Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) presented six 2020 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.
Awards were presented to the following individuals during statewide virtual webinar sessions for SONC’s 10-week virtual fitness program, Partner Up Power Up.
- Athlete of the Year: Kwame Alston, Orange County
- Frank Starling Coach of the Year: Amber Radford, Gaston County
- Family of the Year: Spaeth Family, Guilford/Greensboro
- Coordinator of the Year: Susanne Parker, Cherokee County
- Billy Quick Leadership Award: Annie Tane, Orange County
- Volunteer of the Year: Wes Juda, Brunswick County
The 2020 SONC Athlete of the Year Award was presented to Kwame Alston of Orange County. An athlete for more than 15 years, Alston competes in soccer, basketball, track and cycling. He is active in Special Olympics Unified Sports®, an initiative providing inclusive sports opportunities for individuals with and without disabilities, as a member of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Unified basketball, flag football and disc golf teams. Alston coaches cycling, guiding athletes through practice trails and exercises in changing gears. Also engaged in his community working through his employer, Extraordinary Ventures, a business offering employment opportunities for individuals of all abilities, he was nominated as Chapelboro’s Hometown Hero, an award he was presented with in May.
The 2020 SONC Frank Starling Coach of the Year Award was presented to Amber Radford of Gaston County. Over the past 13 years, Radford has coached for SONC in three different counties – Durham, Jackson and Gaston. Currently coaching soccer and volleyball, she has also coached athletics (track and field), basketball, bowling and softball. In her role as coach chair on the Special Olympics Gaston County volunteer committee, Radford manages requirements for coach certifications, social events for athletes and communication with local volunteers. Radford prioritizes the goals and needs of each athlete and works diligently to ensure that they are taking full advantage of all Special Olympics opportunities available to them.
The 2020 SONC Family of the Year Award was presented to the Spaeth Family of Special Olympics Guilford/Greensboro. Athlete, AJ, has been involved with Special Olympics for eight years, competing in athletics (track and field), bowling and swimming. He has competed at the local, state, national and international levels. In 2018, he competed in the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle and at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Last year, he was among the select Special Olympics USA representatives invited to the White House by President Donald J. Trump to celebrate their accomplishments in Abu Dhabi. In becoming an athlete leader within his local program, he is supported by his father, Joe, and his mother, Valerie.
The 2020 SONC Coordinator of the Year Award was presented to Susanne Parker of Cherokee County. A retired special education teacher at Peachtree Elementary School of Cherokee County Schools as of June 2020, Parker will continue in her volunteer position with SONC, one that she has held for over 12 years. Parker has prioritized sports and health programs development through an increase in individual contributions, general sponsorships and service club participation that results in over $16,000 being raised annually. A mentor to both new and experienced Special Olympics volunteers, Parker is a positive, motivating agent for Special Olympics athletes, volunteers and fans alike.
The 2020 Billy Quick Leadership Award was presented to Annie Tane of Orange County. Tane’s experience serving as a peer leader within the SONC community is exemplified by her current roles as both a Global Messenger and a member of the SONC Athlete Council. This April, Tane also completed four-week, virtual training program to become a credited Health Messenger by SONC’s governing body, Special Olympics International.
The 2020 SONC Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Wes Juda of Brunswick County. Launching the first-ever cycling program within Special Olympics Brunswick County in 2014, Juda has become an influential coach and mentor in the sport. In 2019, he became a certified SONC volleyball coach, leading their team to a silver medal in his first year as coach. This year, he planned the first-ever Polar Plunge fundraiser, raising a total of $40,000 in support of the local Special Olympics Brunswick County athletes competing in 11 Olympic-type sports.
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.