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Special Olympics Canada Announces 2014 National Awards Winners

Special Olympics Canada is delighted to announce its National Awards winners for 2014. The Special Olympics Canada National Awards recognize the athletes, coaches and volunteers who have exemplified the spirit and essence of the Special Olympics Movement throughout the year. Award winners will be honoured during the 2014 National Awards evening on Thursday, November 20 at Glenn Gould Studios in Toronto. Special Olympics Canada’s 2014 Award Winners are:

Female Athlete of the Year – Samantha Currie, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Samantha has been a Special Olympics athlete for the past 12 years. In that time, she has participated in an array of sports, but her true love is swimming. She is consistently setting new personal bests and improving her skills regularly. At the 2013 Canada Games, she won a silver medal in the 100m backstroke and a bronze in the 50m breaststroke. At the 2014 Special Olympics Manitoba Spring Games, she finished first in every event in which she competed.

Male Athlete of the Year – Stephen Graham, Orillia, Ontario

For the past 17 years, Stephen has been competing and participating as a Special Olympics athlete in countless different sports, from softball to athletics, curling to basketball and swimming to speed skating. Stephen has already gone to two World Games as a speed skater, in 2009 and 2013, but in the past year, he demonstrated his athletic prowess on a different kind of track. In 2013, Stephen qualified to attend the 2014 Special Olympics Canada National Games in four events: the 800m, 1500m, 3000m and the long jump.

Special Olympics Festival Volunteer of the Year – Lorraine LeClair, Moncton, New Brunswick

Lorraine has been a Special Olympics volunteer since 2005, when she first chaired the Special Olympics New Brunswick Summer Games in Moncton. She has also chaired the Special Olympics Festival in New Brunswick since its inception in 2013, which has surpassed fundraising goals each year. Lorraine has an innate ability to work under pressure and her ability to recruit and train volunteers is unparalleled. The Special Olympics New Brunswick 2013 festival was the first of its kind and, with Lorraine’s help, it has become their most recognized event.

Male Coach of the Year – Brent Lohmer, Stonewall, Manitoba

Brent has been coaching Special Olympics powerlifting in Manitoba for the past 11 years. Most recently, he was selected to represent Manitoba at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games as their powerlifting coach. Being a coach in a small sport, finding opportunities for his athletes to experience meaningful competition is not always easy, but he hasn’t let that stop him. He took his athletes south of the border to a competition in South Dakota to prepare them for National Games, where they all achieved personal best performances.

Male Coach of the Year – Glen Ellison, Delta, British Columbia

Glen has been a longstanding fixture on the Special Olympics scene, being involved with almost every sport Special Olympics offers. He has been a head coach for floor hockey, basketball, soccer and softball and has been an assistant coach for many other sports as well. As a head coach, he plans effective practices that meet the individual needs of the athletes. He makes a point of knowing all of his athletes, their strengths and weaknesses, customizing his approach with each individual athlete.

Female Coach of the Year – Tanya Smith, Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador

A coach for the last 10 years in Gander, Tanya has been involved with Special Olympics for years. She is currently the head coach for golf and the assistant coach for athletics, snowshowing and curling. At the 2013 Provincial Summer Games, all ten athletes she coached went home with medals around their necks as well as personal bests. Three of those ten athletes were selected to the Provincial Team to attend the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games. Tanya was also selected to attend the Games as Newfoundland’s head coach for golf.

Team of the Year – D’Bears, Winnipeg, Manitoba

The D’Bears basketball team has been playing together for the past 3 years. This team has worked extremely hard over the past year, getting ready for the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games. They seamlessly incorporated two new athletes and welcomed them to the team with open arms. They competed at the state tournament at the North Dakota Games, placing third in the top division.

Rob Plunkett Award – Stephen Hug, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Stephen has been involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for the past 27 years, holding the position of Chair in the Prince Albert region for the last 15 years. The Prince Albert region has raised an incredible $750,000 in total over the years, thanks largely in part to the dedication, organization and leadership of Stephen.

Jim Thompson Award – Darren Whitehead, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Darren is an incredible volunteer, who has made extraordinary contributions to his community and the Province of Saskatchewan at large. Whether it is in the capacity of coach, committee member, fundraiser, referee, or community advocate, he has always lived and breathed Special Olympics at the local, provincial, national and international levels.

Dr. Frank Hayden Award – Brita Hall, Winnipeg, Manitoba

For 34 years, Brita Hall has been a Special Olympics athlete. She has won medals on some of the grandest stages, competing in athletics and cross country skiing at Provincial, National and Special Olympics World Games, as well as the Paralympics in Lillehammer and Nagano. Brita is still showing her talents at an elite level, having just represented Manitoba at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Vancouver earlier this year.

 Dr. Frank Hayden Award – Nicole Ferguson

Nicole has been involved as an athlete with Special Olympics for 36 years. She has participated in almost every sport offered by her local program in Timmins, including softball, swimming, soccer, curling, 5-pin bowling, cross country skiing, speed skating, floor hockey, athletics and powerlifting. Over the course of her athletic career, she has appeared in multiple Provincial, National and Special Olympics World Games. In June 2014, she was inducted into the Timmins New Hall of Fame.

Harry “Red” Foster Award – Bob Nicholson, Stouffville, Ontario

An active leader in the Special Olympics Movement for over 25 years, Bob served on and was Chair of the Special Olympics Ontario Board for several years. He has led Board committees and was the key driver of the Board Fundraising Committee during his tenure. His true passion, however, lies in event management and the development of the Wizard Foundation, showing a vision for organizational excellence and raising more than two million dollars for Special Olympics in Canada.