2019 Leadership Award Winners
We are pleased to announce our 2019 Leadership Award winners!
During our Leadership Conference Banquet held in State College, PA on Saturday, August 17th, we recognized and celebrated the achievements of many Special Olympics PA athletes, coaches, volunteers and others who are involved in the movement every day throughout the state. Their hard work and contributions are what help to create an inclusive and welcoming world for us all.
Congratulations to our 2019 Award Winners:
- COACH OF THE YEAR: Debra Gable (York County) - Deb truly embodies what it means to be a leader in the community. In addition to providing her athletes with world-class training on the tennis court, she has spearheaded her hometown school’s participation in the Unified track & field program and encourages students throughout the school to actively participate in Special Olympics events, including the local Polar Plunge and Spring Games. Deb is a strong proponent of the Fit 5 fitness program and constantly emphasizes the importance of exercise, nutrition and hydration with her athletes at every practice. Always one to be present for others, she makes it a point to visit one of her tennis athletes who has been diagnosed with cancer and spend time with him and his family. In every sense of the word, Deb uplifts her community and her team.
- FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Emily Mazur (Allegheny County) - It’s a mantra that we can all work to incorporate into our own inner-monologues: “I can do better.” That’s what Emily says to herself every time she finishes a sprint and hears her time. Not only does she say it, but she acts on it – frequently improving upon the time she just recorded. Emily's passion for health and fitness is unparalleled as she always volunteers to lead her team in stretches and warm-ups before practice and cool downs afterward. She also makes sure all of her teammates are staying properly hydrated and if she sees someone struggling to learn a new skill she always lends a hand. A three-sport athlete with Special Olympics (she competes in athletics, aquatics and basketball), Emily also is a member of her high school’s softball team and a superstar fashion model for Aerie.
- MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Chris Branda (Northumberland & Snyder Counties) - All too often our actions on the playing field are what get noticed most, but it’s what we do off the field that defines us. Last year, ahead of Villanova Special Olympics Fall Festival, names had to be randomly selected to determine who from Northumberland & Snyder County Special Olympics would attend. Ultimately, Chris' name was chosen, but he was distraught that one of his teammates who “lives for powerlifting” wasn’t selected. So Chris gave his spot to his teammate and still came to the competition to cheer him on. A five-sport athlete (bowling, golf, floor hockey, powerlifting and softball) and Global Messenger, he constantly works to recruit athletes, volunteers and Unified partners within his community and participates in as many local fundraisers as possible.
- VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: Stacy Plumbo (Unable to Attend Banquet, Philadelphia) - Stacy has been an integral member of the Special Olympics community for more than 10 years. During that time, she’s conquered numerous roles, including basketball and soccer coach, event director, basketball sports director, eastern fall sectional head of delegation and summer games assistant head of delegation. During the basketball season, she regularly attends practices at each of her county’s six training sites to ensure all the coaches have everything in place that they need for success. Stacy has given up lots of her personal vacation time to be sure that her teams are getting the best training possible and always encourages athletes to take a more direct role in coaching and being a leader in their respective sport. She is truly beloved coach for whom every athlete in her county wishes to play.
- PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: Washington County (Washington County) - In the past year alone, our award-winning program has added three new sports to its offerings: long distance running & walking, powerlifting and soccer. They also added swimming and basketball to a local invitational, which helped increase athlete participation and awareness of the program. In addition, Washington County proudly offered a Fit Feet screening at that invitational and continues to host a wildly-successful golf outing every August. Over the past year, they have formed a strong partnership with a neighboring county that enabled athletes to try new sports, compete in a more advanced level of basketball and grow community relations by recruiting more volunteers. Washington County holds a banquet every year to honor outstanding coaches and athletes and the proceeds from that event go directly back to the program.
- TORCH AWARD WINNER: Montgomery County (Montgomery County) - The Torch Award was created to honor the program that has gone above and beyond to support Special Olympics Pennsylvania and its fellow programs. Highlighted by winning a contest for which they received a large sum of grant money, Montgomery County has proven time and time again that it is unbelievably dedicated to its athletes. Whether it’s networking and fundraising nonstop to ensure that athletes and volunteers have the best experience possible, or going above and beyond in their support of the local Unified Champion School programs, Montgomery County never backs away from a challenge. Spearheaded by a charismatic leader -- who is assisted by so many incredible volunteers -- they continue to grow and thrive as one of the top local programs in the state.