and there should be."
The Culps are celebrating the bill's passage while deciding on the next course of action. For now, they plan to participate Feb. 2 in the Eating Disorders Rally in Jefferson City, he said.
"We have to start with awareness and let people know where they can go for help. I'd like to see a hotline get started," he said. "Hopefully we can get it done before others die."

1/27/2010 11:17:00 AM
Couple seeks change in Missouri law to require coverage of eating disorders

Warrensburg - John and Sandy Culp said goodbye to their daughter, Laura, Nov. 8, 2008, not knowing that would be the last time they would see her alive.
Laura, newly married to Philippe Botgat, of Paris, seemed to have her life in order when she boarded the plane for France with him.
"She was the happiest person after she got married," John Culp said.
Laura had achieved her goal of obtaining a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in college student personnel administration, graduating cum laude from the University of Central Missouri. She then set out to fulfill a desire to travel overseas, Culp said.
But 13 years of living with an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, took a toll on Laura's petite body. She suffered a heart attack, lapsed into a coma and died Saturday, May 2. She was 31.
"We never could get her potassium regulated," Culp said. "In Laura's case, it didn't matter if she was in the hospital or at home, we couldn't control her potassium."
Potassium is a mineral needed for cardiovascular functions.
Laura evaded questions about her health in phone calls from home, he said.
"We didn't know when she went to Paris if she would be under medical care. We never knew if she was being checked by a doctor," John said.
Notified of Laura's coma, the Culps prepared to leave that weekend for France. She died before they left.
The following Tuesday, the Culps traveled to Jefferson City to testify for a bill introduced last year to mandate that health insurance companies cover eating disorders. The bill "didn't go anywhere" last year, Culp said, but he promised legislators, "We will be back."

This year, Sen. David Pearce introduced Senate Bill 744 to require insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders beginning Jan. 1, 2011.
The act requires the Department of Mental Health - in collaboration with the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Social Services - to diagnose and treat any resident without insurance coverage for eating disorders, or who need financial help to pay for those services.
Under the bill, the Departments of Mental Health, Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education must develop and implement education and awareness programs. A Missouri Eating Disorders Council would be established under the Department of Mental Health to oversee the programs and identify whether adequate treatment and diagnostic services are available in the state.
The legislation is sponsored in the House by Rick Stream, D-Kirkwood, who lost a daughter several years ago to an eating disorder, and Rachel Storch, R-St. Louis. Rep. Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg is a co-sponsor.
Proponents plan an Eating Disorders Day rally at 11 a.m. Feb. 2 at the State Capitol to raise awareness about eating disorders and to meet with legislators.
Culp said advocates have worked since last year to garner support from legislators for the bill. They need 60 co-sponsors to get the bill through the House, Culp said.
Lobbying efforts are led by Annie Seal of St. Louis, Culp said.
"She is one of the fortunate ones. They caught her daughter early and she's doing OK," Culp said.
He said Seal "started going to Jefferson City every week, walking the halls and talking to every legislator she could."
The Culps did the same in the fall, he said.
"David (Pearce) gave us some very good advice in how to work through the system," Culp said.
The bill, rewritten this year, brings eating disorders under the umbrella of mental illness, he said.
Pearce said the Culps brought the issue to his attention.
Eating disorders are biological, but the triggers often are cultural, the National Eating Disorders Association reported.
"One of the problems we've seen in the Legislature is that mental health doesn't get the same type of credibility or coverage other illnesses do," Pearce said. "If we put mental illness in the same category as other diseases, it will have more publicity."
An estimated 250,000 Missourians are affected by eating disorders, which begin as a mental condition and progress to severe medical disorders that include chronic heart conditions, osteoporosis, kidney failure and serious dental conditions.
The disorders include anorexia, characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss; bulimia, characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging; and binge eating disorder, or compulsive eating, characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating.
Culp said the fatality rate for anorexia "used to be 10 percent, but it's rising now to 20 percent." The disease mainly targets adolescent girls but is increasing among boys and women over 40.
Eating disorders are highly treatable, the association reports, and early intervention, diagnosis and treatment increase the likelihood of full recovery.
Research Hospital is the only Missouri hospital that provides a treatment program, Culp said.
Most treatment programs are private care, making coverage by health insurance policies less likely.
No treatment options exist in Warrensburg, Culp said. Hospitals will provide emergency care, but once patients are stabilized, they are released without any further treatment options.
"The problem is, if you have a pre-existing condition, you can't get insurance coverage," he said. "That was our problem with Laura. ... In the latter part of her life, Medicaid picked her up."
Without Medicaid, he said, the financial impact would have been devastating.
Pearce said he believes mandating insurance coverage for eating disorders will result in cost savings, rather than driving up insurance costs.
"If you catch it early, it's treatable," he said. "If you (treat patients) early on, they're not going to wind up in the ICU or emergency room."
Full treatment "up front" could cost $80,000, Seal said, but bills for several days of treatment in the emergency room or intensive care could be $250,000.
Bill sponsors said requiring insurers to provide coverage will encourage hospitals to provide treatment and expand access to other treatment options.
Culp said they also want insurance companies to allow patients to remain hospitalized longer at the start, "to see if they can solve the mental aspects before it goes to the medical."
The education and awareness programs are designed to alert parents, health care professionals, educators, coaches and the general public about signs and symptoms of eating disorders so they can be diagnosed in the early stage, he said.
Laura's problem began in her senior year of high school. As an assistant track coach, Culp said, he encouraged Laura to try out for track. He said he did not recognize Laura had a problem, though she would come home from a workout and run some more.
"As a coach, I thought she was trying to set the foundation for long-distance running," he said. "She was constantly running and working out - never in moderation, always full-out."
Dr. Brad Carper brought the problem to their attention that summer, but "for three and a half years, we never saw a problem," he said. "I didn't know anything about eating disorders. I didn't see it."
Many eating disorder victims are perfectionists, he said, but the Culps said they never insisted on perfection from Laura.
"We never talked about perfection," such as getting A's in school work, being outstanding in sports or having a certain body image, he said.
Laura had concerned friends, he said, but they told her parents they "didn't know what to say."
Culp said Laura told them the problem started when "she just could not find time to eat."
Her first hospitalization came at Baptist Memorial Hospital. She went into the intensive care unit "to get sodium back into her veins," Culp said.
When they left her there, he said, Laura "was trying to get out."
They told her she had to stay, he said.
"We cried all the way home. It was one of the worst days," he said.
Sandy said Laura stayed at Baptist Memorial about a month before hospital personnel said she had to leave because insurance would no longer pay.
A few months later, Laura had to return for 15 or 30 days before insurance again ran out, Sandy said.
For the next several years, Laura went through a succession of hospitalizations and sessions with private therapists.

"At her worst time, she weighed 58 pounds," John said, compared to her normal weight of 95 pounds.
During one stay at Research Hospital, the Culps heard Laura had a 30 percent chance of surviving because her potassium level fell so low.
The Culps said their insurance coverage always ran out before they felt Laura had adequate time to overcome her problem.
The bill for one hospitalization totaled about $250,000, Culp said.
Sandy said Laura paid $16,000 up front to be admitted to Research for one of her last hospitalizations, several months before her wedding.
After Laura's death, Culp said, he and Sandy embarked on a "guilt trip," questioning what they could have done differently to help Laura.
"As parents, you continue to beat yourself up," he said. "We thought it was our fault. We didn't understand."
Sandy said, "I've asked what happened in my child's life to trigger this. ... Laura would never say.
"One of the worst pains is burying a child. ... That's why we have to speak out. We don't want families to go through what we did. We want the victims of eating disorders to stay long enough so they have the opportunity to get well."
John said they met people with eating disorders at various hospitals - wives, cheerleaders, dancers and athletes - people for whom "a body image is important."
"What's so terrible about this disease is that it strikes down young people who have a future ahead of them," he said. "It takes the best of the best. That's why this bill is so important. It gives hope to people.
"If we don't get it passed this year, we'll keep going back until people listen.
The main thing is we want to help others so they don't have to bury a child with this disease."
The Culps plan to use money raised through memorial contributions for Laura to start a Web site for the state to raise awareness about eating disorders.
They said they believe Laura, who always helped others, would approve.

MIAAA honors Culp's contributions to Warrensburg community

Corey Edwards
Sports Editor

This past April the Missouri Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association awarded Warrensburg's John Culp with the Distinguished Service Award at the Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Mo.

He received the award for his invaluable contributions to the Warrensburg School District along with his work with the University of Central Missouri.
Culp retired from the Warrensburg School District in 1999 as a teacher and a coach, but over a decade after his retirement, he is still going strong, spending countless with student-athletes.
"John is tremendous on helping whenever we ask him," Warrensburg athletic director Keith Chapman said. "He never wants to tell us no, and does a variety of things for us, not only coaching but helps out at track meets and other events throughout the year."
It was Chapman, along with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Scott Patrick who nominated Culp for the prestigious award.
"John Culp's commitment to the interscholastic athletics and to the Warrensburg School district is evident by the hundreds of student-athletes he has coached and mentored during this time," Patrick wrote.
So what keeps Culp going? Why does the desire to help young adults still burn so greatly after so many years of volunteering?
"Can I say that I needed a better portfolio," Culp joked. "Giving back is as important to me as helping young people and the athletics in Warrensburg High School. I really believe it keeps you young."
It is Culp's ability to stay young that impresses. He attends numerous practices at the university throughout the week and attends almost all home games.
"I have a lot invested in all the programs," Culp said.
With the help of Culp, both programs, high school and college have thrived in recent years.
"I have the best of both worlds with high school athletics and college athletics," Culp said. "If you are a real sports fan you have a great opportunity to see all types of sports."
The measure of Culp's influence in the community supersedes just his effect on young athletes but to everyone that has had the opportunity to work with him.
"I first meet John Culp in 1987 and you could not find a better role model or supporter of school and community. John has meant everything to me," Warrensburg teacher and cross country coach Dan Plott explains. "My professional career and my personal life has been effected in so many ways. It is hard to describe. I am very happy that John was recognized by that organization because that really meant a lot to him."
At the MIAAA banquet, Culp along with 13 other persons outside the field of interscholastic administration, were awarded plaques.
After a brief stint in Blue Springs after his retirement in 1999, Culp returned to Warrensburg, even taking the reins of the Tigers basketball team in 2004-05 when the team needed a coach. Since then, Culp has been an assistant for the girls basketball program as well as an announcer for junior varsity football games.
Culp serves as the Program Development and Retention Coordinator at UCM, helping college athletes cope with the strain of academics along with athletics.
Culp has also been part of the Warrensburg City Council, a leader in the Methodist Church and a board member for the UCM Alumni Association. He has spent the last 20 years as a counselor for the Boy's State program.
John, along with his wife Sandy, is currently working on getting a state bill passed after their daughter, Laura, died from the effects of anorexia nervosa in May of last year.
"We are working on a mission in Jeff City trying to get a bill for eating disorders in the memory of Laura. We are giving out a scholarship this year for the first time at Warrensburg High School in the memory of Laura," Culp said.

Laura’s Story – “Whenever my passport is stamped, I’ll think of her.”

Posted by  – November 18, 2010

I met Laura when I was a freshman in college. I was a student worker and her dad worked in the office I assisted. She walked in the office with a glowing smile, spiky blonde hair and a bounce in her step. However, the one thing I couldn’t help but notice was her size. She was small—very small.
The first time we were introduced, she leaned in for a hug. Everyone loves a good hug and it is one I will always remember. She had her dad’s smile. After this meeting, I looked forward to Laura visiting the office. We talked about travel, which we both had a passion for and the things we wanted to do.
I knew Laura was sick. Her dad, one of my mentors, talked to me about the struggles she was facing and how serious the situation had become. A seasoned athlete in high school, her workouts soon took the place of eating. At her worst she weighed 58 pounds, compared to her normal weight of 95 pounds.
There were times when it would seem things were getting better. She would bound in the office to see her dad. His jolly laugh boomed from down the hall as they talked. Then there were times when I wouldn’t see her. It was a constant worry for a lot of people, especially her family. I worried about them all, short in stature but big in heart.
Things changed when Laura became engaged. She was ecstatic, as were her loved ones. He grin was ever present as she talked about her wedding and the exciting move to Paris, France where her fiancé was lived.
Her wedding day came. It was wonderful, performed in both English and French. I sat among friends as I pushed positive and hopeful energy her way. We all wanted her to be happy. The reception was a blast. We danced to English songs, we danced to French songs, we danced to everything. It was such a memorable evening and one that I will always be honored to have been a part of. Before the close of the evening, I was able to get this quick photo with Laura after she had changed out of her wedding gown. This was the last time I would ever see her.
On Saturday, May 2, 2009, Laura passed away in Paris France. She was 31. Her 13-year battle with anorexia nervosa had ended. When I learned the news, my heart sank. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about her mother and father and the family she left behind. I thought about all the places she wanted to visit and the passport that would no longer be stamped.
I began to evaluate my own body image. I’ve always been on the “husky” side as my grandmother calls it. I’ve tried fad diets, but have always gained the weight back. Laura’s battle made me consider the reasons for my ambitions of weight loss. It made me look in the mirror and consider my reflection. What I saw was a person that was attempting to sculpt their body to please others. On that day, I realized I was doing everything for the wrong reasons. If I wanted to lose weight I needed to do it for myself.

I think about Laura often, her smile mostly. It’s a pleasant memory that I pull from time to time. I would like to think I’m on a positive path towards a healthy lifestyle. These things take time. I know that dreaming of the physique on a magazine cover is unrealistic. If Laura has taught me anything it is to be grateful for the time you have and to grasp life by the horns and never let go. I hope she knows how beautiful she was, inside and out.

An excerpt from the poem, 

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver reads:
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Today I promise, I’m trying to live my one wild and precious life with a whole heart and a smile, just as Laura would have wanted me to and whenever my passport is stamped, I’ll think of her.
By Ryan Murray
  • Laura’s Story – “Whenever my passport is stamped, I’ll think of her.


  • WARRENSBURG, Nov 11, 2011 (The Daily Star-Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A major phase in the Laura Leigh Culp-Botgat Memorial Scholarship at the University of Central Missouri is complete, scholarship Chairwoman Stacy Meuschke-Allen said.
    "We needed $10,000 through UCM and their foundation to make it endowed -- we've met that," Allen said.
    The scholarship is in memory of 1996 Warrensburg High School graduate Laura Leigh Culp-Botgat, daughter of John and Sandy Culp. Botgat, 31, weighing 58 pounds, died due to complications from anorexia nervosa in Paris in 2009.
    Since then, the Culps have worked to bring attention to the danger of eating disorders, leading the state to pass a law to start the Missouri Eating Disorders Council. Under the law, the departments of Mental Health, Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education must develop and implement awareness programs that the council will oversee.
    An Oct. 1 pancake breakfast at the Warrensburg Applebee's helped the scholarship group reach the $8,000 mark, and funds continued to come in afterward, Allen said. She is a Woodland Elementary School teacher in Lee's Summit who graduated in 1996 with Botgat.
    "We've had many donations come in through online donations or checks dropped off at the Culps' home," Allen said.
    Last week, being about $500 short, Allen issued a Facebook request to friends for help.
    "It just said, 'OK, we are at $9,511. Can anybody give me any ideas on how we can get to our $10,000 mark by the end of the month or by the end of the year?'" she said. "We had some small donations come in and then we had an anonymous donation that covered everything."
    With the endowment in place, the next step is to produce funds for the annual scholarship provided to a Warrensburg High School student.
    (c)2011 The Daily Star-Journal (Warrensburg, Mo.) Visit The Daily Star-Journal (Warrensburg, Mo.) at Distributed by MCT Information ServicesCopyright (C) 2011, The Daily Star-Journal, Warrensburg, Mo.

  • The men of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at the University of Central Missouri held the Laura Culp Benefit Pageant on March 6. The pageant is for current female students at the university with the goal of raising money for the Laura Culp Memorial Fund. Laura was an alum of UCM, earning her Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration in 2007. She had a passion for continued education and studying abroad, but passed away in May 2009. The fund was established by her friends and family to help Warrensburg High School students with costs related to continuing their education. The pageant raised $1,341 for the memorial fund.
    There were 6 women that competed in the pageant: Alexis Perkins, sponsored by Sigma Sigma Sigma; Jessica Burroughs, sponsored by Phi Sigma Pi; Haley Soetebier, sponsored by Alpha Omicron Pi; Samantha Haynes, sponsored by Alpha Gamma Delta; Shannon Kennedy, sponsored by Delta Zeta; and Caitlin Stauffer, sponsored by Alpha Sigma Alpha. The women had to answer two questions, participate in a group dance and display a talent. Judges evaluated the women on enthusiasm, uniqueness of talent, sincerity and originality. The woman crowned in first place was Shannon Kennedy, second place was Haley Soetebier and third place was Caitlin Stauffer.
    “The Laura Culp Scholarship is very important to raise awareness for eating disorders. Eating disorders are a very serious issue for teens and adults and I hope the pageant will raise awareness for years to come,” said Shannon Kennedy. “I am very honored to have participated in the pageant. I want to thank everyone who worked hard to put it together and thank you to the Culp family as well!”
    The men of Tau Kappa Epsilon would like to thank the many individuals and Warrensburg businesses who helped make the pageant possible, including Andrea Marlow for her work with the event’s flyers, Heroes, Papa John’s, Applebees, Nathan’s Grill, Carmike 10 Cinema, Family Video, Country Kitchen, Rib Crib, New China, Plant Sub, Office Depot, L.A. Tan and Ye Olde Flower Shoppe.
Laura Leigh Culp Botgat


Culp to be honored by the Kansas City Royals

John Culp, program development and retention coordinator for UCM Athletics, will be honored by the Kansas City Royals with the opportunity to join the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat program at the April 9 home game with the Minnesota Twins.
(Courtesy photo) John Culp will be honored April 9 at Kauffman Stadium.
As a Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat honoree, Culp will be recognized during the pregame ceremony and enjoy the game from ‘Buck’s seat” behind home plate. Since 2007, the Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City have honored the legacy of the late Buck O’Neil by filling the Kansas City baseball legend’s reserved seat with a member of the community who embodies O’Neil’s vibrant spirit. O’Neil spent many days and nights supporting the Royals from behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium, both as a scout and a fan.
Culp was nominated for the honor in recognition of his efforts with his late wife, Sandy, to create awareness and promote legislation to combat eating disorders. A native of Johnson County, Mo., Culp is an alumnus of the University of Central Missouri. During a career in education and interscholastic athletics, he was a teacher, coach and administrator in the Warrensburg, Pleasant Hill, Harrisonville and Blue Springs School Districts.
He also has served on the Warrensburg City Council and in a variety of leadership roles with the Warrensburg United Methodist Church. He has served as an athletic counselor for the American Legion Missouri Boys State and as a member of the UCM Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Family death leads to legislative fight

Feb 23, 2010, 9:02 AM

By TERRAH BAKER Digitalburg

This could be a setback for John Culp, program development and retention coordinator for student athletes at the University of Central Missouri, and many other Missourians who have been fighting for better health care coverage and education programs dealing with eating disorders.WARRENSBURG, Mo.--Battling with health insurance companies for more health care coverage is not a new war. In fact, there have been so many mandates placed on health insurance companies by the state that the public relations director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri, Deborah Wiethop, said if there are any more, some Missourians will be forced to drop their health care plans.

The Bill

To spread knowledge, awareness and education about eating disorders around the state, Culp and his allies have taken their battle to Missouri's legislature.

"What we're trying to do is get [the bill] under the mental health division in Missouri," Culp said. "We use the word mission. We will go back every year to get this passed."

Culp's daughter, Laura Culp, 31, died May 2, 2009, from a heart attack after a 13-year-battle with anorexia. Culp said after her death, he kept asking himself what more he could've done while she was still alive. One thing that may have changed the outcome of Laura's disease, Culp said, was being able to recognize the beginning stages of eating disorders.

"It started her senior year in the springtime, and very truthfully, I had no training in looking for eating disorders. And it sounds bad because I'm a P.E. teacher and coach, and I didn't know what the early signs were," Culp said.

They are pushing Bills 1733 in the Missouri House of Representatives and 744 in the Missouri Senate that would mandate health insurance companies to provide longer in-patient stays for sufferers of eating disorders.

Joining him on the front lines are Annie Seal, a woman Culp said has been an inspiration to him and who has a daughter who has struggled with an eating disorder; Miss Missouri 2010 Tara Osseck, who made her platform eating disorder awareness after watching her roommate battle anorexia; and Miss Springfield 2010 Jessica Sullivan, who personally dealt with an eating disorder; along with several legislators, including local State Sen. David Pearce.

Pearce has sponsored the bill in the Senate, and as a close friend of Culp, has become an advocate for the passing of the bills and their importance to the state of Missouri.

"I became involved in this issue due to the impact of the Culp family. John and Sandy Culp lost their daughter, Laura, to an eating disorder disease in 2009. I had known Laura her entire life and watched her grow up. It was sad to see the family go through such an ordeal together. The legislation is designed to make sure families don’t go through the same thing the Culps experienced," Pearce said.

Research listed in support of the bill states that "Insurance companies routinely limit the number of days they will reimburse for treatment of eating disorders. This forces doctors to discharge patients with eating disorders too early and without the support needed to continue recovery, according to supporters of the bill.

"What we find in this disease, if you can get it at the start, you have a chance to help that person, Culp said. "It starts out as a mental illness and if you don't solve the mental, then it goes to the medical. What we're trying to do is to get all students and citizens in the state of Missouri to understand; you've got the body image [issues], you look at the models and all the beautiful people, and something goes off in the brain and body imaging that [they] look too fat."

Health Coverage

According to the organization National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA), an estimated 250,000 Missourians suffer from eating disorders each year, and the mortality rate for eating disorders is up to 20 percent. But opponents of mandating coverage have their own numbers.

"The problem is that we have 700,000 Missourians out of around 5 million Missourians that do not have access to health insurance. Overtime, we have a mandate that adds to the cost of premiums and it makes people drop their premiums. We know it's a terrible disease, but it's very difficult to mandate something and it increases costs," Blue Cross' Wiethop said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, like all other insurance companies in Missouri, is already mandated to cover mental illnesses, which receive a different type of coverage than that of physical illnesses, usually with less reimbursement. The new bills would allow eating disorders to receive as much coverage as a physical illness.

Laura and Culp had Blue Cross and Blue Shield when she was dealing with her illness and received what the bill supporters are referring to as minimal and an insufficient amount of coverage.

"Forty to 60 days would be something that [patients] need to do where a lot of insurance companies, 12 to 15 days is normally what they let you stay. We experienced that with Laura," Culp said.

Culp said he knew along with getting through the legislative process, the hardest trial would be getting insurance companies to agree to the mandates. Wiethop said there's good reason for that.

"Right now, probably the reason [Culp] is working with legislators is that they would like a mandate for coverage, and I believe one of the issues is that a lot of these patients would have more in-patient care, and sometimes months and months at a time. That's kind of where the problem is," Wiethop said. "Twenty percent of premiums already go to state mandated health care."

Wiethop explained that Blue Cross and Blue Shield encourages patients with eating disorders to take advantage of services they already offer, like specialized advice from a trained nurse.

The Strategy

Culp said this fight will not be given up until the demands of those concerned are met.

"That's what Laura did was help the common person, and that's all we want to do now," Culp said.

The group has visited the capitol building several times in an attempt to sway legislators. It has also recruited UCM students like Alma Flores, sophomore broadcast media major, to write letters to legislators, explaining why they feel strongly about the need for the bill. Basically, Culp said, they are fighting against some of the best lobbyists in the state, the insurance lobbyists, but they will continue to fight for those struggling with the disease.

"This isn't something that just affects a certain group, or age or gender. It kind of affects everyone. This is mainly wanting to get people to be able to talk about it and get the help that they need. It would be great if this bill passed. Then it could go nation-wide. It would be great if Missouri was that trailblazer to get people to start to talk about this," Flores said.

Local coach a source of inspiration

Story by Andy Lyons, News Editor
Culp is currently the program development and retention coordinator for UCM Athletics. (Photo by ANDY LYONS, News Editor)
One of the many faces associated with University of Central Missouri Athletics is that of coach John Culp.
He’s been a face in the Warrensburg community for nearly 15 years as a teacher, principal and coach.
Culp is a graduate of UCM and was a teacher, coach and administrator in the Warrensburg R-VI School District prior to his retirement.
Since 2006, he has served UCM as program development and retention coordinator for UCM athletics.  He also served as a member of the Warrensburg City Council, president of the Warrensburg Lions Club and in a variety of leadership roles with the First United Methodist Church of Warrensburg.
He has been recognized with the Distinguished Service Award by the Missouri Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, and has served as a member of the UCM Alumni Association board of directors.
Culp has been an athletic counselor annually at Missouri Boys State on the UCM campus, and has served as a member of the City of Warrensburg Children’s Memorial committee.
Culp has coached across Johnson County since the late 1980s. (Photo submitted)
He and his wife, Sandy, have been strong advocates for legislation enabling assistance for treatment of eating disorders in Missouri, following the death of their daughter, Laura, in May 2009, due to anorexia.
Despite the adversity he has faced in his personal life, Culp has maintained a positive attitude and outlook on life.
“My mother always said ‘it’s better to wear out than rust out,’” he said.
Beth Rutt, director of student activities at UCM, has known Culp for nearly 30 years.  She said that after visiting with him, people tend to be more optimistic about life.
“He really just values human life and relationships,” Rutt said.  “He really walks the talk [when it comes to genuinely caring about others].”
Rutt said that Culp would never intentionally offend anyone he encountered and really focuses on building people up.  She has maintained her friendship with Culp through the loss of his daughter and through his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
“Despite the adversity and challenges in his professional and personal life, he still has hope,” Rutt said.
Ed Wirthwein, assistant director of the Union at UCM, has known Culp for 18 years, and is an adviser for the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at UCM, along with Culp.  He said he agrees with Rutt that Culp is the type of person that doesn’t let his personal life affect maintaining a positive influence on young people.
“He’s always optimistic,” Wirthwein said. “If he knows it’ll help someone, he’ll sacrifice it. He’s the ultimate role-model and father figure, and he has no self-pity.  What gets him through is seeing those around him succeed.”

Fraternity’s annual pageant benefits Culp family

Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity's second annual Laura Culp pageant raised more than $3,000 for the Laura Culp Memorial Fund to provide scholarships. (Photo by MARIO GARCIDUENAS, for The Muleskinner)
Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity’s second annual Laura Culp pageant raised more than $3,000 for the Laura Culp Memorial Fund to provide scholarships. (Photo by MARIO GARCIDUENAS, for The Muleskinner)
Story by NICOLE Cooke, Copy Editor—
The Union Ballroom was full of applause, laughter and talent Tuesday night as a full audience cheered on the 14 contestants in the second annual Laura Culp Pageant.
Women from the Greek community and the Health and Fitness Association donned their best floor-length gowns and competed for the title of Miss Laura Culp 2013, sponsored by Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.
The event had a late start, due to the large number of people wanting to purchase tickets. At one point, the line reached the Union information desk, making it necessary to add chairs to the room, which had already been set up for maximum capacity.
“It’s not usually good to start an event late, unless the reason is because you still have a line of people waiting to get in,” said TKE President Luis Benavides. “That’s a good sign.”
Once the night began, the women were each escorted in by a member of TKE. The women treated the audience to a group dance number, with their TKE escorts joining them for the finale.
Before the pageant continued, Stacy Allen, a high school classmate of Laura Culp and a member of the Laura Culp Memorial Fund committee, said a few words describing the scholarships and thanking everyone in attendance for their support.
John Culp, program development and retention coordinator for UCM athletics, also said a few words. His short speech may have caused a tear or two in the audience as he spoke fondly about his wife, Sandy, who died just a few weeks ago, and his daughter, Laura, who died in 2009. He also thanked those in attendance, as well as TKE for hosting the event.
The talent portion showcased a wide variety of talents, including several choreographed dances, several vocal solos, instrumental solos and baton twirling.
In typical college philanthropy event fashion, there were some awkward time gaps between the talent acts. However, the TKE hosts, Connor Coleman and Tyran Banks, filled the space with their commentary on the acts, as well as with jokes, rapping and testing out their own dance moves.
In the final segment, the contestants chose their own interview question by pulling a slip of paper out of a bowl. The questions ranged from describing the perfect date and what three items they want during a zombie apocalypse, to describing overcoming a challenge and who is their role model.
The judges needed extra time to tally the votes. Then came the announcement of the winners. Amanda Sasek, Miss Alpha Sigma Alpha, received the crown, with Courtney Whitaker, Miss Sigma Pi, placing second and Rachel Spotz, Miss Sigma Kappa, placing third.
“I thought all 14 did great, and it was interesting how long it took for the judges to get the scores,” Coach Culp said. “I would not want to be a judge. So much beauty and talent, and I really liked the questions.”
While the contestants were entertaining, it was the philanthropy behind the pageant that stole the show. All the money raised for the event went to the Laura Culp Memorial Fund, which provides scholarships that are given to Warrensburg High School students that will be attending UCM.
The fund, which was started in 2009, is in memory of Laura Culp. Laura died May 2, 2009, at the age of 31 due to her lifelong struggle with anorexia.
“We started the scholarship because Laura had received her bachelor’s and master’s from UCM,” Coach Culp said. “With her disease, school was so important to her.
“Laura always gave back to others, and we really feel great that we can remember her by these scholarships. Her legacy continues to live on.”
The first scholarship was given out in 2009, and since that first award, the fund has continued to grow. One $400 scholarship was given in 2009. In 2012, two $500 scholarships were given.
Not only has the scholarship fund grown, but the pageant has as well. Last year’s event had six contestants and raised about $1,500. This year’s event raised about $3,000.
Coach Culp and members of his family were in attendance to support the contestants, as well as TKE. Coach Culp is an alumnus of TKE, and currently advises the UCM chapter.
“It’s not so much that the man is a TKE. It’s more of this man is an inspiration,” Benavides said. “He does so much for this town, school and the people that he meets every single day. He is a man that keeps on giving.
“Having Coach and his family there shows the entire community what this event means to them. Laura was a loving woman, wife and daughter. Having them there inspires us to be the best we can and really expand this event.”
Coach Culp also made an appearance at the final rehearsal to speak with the contestants. Benavides said that Coach Culp has made it a tradition to do this.
“I think that is when it clicks to the contestants,” Benavides said. “This is the ‘why’ the contestants do what they do, and also  why we do what we do as a fraternity.”
When Coach Culp talked with the contestants, he gave each one a gold dollar, which he said represents how much his family appreciates the contestants supporting them, as well as those fighting eating disorders.
“I thanked them all for participating and said that there would be no losers in this pageant,” he said.
All the contestants said they appreciated getting the chance to speak with him.
“He is so incredibly supportive of the pageant and of all the girls that competed,” she said. “I was so honored to stand before him as the winner because I know how much it meant that we all took the time to be part of something he cares so intensely about.”
For Sasek, it wasn’t winning the pageant that was important. It was important she was supporting a cause that hit close to home.
“I entered the pageant because I know Coach Culp and I was someone who struggled with an eating disorder throughout high school, so it was personal to me,” she said.
Now that she holds the title, Sasek plans to make the most of her time with the crown.
“I want to be an ambassador for this benefit pageant and encourage the community and organizations on campus to support the cause in years to come,” she said. “Winning this pageant meant so much to me because I personally overcame an eating disorder and I believe more awareness should exist about how dangerous they can be.”
If you would like to make a donation to the fund, contact Benavides at or Coach Culp at
July 2016

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