2018 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Special Olympics Male Athlete of the Year – Lewis Gordon – Valdosta/Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority

Outstanding Adult Volunteer – Richard Swann – Augusta Stars

Outstanding Family – Anthony Family – Muscogee Sports


2017 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Outstanding Local Special Olympics Program Award:  This program has been involved with SOGA since 2004, and attended their first State Games in 2008. Throughout the years they have competed in traditional and three on three basketball, tennis, volleyball, rhythmic gymnastics, bowling, bocce, and golf. They work diligently to have their athletes become a part of the larger community. congratulations to Albany Recreation Parks Department as the 2017 Outstanding Local Program.

Spirit of Special Olympics Georgia Award: Elizabeth has been involved with SOGA for 35 incredible years. She train quality volunteers and coaches, keeps track of accreditation, and is very active in volunteering with her local Special Olympics program. Congratulations, Elizabeth Elzy 2017 Spirit of Special Olympics Award Winner.

Outstanding Coaches of the Year:  These two people have been coaching for Special Olympics since 2005. The pair has coached many sports including: softball, basketball, volleyball, athletics and flag football. They challenge the athletes to learn their sport, improve their skills, play with good sportsmanship, and never allow disability as a reason one cannot accomplish a goal. Their leadership and guidance has directly contributed to the expansion of teams, individuals, and unified partner sports in Forsyth County. Congratulations to the much deserved 2017 Outstanding Coaches of the Year, Wayne Hancock and Gail Johnson!

Outstanding Local Coordinator of the Year: If it was not for this local coordinator, her county would not have a Special Olympics program. She is not only an outstanding local coordinator, but also an amazing coach, volunteer, and head of delegation. Her leadership, guidance, and knowledge has had a wonderful impact on Dawson County’s Special Olympics program. Congratulations to the 2017 Outstanding Local Coordinator—Kim Baker!

Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year:  This athlete’s positive attitude is contagious. She has been involved with her agency for three years now and has served as a role model for her teammates since she began. She truly epitomizes the athlete’s oath. Congratulations to the Special Olympics female athlete of the year—Morgan Black from Gwinnett County Special Forces!


2016 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Spirit of Special Olympics:   The unified partner being awarded this honor truly shows that she has served the athletes of Special Olympics Georgia, their parents, and their caregivers with her whole heart. This volunteer became a unified partner for a non-verbal athlete and has continued to help out in any way needed. She is described by her peers as a “caregiver”. When it comes to Special Olympics she has been a driving force to bring the full Special Olympics experience to all of the athletes under her care. This person organized and acquired Special Olympics letter so the athletes could receive letter men hoodies at Mill Creek.  When her athletes age out of the school system she does her best to keep them plugged into special Olympics into adulthood. Congratulations to this year’s Most Spirit of Special Olympics, Karen O’Connor of Gwinnett County Special Olympics!

Outstanding Volunteer of the Year:   This volunteer became involved about four years ago when her daughter, a young athlete, competed in the fall state games in bocce. This person has consistently volunteered as a coach in both bocce and bowling every subsequent year, which has directly helped Dawson County steadily increase their participation level in both sports. She is also a member of Dawson County’s management team, serving as the treasurer. This volunteer has always exceeded all associated deadlines. She has also done the majority of fundraising for Dawson County in the last year. Congrats to the much deserving Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year to Angela Cooper!

Outstanding Coach of the Year:  This coach has developed a strong local Special Olympics aquatics program while at the same time teaching, being a wife, mother and competing in road races and half marathons herself. She is light to their delegation and we are proud to have her as a part of Special Olympics Georgia. Jenna you are the best and thank you so much. The Outstanding Coach of the Year award goes to Jenna Shaner from Coweta County!

Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year:  Colleen was named manager of her high school Jr. Varsity cheerleading team last year and is officially on the team this year! She has competed in basketball, gymnastics, aquatics, track, bowling, equestrian, and soccer! Is there an event you can’t do Colleen? I don’t think so!  We appreciate colleen and her positive “I can do anything attitude” and that’s why she has earned this award. Congratulations Colleen Davis from Coweta County Outstanding Athlete of the Year!

Outstanding Family of the Year:  The Willock family has participated with Special Olympics Georgia for 20 years. Joey has participated in softball, bocce, basketball, volleyball, and bowling. His parents Gerri and Chuck travel to all of his competitions to cheer him on and they are always there to lend a hand to their agency whenever needed. Whether it’s fundraising, managements, playing as a partner, or getting new families involved. They make not only their program stronger but Special Olympics Georgia as a whole. Congrats Willocks Family from Albany Recreation and Parks Department for Outstanding Family of the Year!

Outstanding Local Coordinator of the Year: As the Local Coordinator and Recreational Therapist for 25 years, Kelly has implemented and organized several sports programs, including preschool through high school and adult ages. Each year she organizes the track and field Spring Games in Coweta County, inviting neighboring counties. They are successful each year, and it could not have happened without her. Kelly is very passionate about the athletes and is always leading them to do their best and lead successful lives. She is always willing to go the extra mile to assure that the athletes are able to show and excel in their capabilities. Through hard work, motivation, and encouragement, it is no doubt that this award is much well deserved. Congratulations to the 2016 Outstanding Local Coordinator of the Year, Kelly Abercrombie with Coweta County!


2015 Distinguished Service Award Winners

Outstanding Local Coordinator of the Year: This coordinator truly shows that she has served the athletes of Special Olympics Georgia with her whole heart. This volunteer has been dedicated to her program for over 10 years and can be described in one word by her peers, “selfless”. Not only does she treat the athletes in her program with respect and support, but she recognizes each of them as a part of her own family. This person has accomplished serving on the area management team, acting as director of area games and creating events within her local community, like “the egg-ceptional egg hunt,” and a very special wild-west prom, allowing children & adults with special needs to experience various events that they may not have had an opportunity to experience if it wasn’t for her efforts.  This volunteer has worked tirelessly throughout the state for state games but especially in the Valdosta/Lowndes county area.  This year’s 2015 Outstanding Local Coordinator award goes to Tammy Crosby of Valdosta Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority!

Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year: This volunteer has a young athlete in the Dekalb County Parks and Recreation agency that plays in the sports of softball, basketball, and volleyball. This person always brings water, snacks and food for the athletes. She organizes the parents that participate to make sure all the athletes have the support they need. She will often pick up the athletes to take them to different sporting events. Her favorite saying is, “it’s all for the kids.” I hope this will help you everyone see how deserving Cleo Jackson is to be named the Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year!

Outstanding Family of the Year: This family has been a huge part of Special Olympics Georgia for 5 years. The daughter, Montana aka Tana, has recently joined the Coweta County Special Olympics management team this fall. Her mother, Teresa has been a member and also chairs the winter & spring Special Olympics socials. Montana was named SOGA Female Athlete of 2012, student athlete of the week for east Coweta High School, and runner up in the Indian Princess Pageant naming Coweta County Special Olympics her charity organization. Teresa was also named Coweta County Special Olympics Adult Volunteer of 2011. Stephen, Montana’s father, is the person who always provides the muscle and support to all events, ready to jump in and help out in any way. Brother Mar has also been involved with events and is a huge help. He is a strong supporter of Montana and escorted her and Teresa to dances. This family is truly an outstanding family who supports each other as well as Coweta County Special Olympics. It is my pleasure to present the 2015 DSA Outstanding Family of the Year to the Bush Family!

Outstanding Coach of the Year: This coach best exemplifies the dedication and unselfish efforts associated with the true spirit of Special Olympics.  He has worked tirelessly for state games but especially in Southwest Georgia, as a coach, unified partner, chaperone, and some cases a driver for his agency, this coach’s dedication and service to the athletes has been described as being passionate. He is a well known advocate for people with physical and intellectual disabilities in his community by creating a program called “open gym for people with disabilities.” The most important is his desire and effort to inspire the Special Olympics athletes of Georgia to reach their potential through sports. It is our honor to present Morris Hicks of Albany Recreation and Parks as 2015 Special Olympics Georgia Coach of the Year!

The Spirit of Special Olympics:  This certified Special Olympics coach for Gwinnett Masters coached softball, basketball, and bowling. He was one of the most beloved coaches in Gwinnett county history.  In December 2013, this wonderful man passed away quite suddenly, leaving coaches, parents, and athletes heartbroken.  Yet in life this man embodied the essence of Special Olympics and a love for the athletes that went beyond coaching.  When it came to coaching, his patience was remarkable.  Even though he had an injured body, he continued to pitch balls to athletes for them in batting practice. If anyone ever embodied the spirit of Special Olympics it was him.  He gave so much in his life for the athletes that he loved and that will never be forgotten! It is with great honor that we present the Spirit of Special Olympics 2015 award to the late Wayne Courson.

The Outstanding Grassroots Support from a Business on a Local or Area Level:  This particular department has been involved with Special Olympics Georgia for over 40 years and is one of the original founders their local program.  This recreational department built an all accessible field for our athletes and the community!  Athletes spend the day training with local community volunteers and recreation department employees in basketball and softball skills, receive a free lunch, and have time for a meet and greet with local fire fighters.  Parents are always encouraged to participate in these events and activities.  After 40 years of commitment and service to their community and dedication to Special Olympic sports, it is with great pleasure to present Coweta County Recreation Department, with  the 2015 Outstanding Grassroots Support for a Business on a Local or Area Level award!

2015 Male Athlete of the Year:  As a natural left-handed athlete, this young man is very competitive, remains calmly cool, and competes with a twinkle in his eye and a smile.  He competes in bocce and track & field.  He has been a member of the Jedi Masters bocce team, which has won numerous gold and silver medals and honors.  He has served as team manager for the Archer High School football team and was featured in an article in the Gwinnett Daily Post.  He epitomizes love in its purest form.  Born with multiple disabilities and frequently ill, this guy still smiles every time you see him.  You cannot help but love him when he is around you and he makes his teammates and coaches lives that much better.  For his years of commitment, persevering attitude, and dedication to his sports, it is my great pleasure to award Jeffery Pennington of Gwinnett Special Forces the 2015 Male Athlete of the Year!

Outstanding Organization of the Year: Northgate High School Viking Vittles: This group of young volunteers above and beyond the call of your average volunteer group as they have provided outstanding volunteer support to the Coweta County Special Olympics. These students work throughout the year at their local high school sorting, stringing, and bunching award ribbon and medals together for Coweta County Special Olympics. They also provide dessert for the Coweta County Special Olympics Track and Field meet feeding over 600 cookies to volunteer that work the event. Thanks to all whom are involved with the Northgate High School Viking Vittles!

Special Olympics Female Athlete of the Year: Tyechia Luster Albany Recreation and Parks Department: Tyechia Luster is an accomplished Special olympic athlete who really looks forward to each sport and competition with great enthusiasm.   2014 was a banner year for Tyechia that started with she and her teammates taking gold at Winter Games in 3 vs 3 basketball. At summer games she won the gold medal in tennis skills at Emory University. She was selected to represent Georgia in the USA games in New Jersey and brought home medals in bocce in singles, doubles, and team competition. Tyechia participated in masters bowling and also took home a gold medal at Fall Games in Unified Bocce. Thank you Tyechia!

2014 Distinguished Service Award Winners

 Outstanding Organization of the Year: Senoia Optimist Club, Coweta County: The Senoia Optimist Club Has been a dedicated group withing the Special Olympics community for several years. The Coweta County School systems fundraisers/projects would not have been successful without the participation of this organization. The Senoia Optimist Club volunteered at the local Coweta bowling tournaments, spring games, and bucket brigades. When they arrive at events, they are always eager to start and stay until the last task is completed. These men and women go above and beyond what is expected of your average volunteers as they provide year around support of Coweta County Special Olympics and Area 06 Special Olympics. Thank you all at the Senoia Optimist Club!

 Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year: Ellen Holland Co-Medical Director for SOGA: Ellen Holland has been a dedicated volunteer for Special Olympics Georgia for a number of years.  She has gone from volunteering her time at one event to doing as many as she can year in and year out. Ellen is everywhere there is a SOGA event. She has also taken SOGA from having whatever medical volunteers we can find to having a core group of volunteers that we can rely on for each set of State Games and other events. In addition, she has been instrumental in growing and maintaining the medical supplies needed for any event. Ellen constantly dedicates herself to SOGA and we say “Thank You!”

Outstanding Local Special Olympics Program: Douglas County Special Olympics: The Douglas County Special Olympics program, hosted by Douglas County Parks and Recreation, was established in 2005. The division began their sports programming by offering bocce, softball, basketball, and bowling. Since 2007 the program has added volleyball, power lifting, swimming, tennis, and golf. The program has also served as the site of Sports Training Clinics, as well as producing sports instructors for other training held around the state. The Douglas County Special Olympics program has served as a catalyst of training and advocacy through the last several years. Thank all of you at The Douglas County Special Olympics Program!

Outstanding Local Coordinator: Christie Mill, Douglas County: Christie Mills is best described as having total commitment to the needs and well being of individuals with intellectual disabilities. From the beginning, Christie has evaluated the needs of athletes while creating and managing new and different programs to serve the community. Christie has been an invaluable instrument of inclusion and understanding of Special Olympics in her community. Thank you Christie!

The Outstanding Grassroots Support From a Business on the Local or Area Level: Panda Express- Newnan,Georgia: Panda Express of Newnan, GA. has made a profound impact on the Coweta County special Olympics program through its continued and year round support of our the local program. Panda Express employees work the food tents in the local event Olympic Town feeding hundreds of athletes and volunteers. They do a wonderful job of keeping the area organized, the flow of traffic running smoothly, and celebrating the success of each athlete as they pass through the venue. Panda Express’ commitment to the Coweta Special Olympics Program and their compassion for our athletes is a quality that motivates all of us. Thank all of you at Panda Express-Newnan!

 Male Athlete of the Year: Eric Estes, Carrollton Parks and Recreation: Eric has been an athlete with Special Olympics GA since he was a young boy and it continues to remain top priority for him today. He always displays a huge smile and you can see the excitement in his eyes when he sees you. Eric participates in bowling, golf, and volleyball; as well as many other events over the years and he is a true team player with impeccable character. His years of commitment to the Carrollton Parks and Recreation program, his attitude, and his dedication to his sports make him the ideal athlete for this award. Thank you Eric!

Outstanding Coach of the Year: Bobbie Young, Hall County: Bobby has volunteered and coached for special Olympics since 1990 when she was living in Texas. She continued her work when she moved to Albany Georgia in 1996 coaching cross country, track and field, and skiing. She has since moved to Gainesville, Georgia where she has continued her great work for SOGA. Bobbie is an extrmely humble person that never wants any recognition for what she does. Thank you Bobbie!

Outstanding Youth Volunteers of the Year: Tara and Anna Iyengar, Coweta County: Tara and Anna are both wonderful girls who lead by example; always going above and beyond for the athletes in the Coweta County Special Olympics. The girls have traveled to several state events as day only helpers, overnight helpers/ chaperones and this past year as Unified partners on the swim team relay races. The Coweta County has a swim program that has two levels of participation with the practices being held on Saturday mornings. Tara and Anna work both sessions every Saturday morning offering each athlete a friendship forged in compassion and competitiveness that drives each athlete during training and competition. Thank you both Tara and Anna!

Spirit of Special Olympics Georgia: Marie Stamps, Alabany Parks and Recreation: If there was one word to describe Marie it would be “Dedicated”. For the past three decades she has worked tirelessly throughout the state, but especially in southwest Georgia to promote Special Olympics. One of her life’s missions is to work with and train athletes with intellectual disabilities, thus improving their quality of life. She has trained hundreds of athletes, volunteers, and coaches as well as being a certified coach in almost every one of the 25 sports offered by SOGA. She works tirelessly to recruit athletes to participate in the Albany Parks and Recreation Department Special Olympics program. No one in the southwest Georgia region has done more to help bring sports opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities than Marie. Thank you Marie!