Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) presented six 2019 state-level awards honoring outstanding individuals that support Special Olympics in North Carolina, according to Keith L. Fishburne, president/CEO of Special Olympics North Carolina.
The following individuals received recognition for their commitment and dedication to Special Olympics during the past year:
- Athlete of the Year:Erykah Culbertson, Cabarrus County
- Frank Starling Coach of the Year: Eugene Mosley, Durham County
- Family of the Year:Cote Family, Forsyth County
- Coordinator of the Year: Jeremy Mincey, Cumberland County
- Billy Quick Leadership Award:Natalie Robins, New Hanover County
- President’s Award: Bob Bowler, Mecklenburg County
The 2019 SONC Athlete of the Year Award was presented to Erykah Culbertson of Cabarrus County. She began participating in Special Olympics in 2005 and has excelled as an athlete and a leader ever since. In 2014, Culbertson was awarded the Robb Williams Tennis Sportsmanship Award which recognizes talented Special Olympics athletes who prioritize sportsmanship. Receiving that award and competing in athletics at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi as part of Special Olympics USA have been highlights of her Special Olympics career. That extensive career also includes training and competing in alpine skiing, basketball, bowling, equestrian, golf, roller skating and tennis.
The 2019 SONC Frank Starling Coach of the Year Award was presented to Eugene Mosley of Durham County. Throughout the year, Mosley alternates playbooks, jerseys and mindsets as he rotates between coaching athletics, basketball and soccer for Special Olympics North Carolina. His stepson, who competes as a Special Olympics North Carolina athlete, has grown up with the knowledge that his teammates, all falling into rank under the leadership of his stepfather, are an extension of his immediate family. Mosley is well-known within his community as an open-minded and supportive individual, both on and off the field of play. For Mosley, sportsmanship is always the top priority.
The 2019 SONC Family of the Year Award was presented to the Cote Family of Forsyth County. Dany Cote, and his wife, Josee, moved to the United States from Canada over 20 years ago. Several years later, Makenzie was welcomed into the world as a second-generation French Canadian American. After learning about the Special Olympics community through volunteering, Makenzie’s parents encouraged her to begin training and competing in sports in elementary school. Beginning with ice hockey through a local league, she later traded her ice skates for roller skates to compete as a Special Olympics athlete. Her parents enjoy not only cheering from the sidelines but stepping in as Special Olympics volunteers as well. For the Cote family, the SONC Fall Tournament has become an event they can all be part of.
The 2019 SONC Coordinator of the Year Award was presented to Jeremy Mincey of Cumberland County. In his position as adaptive sports athletic coordinator for Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation, Mincey works to develop and maintain inclusive sports programming for Special Olympics North Carolina and his local community. For the past ten years, SONC and Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation have partnered to support athletes in a variety of sports events. For nearly five years, Mincey has been overtly dedicated to his involvement in providing opportunities for athletes competing and training in 13 Olympic-type sports as a Local Program Coordinator.
The 2019 Billy Quick Leadership Award was presented to Natalie Robins of New Hanover County. Robins has been an athlete in Special Olympics for over 40 years and has competed in bocce, swimming, bowling, softball, soccer and athletics. The Wilmington resident has won more than 50 medals, but it is the accomplishments that she has made off the field that are perhaps the most important. Robins serves in variety of leadership roles within Special Olympics. She was the first Special Olympics athlete in North Carolina to become a coach. Robins is also a Global Messenger for Special Olympics North Carolina and delivers speeches at numerous events. She even traveled to Japan in 1999 to speak about her experiences as an athlete. Robins currently serves as chairwoman of the Special Olympics North Carolina Athlete Council, a group of athletes who provide feedback and guidance on issues pertaining to Special Olympics.
The 2019 SONC President’s Award was presented to Bob Bowler of Mecklenburg County. In his extensive career with Special Olympics North Carolina, Bowler’s energetic disposition and commitment to bettering the lives of people with intellectual disabilities have earned him the esteemed titles of SONC Coach of the Year, SONC Volunteer of the Year and Special Olympics International Volunteer of the Year. For the past 19 years, Bowler has led Camp SOAR in Charlotte, a week-long day camp as a program for Special Olympics athletes, encouraging them to try new sports and recruit new athletes.
About Special Olympics North Carolina
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 20 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 Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.