Special Olympics Harnett County local program coordinator, Holly Watt, was named the 2021 Special Olympics North Carolina Coordinator of the Year, according to Keith L. Fishburne, President/CEO of Special Olympics North Carolina. Watt received the award in a virtual presentation on July 28.
In the past five years serving as local program coordinator, Watt has added the following sport opportunities for Special Olympics Harnett County athletes: cheerleading, tennis, softball skills, soccer skills and golf. She has also continued to support bocce, basketball, bowling and swimming. Watt is a certified Special Olympics coach in all of the sports listed, with the exclusion of cheerleading. Watt’s daughter, Kelly Dixon, competes as a Special Olympics Harnett County athlete and is also a certified Special Olympics coach.
“I’ve been doing Special Olympics in North Carolina since 1996, so I’ve had a lot of good role models in people in different counties,” said Watt. “If you want to start up a sport, the best way to do that is to get trained in it…Kelly keeps me updated because, usually, she’ll go with me to the training, so both of us are certified. She is certified in everything that I am.”
Working in conjunction with Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences and assistant professor of public health Dr. David Tillman, Watt assisted in hosting two MedFests in 2019 and three MedFests in 2020. MedFest events offer the physical exam that athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports programming. Her work with Campbell University also includes strengthening community partnerships with various university departments, employing the efforts of their newly-established Special Olympics Club.
“Dr. David Tillman, who I worked with at Harnett County schools a few years ago, he sits on my steering committee,” said Watt. “We had almost 300 physicals done between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020. Dr. Tillman really was the driving force in that.”
In 2020, Special Olympics North Carolina launched the Partner Up Power Up program, a 10-week Unified Sports® training and fitness plan that can be completed from home, without access to internet. Unified Sports programs bring individuals with and without intellectual disabilities together through sports, helping to create communities of acceptance and respect. Watt was supportive of the Partner Up Power Up program this past year, with a team of 16 participants involved in the fall 2020 session and 380 participants in the spring 2021 session, including participation from 15 schools across Harnett County.
“In the past, I would meet with the principals at the schools and put my face out there,” said Watt. “Rely on those people who have been doing it forever, take their lead. That’s what I’m trying to do with Partner Up Power Up, it’s good to have that communication.”
Watt is a longtime advocate for Special Olympics programming and its accessibility to athletes across the state. Special Olympics North Carolina relies on the support of local program coordinators, like Watt, to continue to implement impactful sport training and competition opportunities in their communities.
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.