More than 20 Special Olympics Airdrie (SOA) athletes were recognized June 23 at the association’s year-end awards ceremony, hosted at the Balzac Community Hall.
Two players each from SOA’s 10 sports teams were honoured with either a Most-Improved Player or Best Sportsmanship award for their efforts during the 2018-19 season.
SOA Media Co-ordinator Sue Fillatre-Farkas said the awards ceremony is a big deal for the athletes.
“Obviously, this is competitive for them,” she said. “It gives the athletes something to try for.
“And the ones who got the awards, now they can go for the Heart Award – whatever they like. This is what they’re aiming for – to do the sports and be recognized for it.”
She added the opportunity to have SOA athletes from multiple sports gather is another reason to hold the awards ceremony, which acts as a wrap-up party for the season.
“They don’t always see each other and this is one of those few times where we have the opportunity during the year to have all our athletes together at the same time,” she said.
After coaches from SOA’s various sports teams doled out the Most-Improved Player and Best Sportsmanship awards, multi-sport coach Dale Foreman presented the Heart Award to AJ Tarnowsky for demonstrating overall effort, determination and a positive attitude.
The 22-year-old, who competed this year in bowling, golf and softball, said he was surprised but happy to receive the award.
“I never thought I’d get this before,” said Tarnowsky, who has been an SOA athlete for five years.
Fillatre-Farkas said Tarnowsky demonstrated the qualities of a Heart Award recipient in many different ways.
“He’s a gentle giant, and he was so honoured to get the award – and surprised, too,” she said. “There were so many athletes to pick from, but it was an easy decision this year.”
The event also included a barbecue and professional face painting from theatre and stage makeup artist Amanda Toszer.
Registration for the 2019-20 Special Olympics season will open in August and September, according to Fillatre-Farkas, with winter sports teams starting the season in late September or early October. She added athletes interested in joining can register through specialolympics.ca/alberta, or by reaching out to SOA via its Facebook page.