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2017 awards announced by Special Olympics North Carolina

Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) presented seven 2017 state-level awards honoring outstanding individuals, companies and organizations that support Special Olympics in North Carolina, according to Keith L. Fishburne, president/CEO of Special Olympics North Carolina. 

The following individuals and companies received recognition for their commitment and dedication to Special Olympics during the past year:

  • Athlete of the Year: Travis Bowman, Craven County
  • Coach of the Year: Debby Michael, Davidson County
  • Family of the Year: Ty and Nancy Bell, Watauga County
  • Volunteer of the Year: Jayne Radionov, Forsyth County
  • Coordinator of the Year: Lisa Carroll, Catawba County
  • Organization of the Year: Cannon Middle School, Cabarrus County
  • Chairman of the Board of Directors Award: Golisano Foundation
  • President’s Award: Claudia Morgan, Forsyth County and Keith Jones, Guilford County
  • James E. Long Commitment to Excellence Award: Ken Smith, Wake County

The 2017 SONC Athlete of the Award was presented to Travis Bowman of New Bern. Bowman has been involved with Special Olympics for more than two decades and in that time, has distinguished himself as a leader. He’s competed in athletics, bowling and swimming and won more than 40 medals in swimming alone.  His hard work during both training and competition serves as an example to his fellow athletes, as do his acts of service in his community. Whether it’s mowing grass or raking leaves for a neighbor, volunteering with his local Special Olympics program or attending NC Law Enforcement Torch Run fundraising events, Bowman is dedicated to serving others.  

The 2017 SONC Coach of the Year Award was presented to Debby Michael of Lexington. Coaching Special Olympics athletes since 1980, Michael has been invaluable to the Special Olympics Davidson County program.  Her deep love of Special Olympics is evident in each interaction she has with athletes and their families.  Michael has coached numerous sports including athletics and cycling and assisted in the creation of Young Athletes programming for children under 8 years of age in Davidson County. Michael has officiated at athletics events at the 1999 Special Olympics World Games hosted in North Carolina, attended the 2010 Special Olympics USA Games hosted in Nebraska as an athletics coach and has served on both the statewide Games Management Team and Sport Development Team to improve the quality of competition and coaches’ education in North Carolina.

The 2017 SONC Family of the Year Award was presented to Ty and Nancy Bell of Boone. The Bells have assisted Special Olympics Watauga County in a variety of ways for more than a decade. Nancy serves as a coach in multiple sports, including bocce, bowling and swimming and both Ty and Nancy are quick to assist with transporting athletes to and from practice and competition events.  The Bell family also provides vital financial support to the local program, including paying facility fees for bowling practice and donating snacks. The greater weight of their impact is seen on the athletes themselves. The Bell family genuinely cares and provides for Watauga County’s athletes, including their daughter, Courtney.  

The 2017 SONC Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Jayne Radionov of Winston-Salem. Radionov gives tirelessly of her time to ensure that every experience provided through Special Olympics is the very best.  Throughout the past decade, she has assisted in the planning and running of Special Olympics Forsyth County’s Spring Games.  She serves as a local roller skating coach and as the venue manager during Special Olympics North Carolina’s annual state-level roller skating competition. 

The 2017 SONC Organization of the Year award was presented to Cannon Middle School of Concord. Cannon Middle School has been a strong supporter of Special Olympics Cabarrus County for four years. In that time, they have organized multiple fundraisers to assist the local program with everyday expenses, as well as fund athletes’ national and international competition opportunities.  Cannon Middle School students and staff also run the Young Athletes area at the annual Spring Games, bringing more than 100 volunteers each year to support their efforts.  During the 2016-2017 school year, Cannon Middle School participated in the Unified Champion Schools program, creating a school-wide community of acceptance by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities. 

The 2017 SONC President’s Award was presented to Claudia Morgan of Winston-Salem and Keith Jones of Pleasant Garden.  Morgan and Jones serve as co-directors for the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run Council, the single largest grassroots fundraising and awareness-building initiative for Special Olympics each year. Through their leadership, law enforcement agencies across the state consistently raised $1.2 million for Special Olympics North Carolina each year. They mentor and recruit new agencies as well as assist in the planning and execution of multiple state-wide fundraisers and the annual NC LETR Conference.  

The 2017 SONC Director’s Award was presented to the Golisano Foundation. The Golisano Foundation’s partnership with Special Olympics, Inc. has allowed Special Olympics North Carolina to vastly increase and improve health programming in the state. The partnership has allowed the organization to increase the frequency and scope of Healthy Athletes screenings as well as offer programs that are more accessible locally with a focus on healthy lifestyles, including nutrition. With the foundation’s support, SONC is working toward a designation as being a Special Olympics Healthy Communities program. Healthy Communities infuses health across all aspects of Special Olympics programming while working to improve year-round access to quality health care, prevention and wellness programming for people with intellectual disabilities.   

Lisa Carroll of Catawba County was named the 2017 Local Program Coordinator of the Year for her leadership as local program coordinator for Special Olympics in Catawba County. Carroll has placed a strong emphasis on developing a committee of volunteers focused on fundraising, volunteer management, athlete recruitment, sports and coaching. She has increased the number of sports offered in Catawba County with the addition of Unified cheerleading and equestrian. Additionally, the tennis, soccer and basketball programs have expanded under Carroll’s leadership. She has developed a plan to recruit new Hispanic athletes thanks to assistance from her co-coordinator, Irene Gomez. Carroll spearheaded a thorough fundraising plan, including recruiting 20 new corporate sponsors and hosting a large Cross-fit fundraiser, raising nearly $30,000 in 2016. 

Ken Smith of WRAL/FOX50 received the 2017 James. E Long Commitment to Excellence Award for his longtime support of the Special Olympics movement in North Carolina. Smith has served on the SONC Board of Directors for four three-year terms but is best known to SONC athletes for his volunteer role as the emcee of the annual Summer Games Opening Ceremony. His enthusiasm and energy make the Parade of Athletes a fun-filled highlight of the weekend-long competition.  In 2010, Smith rappelled 30 stories down the Wells Fargo Capitol Center in downtown Raleigh as one of the first individuals to go Over the Edge for Special Olympics North Carolina. Each year since, Smith has recruited a fellow WRAL-TV anchor to follow in his footsteps, creating valuable awareness of the event. 

About Special Olympics North Carolina

Throughout 2018, the Special Olympics movement is celebrating 50 years of joy, courage and empowerment. Since 1968, the organization has used the transformative power of sports to improve the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Nearly 40,000 athletes in North Carolina inspire thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide.  SONC offers year-round training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports on local and state levels as well as health and wellness initiatives to improve the health status and increase access to community health resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Youth become agents of change through Unified Champion Schools, an education and sports-based program created by Special Olympics to build an inclusive environment among youth with and without intellectual disabilities as well as empower them to become youth leaders and create change in their community. Visit Special Olympics North Carolina at www.specialolympicsnc.com. Engage with us on TwitterInstagramFacebook and YouTube

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