Latham Special Olympian receives ‘Heart of the Winner’ and ‘Athlete of the Year’ awards

Latham’s Physical Education Teacher Monique Williams made a heartwarming announcement at our Year End Celebration last month. After sharing highlights of this year’s Special Olympics program successes with more than 200 students, families, staff, and Latham friends, she brought Latham School student Christopher M. to the stage to announce that he is the recipient of two prestigious awards: the Special Olympics “Heart of the Winner” award and the Latham Centers Special Olympics Athlete of the Year award. Excerpts from Monique’s presentation follow:

“Since 1988, the “Heart of the Winner” award has been presented to an athlete who tries his or her best in everything they undertake. Nominated athletes should exemplify tenacity, sportsmanship, teamwork, courage, and all other elements of the Special Olympics Mission Statement and Athlete Code of Conduct. The Heart of the Winner Award is the longest running Special Olympics Awards, and one of the only Outstanding Athlete awards in the state. This year, we nominated Chris, a student who has been able to overcome a number of challenges.

Chris started school at Latham in 2016. We learned quickly he was not one to shy away from a challenge. Challenges have been a big part of his life and he has not let them drag him down. As he became acclimated to Latham, he began hearing his peers speak of Special Olympics. Almost immediately, one of the first things we learned about him was his love for sports. When Chris first arrived, he became a part of the basketball and track & field teams. He struggled to manage his behaviors in order to remain on each team, but quickly learned what he would be missing out on.

Fast-forward to this year… In the past year, he has participated in soccer, football, basketball, bowling, and track & field. Chris displays the Heart of the Winner because when so much was up against him, he still managed to stay positive and keep up the hard work. Listening to the coach’s guidance and being patient with both his skills and struggles that were presented to him, he stuck with it and has shined throughout his time here. He continuously tries to take what he learns, apply it, and sometimes tries to go above and beyond what is expected of him.

Chris is a prime example of what Special Olympics seeks out to do. Over the past year, he has discovered new strengths and abilities, such as participating in the 50m assisted walk to now participating in a 100m dash, or being able to learn and play offense on the basketball court, or being able to catch a ball and play defense on the football field. The power of sports has instilled confidence in this young man, improved his health, and he has found joy in being able to be like “everyone else”. Everyone at Latham is so proud of Chris and how far he has come, and the confidence he has gained from participating in Special Olympics.”

Latham’s Year End celebration crowd gave a rousing round of applause to Christopher, the 2018 Special Olympics Heart of a Winner recipient and Latham’s Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. (Chris will be recognized and presented with the Heart of a Winner award in October by a Special Olympics committee)

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