Every year there are hundreds of volunteers and athletes who contribute to Special Olympics Virginia in so many ways. Picking a few volunteers and athletes each year to recognize as outstanding representatives of the program is a difficult task. Each of these individuals has stood out in their areas of contribution to the programs and to the health, community, sports and education pillars on which we base our focus and strategic goals. Thank you to everyone who nominated volunteers and athletes for recognition and congratulations to our exceptional winners!
School District of the Year:
Central High School
Central High School has made it their mission to create a welcome environment, community, and awareness for students with disabilities. Especially in the last 3-5 years, Central has created an amazing atmosphere for both their community of students and Special Olympics Virginia, participating with programs such as Champions Together, the R Word Campaign, a Special Olympics Club, and sending representatives to present at the Roanoke and Fredericksburg Special Olympics Virginia Volunteer Conferences.
With the guidance of Meg Smith and her husband Hayes, Central High School’s culture has become an active, welcoming place for students with disabilities. Approximately 300 students attended the Law Enforcement Torch Run to cheer on runners, and Area 4, Shenandoah County Local has been formed from the school’s activity.
Liberty High offers a number of programs to promote the acceptance and community that Special Olympics Virginia strives for. For three years, Liberty has built up initiatives to engage their students, including Champions Together, Unified Basketball League, Project Unify Club, Unified PE, Big Feet Meet, R Word Campaign, and host and run the Bedford County Little Feet Meet.
Liberty has helped thousands see the power of unity through sports, community-wide fundraisers, and law enforcement events. They have also pushed for awareness by participating in the Youth Activation Forum Webinar to help educate and ignite the youth.
Outstanding Program Volunteer of the Year: Frank Jenkins
By building a team with fellow CEO’s, Frank and his team were able to raise $100,522 for the 2016 Over the Edge event. Frank’s leadership and dedication continues to bring new donors to the organization, raising awareness for the mission that Special Olympics Virginia represents.
Area Program Volunteer of the Year: Casey O’Berry
Over 20 years, Casey has become an inspiration to her community through her tireless commitment to her athletes. Casey has actively participated in Special Olympics as a partner, coach, volunteer, fundraiser, local coordinator, sports coordinator, and area councilmember. She promotes Special Olympics Virginia programs and raises awareness within her community on a regular basis. She also meets with others through Meals on Wheels, We Are Unique, Hanover ARC, and Atlee High School through their Multicat Classes.
Casey’s passion and commitment to Special Olympics Virginia is widely recognized and inspiring to her community and her tireless devotion to the cause is an amazing influence.
Family of the Year: The Hall Family
The name Hall is synonymous with the Area 31 Henrico Adult Program. Betsy has been running the program for 30 years as the Henrico Adult Coordinator and Coach, promoting various fundraising events and sharing the impact that Special Olympics Virginia has had on her life and her daughter, Lisa. In concern for Lisa’s health and well-being, Betsy became active in Special Olympics Virginia to support her. Her other daughters, Cindy and Sharon, also became active volunteers in support for their sister.
Though Lisa has passed, the family continues in their dedication to the program. Cindy has coached bocce, soccer, and softball and has attended numerous championships as coach, partner, and chaperone. Both sisters are active fundraisers for Special Olympics Virginia, especially in the Polar Plunge. Special Olympics Virginia has been an active part of the Hall family.
Virginia H. Foster Winning Spirit Award: Joy Cavagnaro
Joy first became involved with Special Olympics Virginia when her daughter volunteered. Since then, with over 20 years of hard dedication, Joy has become an inspirational member of every coaching, fundraising, or any other volunteering experience in her area. She has coached for swimming, volleyball, and soccer, taking teams to compete in NITs and National Games. She is a mentor for a Global Messenger and takes part in local and state fundraisers. She has been a top fundraiser for Special Olympics Virginia, including Polar Plunge, Over the Edge, and raised money for NIT when the volleyball team attended.
After her husband’s passing, Special Olympics Virginia has become an even greater part of her family, and her time and devotion to the cause never wavered. Her spirit and dedication has vastly impacted her area.
Coach of the Year: Wade Crawford
In over seven years of volunteer service, Wade has been an advocate for health, fitness, and community. Coaching golf, soccer, roller skating, basketball, athletics, and softball, Wade has strived to benefit the lives of his athletes through programs such as Get SO Fit and advocating for healthy nutrition. In his efforts, one athlete even avoided heart surgery through their newfound fitness. Another athlete was trained to compete in the Polar Plunge 5k and will now be able to compete in the 8k thanks to his guidance.
Wade also utilizes his free time to develop partnerships for Special Olympics Virginia with programs such as Chesapeake Parks and Recreation, Tidewater Community College, and local gyms and fitness studios to support Get SO Fit. He strives to better his community and athletes through any means he can.
Athlete of the Year: Jerry Holy
With a great number of outstanding achievements, Jerry has been an inspirational messenger of dedication and well-being. Participating in a numerous events, including floor hockey, basketball, soccer, swimming, track and field, and bowling, Jerry has personally dedicated his life to the message of community, acceptance, and well-being. He has participated in several state-level championships, and has become a speaker and ambassador for the Special Olympics Virginia cause in areas such as Special Olympics Virginia events, school pep rallies, parent special education rights, and R Word campaigns.
Jerry’s highlight has been his time as a Global Ambassador, speaking with U.S. Senator, Tim Kaine and Virginia Secretary of Education, Anne Holton. He has been involved with training the next class of Global Ambassadors and he’s proud of his work. He is proud to say, “Once a Global Ambassador, always a Global Ambassador.”