Your 2018 Special Olympics Virginia Award Winners

Every year, hundreds of volunteers and athletes 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 stand out in their areas of contribution to the program and to the health, community, sports and education pillars on which we base our focus on strategic goals. Thank you to everyone who nominated volunteers and athletes for recognition and congratulations to our exceptional winners.

Our winners will be honored at Summer Games this year! 

Athlete of the Year | William Duquette

Roles: Athlete 

Years Involved: 16

From his nominator: Billy demonstrates the true spirit of Special Olympics in everything he does and is a leader in the truest sense. Not only does he participate in six sports, but he also serves as a mentor and leader in many ways. While he’s always proud of the times he’s a winner, he is always kind and gracious when he does not. I am always glad to see Billy at any event because I know I can count on his help when needed.

Quote from Billy: “Special Olympics has meant so much to me, not only as an athlete but as a person. Some of those new challenges that open up to me are being an athlete representative to help out with the Area 26 council, being a global messenger to speak out what Special Olympics is and how to support it’s continue success. This wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for my sister Michelle, to allow this to be possible for me to get involved with a great organization like Special Olympics.”

Area Volunteer of the Year | Tammy Torkelson

Roles: Volunteer, Coach, Mentor, Board of Directors Chair, Area Coordinator

Years Involved: 20+

From her nominator: This woman is an amazing person. Tamy is the embodiment of the Special Olympics organization, as she has demonstrated in her many years of commitment to the program in spite of the loss of her son Albie. Most parents would have left after a traumatic event but not Tammy. She is truly a role model for all and deserving of this important recognition.

Quote from Tammy: “I feel every athlete, coach, volunteer, parent and support staff are a light - alone we shine - but put us all together (unity) and we light a torch that will never go out. My hope is that this torch will continue to burn bright - for those here today, those who have left us and those that have not yet arrived. Remember - IF WE CAN DREAM IT - WE CAN DO IT.”

Coach of the Year| Wilson Chua

Years Involved: 10+

From his nominator: Wilson is the epitome of a dedicated parent of a Special Olympics athlete. Not only is he committed to his son getting him involved in numerous sports, but he also contributues many hours each week to support all athletes in our programs. Wilson’s lengthy list of volunteer activities, both for Special Olympics and in the broader Loudon County community, demonstrate his commitment to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Quote from Wilson: “I have been involved with Special Olympics for over 10 years; the first few years as a parent volunteer/assistant coach, and the last five years as the head swim coach. Being part of Special Olympics has allowed me to teach athletes new sport skills and help them to take their abilities to new levels. These amazing athletes reminded me and my family to live in the moment and be present with a pure heart and enthusiasm for life.”

Family of the Year | The Mennetti Family

Years Involved: 30

From their nominator: The entire Mennetti family is a staple within the Special Olympics community. Elizabeth is a ray of joy and has been an athlete for over 30 years of her life. Paul, is a dedicated father and coach. Farley is a loving sister, devoted partner and coach and Betty is a supportive mother and Special Olympics enthusiast. This family brings so much light into this world and Special Olympics is lucky to have them

Quote from the Family: “Special Olympics has always been a family affair for us! We value the friendships we have all formed and the lessons we have gained in acceptance, unification, and love for all people. Through this organization we have seen what perseverance looks like and witnessed a true desire to excel! "

Program Volunteer of the Year | Weslie Green

Program: Young Professionals Board

Years Involved: 2 

From her nominator: Weslie has been an integral part of the success of the inaugural year of the Young Professionals Board. She has shown commitment, passion, and work ethic since the first interest meeting in January 2017. She has been a fearless leader; constantly checking in on the status of YPB committees and members. She is the best example of a volunteer that has given themselves to help carry out, improve, and promote the activities of Special Olympics Virginia at the Chapter level.

Quote from Weslie: “It has been life changing to volunteer with Special Olympics and see the impact it can have in athletes’ lives. I see firsthand how Special Olympics creates an environment for athletes to demonstrate courage and build lasting friendships with other athletes and volunteers. I’m passionate about issues of equality and inclusion and feel very honored to be able to volunteer with an organization that feels the same way.”

Virginia H Foster Winning Spirit Award | GEICO

Years Involved: 22

GEICO’s willingness to contribute financial support and volunteer on several fronts since 1998 puts them in a very small group of dedicated longtime 20+ year supporters of Special Olympics.

Quote from GEICO: On behalf of all GEICO associates who live and work in Virginia, and especially those who dedicate their talents and resources to Special Olympics Virginia, we’re honored to be the recipient of the Virginia H. Foster Winning Spirit Award. GEICO’s partnership with SOVA goes back over 25 years, and we’re proud to have helped improve the lives of those with intellectual disabilities through sports and inclusion during that span. We look forward to continuing our relationship with SOVA and are inspired by the spirit and determination of the athletes we celebrate.