2018 Hall of Fame
Congratulations to the Special Olympics Colorado 2018 Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental inductees!
Male Athlete of the Year
Living by the Special Olympics Oath was the driving Force for Peter Naffah. When he became a Special Olympics Colorado athlete twenty-years ago and first pledged the oath, those words and its powerful meaning were reflected in everything Peter did and everyone he touched.
At the age of twelve, Peter joined the Cherry Creek Alpine Team where he quickly learned to ski. A natural born athlete, Peter flourished in skiing, swimming, basketball and tennis. Peter’s mom, Kathi Jensen said, “As a parent, there was nothing better than to watch Peter joyfully interacting with his teammates and coaches, putting his whole heart into competing and then celebrating enthusiastically afterwards.”
Over the years he won countless medals and accomplished so much in his lifetime, but for Peter, his greatest joy was in uplifting others to achieve their goals. He was his teammates’ biggest fan. He challenged both them and himself to be brave in the attempt.
A huge sports fan, working with the DU Pioneers was a lifelong dream For Peter. He joined their team as the Volunteer Equipment Manager in 2013 and attended every home game and practice. He was always there to help whether it was folding towels, filling water bottles, energizing his team before the big game, or just being a friend when a teammate was in need. A longtime volunteer, Peter had become an integral part of the team, Forever a Pioneer.
Invested in his community and as a teaching assistant at the RISE School, Peter was a leader and a friend to everyone. He had a genuine way with the students he worked with For more than five years at the RISE School. He was a role model who led with compassion and joy.
On December 20, 2017, our community lost a great friend when Peter unexpectedly died from Pneumococcal Meningitis at the age of thirty-one. He was one of a kind. The sparkle in his eye, his boundless joy and warm laughter will be forever missed.
It is with great honor that we induct Peter Naffah into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the 2018 Male Athlete of the Year.
Award sponsored by:
Female Athlete of the Year
A Special Olympics Colorado athlete for the past five years, Tori competes in aquatics, track and field, bowling, golf and soccer, winning dozens of medals. This July, Victoria represented Colorado at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington and earned a gold in the 100-Meter Freestyle and a silver in the relay.
Outside of her remarkable athletic accomplishments, Victoria is a team leader, a supportive teammate, and a friend to everyone she meets. She recently joined the Special Olympics Colorado Athlete Leadership Program where she is learning to shape the future of the Special Olympics movement by ensuring that all people with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to participate in sports training and competition.
“It’s such an amazing feeling!” said Deana Guzman, Victoria’s mom, when asked about how Special Olympics Colorado has changed Victoria’s life. “ This is my child being included, my child doing a sport, my child being free. This is my child not being put into a box.”
Through incredible determination, focus and strength, Victoria has become the confident, accomplished champion that we are honored to induct into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the 2018 Female Athlete of the Year.
Award sponsored by:
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH COLORADO
Doug Fulton Unified Champion Schools Kindness Award
Originally a Special Olympics College Club, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) officially launched its Unified Champion School program in 2016 and now offers students both with and without intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play on Unified basketball, flag football and volleyball teams. As a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, UNC has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement and respect for all members of the student body and staff.
UNC has recently become the first university in Colorado to be recognized as a National Banner School by Special Olympics International. A Unified Champion School receiving National Banner recognition is one that has demonstrated commitment to inclusion by meeting ten National standards of excellence developed by a panel of leaders.
“The programs that Special Olympics Colorado offers has made a significant impact at UNC. We have students who have been actively involved with the sports side for years and students who have taken their first leap into sports by participating in Special Olympics events. The amazing thing here is, one would think that it’s the students aiding the athletes when it’s the athletes that are aiding the students by helping them to open up and come out of their shells. It’s really amazing to see both sides of the relationships built,” says Kennidi Cobbley, Graduate Assistant of Competitive Sports at the University of Northern Colorado.
Beyond school events, UNC takes part in actively supporting Special Olympics Colorado. Each February they host the Northeast Regional Basketball tournament while in March they host a “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign where they ask students to take the pledge to never use the hurtful words “retard” or “retarded.”
Playing “Unified” is ingrained in their culture which is why we are proud to induct the University of Northern Colorado into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the recipient of the 2018 Doug Fulton Unified Champion School Kindness Award.
THE EGAN FAMILY
Family of the Year
Karen and Terry Egan, along with their five children, have been involved with Special Olympics Colorado since 2004. They were first introduced to Special Olympics Colorado through their son Vincent who became an athlete at the age of nine. Over the years, the Egan family has invested a huge amount of time, energy and resources into raising awareness and support For Special Olympics Colorado.
In 2005, shortly after Vincent became an athlete, his sisters Dulce, Laura, Mary and Erin became Unified Partners. In 2015, Vince and his sister Mary attended the Social Impact World Youth Summit where they presented a project to promote inclusion and social change within their community. Vince, Mary and Erin have also been trained as Global Messengers and Vince is currently participating in the year-long Athlete Ambassador Program.
As a family they were the Founding members of the Southeast and State Youth Activation Committees, and have participated in numerous Polar Plunge, Plane Pull, and Tip-A-Cop fundraising events. They have traveled throughout Colorado to give speeches about the positive impact Special Olympics has on its growing community of over 24,000 athletes and the importance of its programs. In 2016, Vincent and his mom Karen traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and discuss the importance of Special Olympics and what it means to them as a family.
Together as a family, they are champions For Special Olympics Colorado in everything they do, everywhere they go. They’re creating a bigger and brighter world of inclusion For their generation and younger generations to follow.
Congratulations to the Egan Family on being inducted into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the 2018 Family of the Year.
Volunteers of the Year
Michael (Mike) Ruspil began volunteering for Special Olympics Colorado over 40 years ago and has been a champion for our athletes ever since. As a young adult, Mike was greatly influenced by Special Olympics, so much so that he was inspired to become an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher with Mesa County School District #51 to continue his work with special needs students. “I have seen incredible athletic feats completed by people who at one point in time were told they would never walk, and they would never play on a field,” said Mike.
Mike’s early career experiences through his retirement years have been directed by his strong desire to help Special Olympics athletes and assist in the events that make such a positive impact in their lives. As the Co-Director of the State Summer Games Organizing Committee, Mike plans, coordinates and fundraises for the largest annual Special Olympics Colorado competition. More than 1,200 athletes and unified partners are in attendance for this powerful and inspirational three-day event.
Mike has dedicated his heart and soul to Special Olympics Colorado. “His passion, positive attitude, problem-solving skills, ability to enlist community support, and the giving of his own personal time has earned him the respect of his co-workers as well as the District 51 community,”says Laine Greenhill,
longtime friend and past colleague.
Special Olympics Colorado would not be where it is today without our 2018 Volunteer of the Year, Mike Ruspil. On behalf of all of the athletes, partners, staff and board, we are exceptionally proud to honor Mike as our 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
Award sponsored by:
EXPLORE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Young Athlete Program of the Year
As part of the Mapleton Public School District, Explore Elementary School has participated in the Young Athlete Program for the past eight years. Young Athletes is an inclusive sports play program for children of all abilities between the ages of two through seven. The program helps introduce children into the world of sports and helps them develop their physical, cognitive and social skills. It also introduces parents and families to the network and provides them support and resources.
Serving more than sixty students with and without intellectual disabilities in four preschool classrooms, Explore Elementary has become a leader in inclusive education. They successfully participated in the Healthy Leap program last semester, which is an eight-week in-school health and wellness education program. Additionally, Explore Elementary Preschool Teacher Kendra Gilmour, recently became a Special Olympics Colorado Unified Juniors basketball and soccer coach.
Under the leadership of the Director of Early Childhood Education, Kristen Morel, the Mapleton School District hosted the first-ever, combined district-wide Young Athletes Field Day in May which included three hundred Mapleton Preschool students From six different preschools, becoming a model event for other districts to soon follow. “The Young Athletes Program made an incredible impact on our young students. They were given rich opportunities with high quality equipment that not only built their strength, agility and movement; it also built their understanding of working on a team and supporting their friends while trying new skills all together,” says Kristen Morel.
We are proud to award Explore Elementary School as the 2018 Young Athlete Program of the Year and induct them into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame.
Award sponsored by:
COLORADO SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Community Partner of the Year
For the past eleven years, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame has been an avid partner and supporter of Special Olympics Colorado. Their partnership and generosity has helped Special Olympics Colorado provide sports training and competition For over 24,000 athletes while helping to further our mission of inclusion through sports.
Every other year, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame recognizes a Special Olympics Colorado Athlete with the distinguished “Athlete With Disabilities Award” For their leadership in sports and athletics during their prestigious Induction Banquet. Earlier this year, 2017 Honorary ESPY winner, Jason Horton, received this award while battling cancer.
Committed to ending discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame has a permanent exhibit in their museum dedicated to Special Olympics Colorado.
We are immensely grateful to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and pleased to induct them into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the 2018 Community Partner of the Year.
EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Law Enforcement Agency of the Year
El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has been a long-time supporter of Special Olympics Colorado and an active Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) partner since 2002. Over the past sixteen years, in addition to the Law Enforcement Torch Run, El Paso County law enforcement officers have participated in multiple events including the Polar Plunge, Plane Pull, No Shave November and various Tip-a-Cop events. They have taken fundraising and advocacy to a whole new level, and were recognized as the highest fundraising Law Enforcement Agency in 2017 raising nearly $54,000 for Special Olympics Colorado athletes. The agency also participated in the Denver? Phone-A-Thon helping to raise funds and awareness for our Young Athlete Program. You can also find El Paso County Sheriff’s Office volunteering at regional events giving medal presentations and cheering on our athletes.
Sheriff Deputy Elder not only loves raising money for our athletes, but he saw a benefit within the community and encourages his officers to participate year-round. Combined with Deputy Keenan Duke’s passion and drive, the agency took fundraising and awareness to a whole new level.
We’re grateful for El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and proudly induct them into Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the 2018 Law Enforcement Torch Run Agency of the Year.
Award sponsored by: