Spirit of Special Olympics and Hall of Fame Awardees Announced

Spirit of Special Olympics and Hall of Fame Awardees Announced

Annually, as a way to give thanks, Special Olympics Montana takes the time to celebrate and honor the heroes and stars of our organization through the Distinguished Service Awards. These awards are the most prestigious awards given by Special Olympics Montana. Nominations are received by athletes, families, coaches, and volunteers from across the state and a selection committee has the difficult job of choosing the award winners.

The final two of the eleven awards were given out at the SOMT State Summer Game Opening Ceremony on May 16– Spirit of Special Olympics and Hall of Fame.

The Spirit of Special Olympics award is given to a volunteer, who through his or her long-term commitment to Special Olympics Montana, best exemplifies the dedication and unselfish efforts associated with the true spirit of Special Olympics. The 2017 Spirit of Special Olympics award was given to Vern Francis of Richland, Washington. (Former Great Falls resident.)

The Hall of Fame Award recognizes the lifetime achievement of an individual who has given exemplary service to the mission of Special Olympics Montana by charting new levels of excellence through their strength of character, wonderful spirit, compassion and insightful leadership. The 2017 Hall of Fame award was presented to Star Darko of Great Falls, MT.

Details on the award winners:

Vern Francis’ passion for Special Olympics was ignited over 30 years ago. During that time, he has served as volunteer and coach for swimming, cross-country and downhill skiing. His dedication to the Charles Russell Area programs and their athletes is unwavering. During ski season, he personally made sure every athlete had a ride out to the mountain for practice, often transporting them himself. He also worked with the Great Falls Ski Club and other organizations like Showdown and Eagle Mount to acquire equipment for athletes in need.

Because of his dedication and unselfish efforts, Vern is highly respected by athletes and coaches alike. While he recently relocated to Washington to be closer to his children and grandchildren, his spirit lives on in the swimming and skiing programs he left behind in Montana and continues to grow as a Special Olympics’ volunteer in Washington.

Star Darko has been a Special Olympics Montana volunteer for over 30 years. Serving as an Area Director, LETR Liaison, Game Management Team member, Area Winter Games Co-Director, and coach… just to name a few! As a leader, she is always looking for ways to better support our program and athletes. Day in and day out she continues to give her all because she believes wholeheartedly in our movement.

She wants to see the athletes have fun and succeed and will do whatever she can to make that happen.  She dedicates her time, energy and attention to Special Olympics Montana without hesitation.  In her nomination, she was referred to as the YES Girl – she says YES and then she DOES what she commits too.  You can always count on her to get the job done.

Star served in the military, and her commitment to Special Olympics reflects her commitment to serve our country. Her steadfast commitment to Special Olympics Montana is admired by athletes, volunteers, officers, and staff. She lives & breathes Special Olympics – everything she does, on behalf of the organization, exhibits that commitment.

List of 2017 Distinguished Service Award Winners:

  • Athlete of the Year –Nick Roberts, Great Falls, MT
  • Coach of the Year – Denny Hogan, Great Falls, MT
  • Adult Volunteer of the Year- Emily Schaff, Billings, MT
  • Youth Volunteer of the Year –Jayson Wanner, Great Fall, MT
  • Family of the Year- Daughton Family, Rexford, MT
  • Local Program of the Year –Conrad Cougars, Conrad, MT
  • Outstanding Unified Champion School – Bozeman High School
  • Outstanding Support by a Business – Montana Sub Shop, Great Falls, MT
  • Outstanding Support by a Media Personality –Tom Wylie, Great Falls, MT
  • Spirit of Special Olympics- Vern Francis, Richland, Washington (formerly of Great Falls)
  • Hall of Fame – Star Darko, Great Falls, MT

Special Olympics Montana is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Distinguished Service Awards! Please take the time to honor a friend, family member or favorite sponsor with an award submission! The deadline is August 31, 2018. The form is available online at https://www.somt.org/distinguished-service-awards/.

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