Raymond Henderson of Greenville, North Carolina, was named the 2022 Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) Frank Starling Coach of the Year, according to SONC President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne. Henderson has been an active volunteer coach for Special Olympics Pitt County for over six years, coaching basketball and flag football.
In June 2022, Henderson served as head coach for the Special Olympics Pitt County basketball team, which represented Team SONC at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida. The team won a silver medal in their division. Henderson also facilitated the fundraising of over $25,000 for the team to attend the USA Games.
“At the end of the day, with the people we supported, all that hard work throughout the years paid off,” said Henderson. “The working out, the conditioning, it was the finish line for them.”
Alongside Henderson, 2022 Special Olympics Local Program Coordinator of the Year Brent Harpe coached the Special Olympics Pitt County basketball team representing Team SONC. In preparation for the USA Games, Henderson mentored athletes on the importance of sportsmanship and healthy living. He continues to exercise with athletes outside of scheduled practices, running together every weekend and frequenting the gym.
“I’m involved with them off the basketball court, know where they work out and what they do on a day-to-day basis,” said Henderson. “I’m not just their coach, they can come to me with something that is not pertaining to basketball. I’m a peer and a friend.”
Six years ago, Henderson was introduced to the Special Olympics movement. He also volunteers with the athletics program through Special Olympics Pitt County. Henderson is employed by the Autism Society of North Carolina and runs a local art studio. Through both ventures, and through Special Olympics, his involvement has greatly impacted his community. To watch that impact transcend Pitt County in attending the USA Games was, in Henderson’s words, “amazing.”
“Some of them had never left North Carolina, some of them had never left Pitt County,” remarked Henderson. “For them to experience USA Games, that was amazing. Just the opportunity and what it meant for them made me happy.”
With a new basketball season approaching in the spring, Henderson continues to recruit community members as athletes and as supporters, leading his team to another win for Special Olympics Pitt County.
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.