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2019 Special Olympics Vermont Award Winners

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Congratulations to all 2019 Special Olympics Vermont Award Winners! Awards were presented at the State of Inclusion Conference at the UVM Davis Center on November 1st, 2019.

Head of Delegation of the Year

Jim Wacker ~ Addison

There is no one more dedicated to SOVT and the athletes, families and caretakers than Jim Wacker. He has been a tireless volunteer and coordinator for the Addison program for nine years. He has been an advocate and cheerleader for all athletes. He has worked countless hours for the success of Special Olympics Vermont at the local and state level. Anyone who has worked with Jim is well aware of his dedication and organization.

Coach of the Year

Jamie Moore ~ Bellcate School

Jamie’s passion for sports is undeniable. When Jamie took over the Special Olympics program at Bellcate, he breathed a fun, fresh, and focused energy into every sport Bellcate offers. Students have focused training, breaking down skills into manageable learning moments. They have set routines to warm up, stretch, learn, train, compete within class, celebrate themselves and each other, and Jamie always makes sure to get the entire Bellcate school community involved in every event. Bellcate athletes, partners and their families are forever grateful for Jamie’s love, dedication, direction, and drive.

Unified Coach of the Year

Tyler Boone ~ Brattleboro

Tyler is in his second year of coaching 3 Unified Sports (soccer, snowshoe, basketball) at Brattleboro Union High School. Tyler is optimistic, energetic and is always seeking ways to grow the unified program in the school and community. Tyler brings a lot of excitement, especially since he is a “one man show” at Brattleboro; he does it all! Congratulations Tyler!

Athlete of the Year

Tyler Rippee ~ Franklin County

Tyler has improved so much in the 3 years since he started Special Olympics. When he started he needed multiple breaks and extra support during practice and games to participate. Now he follows along with the group, listens to his coaches, and participates during all of practice. His skills have also improved immensely. Each year he makes more hits and catches, scores more baskets and makes more passes. He has his mind set on pitching or catching for softball, and there is no doubt that he will get there.

Unified Athlete of the Year

Ian Carpenter ~ BFA St. Albans

Ian Carpenter is an amazing young man. He participates in 5 school based Unified sports, VPA Unified basketball, and 3 High school sports. When he’s not busy with BFA activities, he is also involved with UVM’s fitness club. Ian is a role model for true inclusion. He participates in as many school activities as possible including the homecoming float, football games, hockey games, and plays. For many years, Ian has handed out towels at the Penguin Plunge, and finally took the plunge in 2018 + 2019 with the BFA team. Ian embodies the true philosophy of Unified Sports.

Partner of the Year

Justin O’Brien ~ Chittenden 

Justin has been participating in softball for 2 years, and recently joined as a Unified Partner for basketball. He also takes the time to help at bowling. He’s especially good with helping athletes to build confidence, independence, and beyond.

Unified Partner of the Year

Livia Bernhardt ~ Otter Valley

Livia was one of the first students to express an interest in bringing a unified program to Otter Valley. She is a patient leader who has an amazing way of making all players feel comfortable, helping them build the strength and confidence to give it their all. She is often seen talking to the players on the team in the halls, high-fiving and continuing to build those relationships that started on the court. It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to have Livia on Otter Valley's Unified team.

Rookie of the Year

Trudy Booska ~ Specialized Community Care

Specialized Community Care, based in Middlebury, started as a unified softball team in 2018. Trudy and the team has accepted numerous athletes from surrounding areas who have not found their “home” in a local program. Recently, at Fall Games, they stepped up to assist with Softball, and are always willing to lend a hand when needed.

Unified Champion Rookie of the Year

Albert D. Lawton

ADL crushed their first year in UCS programming – they embraced all 3 components, and even started their own home-grown interscholastic unified basketball tournament for local middle schools. They are creative, and always looking for innovative ways to grow their program. They are very responsive to all SOVT needs, and are true team players who are always positive, and supportive of this work.

Play On! Award for Unified Effort

This award is for three local programs who have gone above and beyond to live out the Play On! Model by working closely with schools in their area.

Franklin County

Chittenden County


Unified District of the Year

Paine Mountain

The schools that make up the Paine Mountain Unified Team have been active for countless years – even before Unified Champion Schools were Unified Champion Schools. They are generous with activities outside of Unified, including the Law Enforcement Torch Run. We look forward to seeing what the Paine Mountain District will continue to do with Unified in the future!

Volunteer of the Year

Ron Cole (Posthumous) ~ Northshire

Papa Ron was a beloved member of Northshire Special Olympics  for over 25 years.  A dedicated father to our Northshire athlete Tracie Cole, Ron was always the first one to show up, and the last to leave.  Any volunteer or coaching need, Ron would be the first to offer help.  A humble and quiet man, Ron could turn the most frustrated athlete into the happiest person just by one simple joke. We sadly lost our beloved Papa Ron just prior to our 2019 WInter Games.  How much we have missed his presence, his endless support, beaming smile, his always having the last laugh. Here’s to you Ron!

Unified Milestone of the Year

Joe McCoy ~ Burr & Burton Academy

First Varsity Letter Awarded via a Unified Champion Schools Program

As a student, Joe, coached the first unified basketball team in Burr and Burton Academy’s athletic history. Last summer, Joe approached Northshire Program Coordinator, Don Benasich, to inquire about forming a Unified Basketball Team at Burr & Burton. Joe presented his vision with such confidence, poise, determination and compassion there was no doubt the program would be a success. Joe’s determination was evident; his passion to create an all-inclusive opportunity for students with disabilities was driven by his passion for fairness. Joe’s leadership led to the first ever varsity letter awarded to students with disabilities.

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