The 2023 Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) Billy Quick Leadership Award was presented to Special Olympics Gaston County athlete Jacob Huffman. Huffman was presented with the award at the 2023 SONC Summer Games Opening Ceremony, held June 2 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Billy Quick Leadership Award was created in memory of Special Olympics athlete Billy Quick of High Point, North Carolina. In 1998, Quick was chosen from among top leaders around the world to serve as one of the first Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers. Leading the campaign for a more inclusive world for people with intellectual disabilities, his influence would transcend generations, inspiring a shared vision. After his passing in 2016, the Billy Quick Leadership Award was established in 2017 to recognize SONC athletes for their leadership efforts.
“It means so much that someone would consider me as great of a leader as Billy Quick,” said Huffman. “I am not doing this for my own self-promotion, I am doing this to advocate for others who cannot.”
Huffman was introduced to SONC in 2018, first training and competing in volleyball. That same year, he became a Global Messenger. Global Messengers are spokespersons for the organization and can recruit potential athletes, volunteers and sponsors through public presentations. He is an advocate for Special Olympics athletes across the state, serving as chair of the SONC Athlete Council. The SONC Athlete Council is made up of active Special Olympics athletes from across the state who meet quarterly to provide input to the president of SONC on issues in the movement.
“Thanks to Special Olympics, we can show we are capable of doing things and that it is okay to be different,” said Huffman.
During the pandemic, he encouraged his fellow athletes to stay connected through Partner Up Power Up, SONC’s virtual fitness training program. In place of traditional, in-person sports training, athletes and Unified partners, individuals without intellectual disabilities, train together through daily activities and weekly Zoom sessions. Huffman’s involvement with Special Olympics is defined by his efforts to lead, to motivate athletes on and off the field of play.
“All my life, I have been labeled and put in a box as the kid with autism, or that one weird kid who loves the weather,” said Huffman. “I’ve been assigned these boxes all my life and it was time to choose something that I wanted to be known for.”
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. Engage with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.