December 2016 Recognition Winners

John Encinias
Male Athlete of the Month
Northeast Region

Jason Encinias truly does it all. Since 1995, Jason has competed season after season in SOCO sports. His favorite sports to play are basketball and volleyball! He loves playing with his friends, learning from his coaches, running up and down the basketball court, and slamming balls over the volleyball net. Since joining Special Olympics Colorado, Jason has gotten stronger and stronger through all his training and competition. In addition to competing, Jason is also a huge advocate for the organization. He has been volunteering at Tip-a-Cop events from the very beginning. These are some of his favorite events because he loves sharing our mission with the customers and relaying to them how SOCO has impacted his life. Additionally, he enjoys working with and getting to know our Law Enforcement partners. Since joining the SOCO family, Jason has learned amazing social skills, developed a love for public speaking and fundraising, and is one of our most valued volunteers. Congratulations, Jason!

Alyssa Duerst
Female Athlete of the Month
Western Region

Alyssa Duerst is an amazing athlete who has brought her skills and passion all the way from the Midwest. She began her athletic career with Special Olympics Wisconsin where she helped the program flourish by encouraging her fellow athletes and teammates to compete to their fullest abilities at both regional and state events. Just three years ago, Alyssa and her family moved to Colorado and she jumped at the opportunity to continue her involvement with Special Olympics. She is now a competitive swimmer and bowler in Grand Junction and loves to hike!  Joining SOCO has helped Alyssa expand her social network, meet so many amazing friends, and feel completely fulfilled in her new life on the Western Slope. We’re so glad you joined our Colorado family Alyssa – congratulations!

Ashley Eliers
Volunteer of the Month
Unified Schools

Ashley first got involved with Special Olympics Colorado when she was nine years old at her first Polar Plunge! The following year she started a Polar Plunge team at her elementary school and has since participated in eight Polar Plunges. Ashley joined the Youth Activation Committee (YAC) in seventh grade and has now been an active member for four years. Ashley has traveled nationally on behalf of Special Olympics Colorado to represent our state and our mission. Ashley currently attends Douglas County High School where she participates in unified soccer, unified basketball, organizes R-word campaigns and is a core-member of the Unified Strategy Club. Since first becoming involved with SOCO, Ashley has met many amazing individuals from around the country who have inspired her to go above and beyond to make a difference in her community. Ashley has been most impacted by the amazing SOCO athletes at her school, other schools in her district, her fellow YAC members and the supportive family members of these young people. Ashley specifically speaks about a friend of hers at Douglas County High School with cerebral palsy who is one of her biggest inspirations. Despite the fact that her peer cannot verbally communicate, she is not limited by her disability and always, ALWAYS, has a smile on her face and is so happy and loving. Ashley aspires to be more like her every day. Ashley has become a better leader and communicator, and a more respectful, open-minded, and accepting person because of Special Olympics Colorado. Ashley describes being involved with Special Olympics Colorado as a life-changing experience. She shares that SOCO has inspired her and others to be caring, respectful, and accepting people and to promote and spread respect and love to everyone, no matter of your differences! Ashley is a dedicated Special Olympics Colorado volunteer and we can’t wait to see all she accomplishes in her future.

Shelley Shepard
Coach of the Month
Southeast Region

Shelly Shepard is not your average coach.  She is a mastermind of organizing athletes, parents, and logistics. Shelly’s involvement with Special Olympics began in December 2014 working with the Colorado Caribou Ski and Snowboard team for whom she is the team manager, organizer, motivator, accountant, fundraiser, and guru! She then went on to become the coach of the Fireballs Tennis team, which started with 3-4 athletes and has grown to about 16 athletes with 4 coaches during the last summer season. Shelly’s goal is to build the Fireballs program even more so they have two Fireballs teams from Colorado Springs. Shelly gives everything she has to her teams by making sure they have what they need, they look good, they have skilled coaches, and they work hard.  She creates not just a team environment, but a family and a community where her families, partners, and athletes all excel. Shelly has also been instrumental in making the Annual Shopping Extravaganza a success for the SE Region. Shelly is truly amazing, I wish I had 50 coaches with her enthusiasm and passion for Special Olympics.

The Rice Family
Family of the Month
Mile High Region

rice family
The Rice Family has been involved with Special Olympics Colorado for nearly four years, but Michelle wishes they had started even earlier! Colton currently plays Unified Basketball at Brighton High School and has also participated in track and field, flag football, and soccer. Mason has recently expressed interested in golf program at Michelle hopes he will become involved with a SOCO team in the summer! Working as a para at Brighton High School, Michelle is very involved with the Booster Club and represents Unified Schools Strategy within the group. The Rice Family has also participated in several fundraising events including Polar Plunges, Plane Pull, and the upcoming Dance Marathon event. Michelle enjoys being a part of SOCO, as it has given her family the opportunity to be around others who are walking a similar life journey as they. Special Olympics Colorado has helped Colton and Mason build friendships and provided them opportunities they otherwise would not have. Michelle’s favorite part about SOCO is the way it makes her boys smile. Michelle encourages other families interested in Special Olympics to get involved now, as there are so many wonderful opportunities for everyone! The Rice Family has received donated tickets to local sporting events through SOCO’s Ticket Donation Program, and here you see them enjoying a Denver Nuggets Game! In just one word Michelle describes Special Olympics Colorado as “life-changing,” and encourages all to get involved.

Chili’s Bar and Grill
Community Partner of the Month

Chili’s Grill and Bar has been an amazing Community Partner for Special Olympics Colorado and the Law Enforcement Torch Run. They have hosted three Tip-A-Cop events from 2013-2016 raising over $250,000. Over the past two years, Chili’s has also generously hosted dinner for our athletes, coaches and volunteers at our State Summer Games event in Grand Junction, one of their favorite events with Special Olympics Colorado throughout the year. Trey Hornaday, Area Director for Chili’s Bar and Grill, stated what a privilege it is to be a part of the Summer Games in Grand Junction, and how fulfilling it is to be a part of all of the energy and effort that goes into that community event for SOCO athletes. Thank you, Chili’s Bar and Grill, for your unending support!

Fossil Ridge High School
School of the Month
Northeast Area

Fossil Ridge High School is currently between Unified Seasons. Their Unified teams just finished up their Flag Football season and were City Champs!  Their new Unified Cheer team gave an exhibition performance at the Front Range League CHSSA cheer competition in Greeley last week.  They will continue to practice weekly until the basketball season starts in January.  Fossil Ridge will start their Unified Basketball season in January.  Their Fossil Friends groups had a big Halloween party, and it was a huge hit!  The Fossil Friends Partners Club will continue to meet every Thursday at lunch.  The partners club will support their R Word campaign in the spring, and are planning a holiday event with athletes before winter break in December.  Finally, Fossil Ridge HS DECA students are continuing to promote Unified Sports by creating a program book that features the Unified sports of football, cheer, and basketball.  They plan to include a picture of each player and information about them as an athlete and student at Fossil! Fossil Ridge is doing a great job of promoting Unified School Strategy in all areas of their school, Unified Schools has completely changed the school climate at Fossil Ridge!