2018 SONC Volunteers of the Year

Every year, there are thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time and resources to the athletes of Special Olympics Northern California (SONC). Selecting just a few to recognize is a very difficult task.

Each of these individuals has stood out in their areas of contribution and has been nominated by their peers for their dedication, service and selfless attitudes to support our athletes. Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations and congratulations to our 2018 honorees!

Coach Volunteer of the Year

Dave Pagano
San Mateo County
Role: Track & Field and Bocce Coach

From His Nominations:

“David Pagano is an exceptional and caring coach to all athletes he mentors on the San Mateo track and bocce teams. He takes a personal interest in each team member and inspires them to be their best both on the track and in their community. David is a most competent coach with more than 35 years of experience serving our sons and daughters with special needs. At every practice, David strives to improve their health and fitness with a program that begins with a warm-up and then a well-planned practice and cool down. He is also there for families when we have questions or problems to work out. It is evident that the well-being and improvement of the health of the athletes is his top priority.  David definitely deserves to be recognized for the great work he has done over the years as coach of the San Mateo teams.  And he does it all with a great sense of humor!”

Sports Volunteer of the Year

Debi Fox
Tuolumne County
Roles: Area Director and Coach

From Her Nominations:

“Debi always has a smile on her face and is able to multitask all of the needs of the athletes and coaches at a moment's notice. She keeps the Tuolumne County Ravens on track with all of the sports and transportation. She is knowledgeable and if she can't answer something, she tells you then gets back to you usually within hours with the answers.  The athletes view her as a mentor and she's been astronomical in having our team make its budget the last two years.  She attends the practices and the tournaments, USA/Summer Games, and board meetings all while working full time running three businesses. I've never heard a negative word spoken about her.  She is a true gem and a great asset to our team!”

Schools Partnership Program Volunteers of the Year

Gil Lemmon
North Coast Section
Role: CIF-North Coast Section Commissioner

From His Nominations:

“When Unified Sports was first recognized by CIF and school athletic departments, Gil was the first CIF commissioner to develop a strategy for the implementation of Unified Sports within high schools.  With it being a new endeavor, Gil took the time to meet with SONC to learn more about our programming and athletes. Together a format was created for track & field Unified Sports in high schools to compete, not only on their school campus, but to qualify for the Meet of Champions.  The first Unified Track & Field pairs were at the Meet of Champions three years ago.

Without Gil, Unified Sports at the high school level wouldn’t be where it is now. Gil has been a true pioneer for Unified Sports in high school.  He sees all Unified athletes, just as an athlete, who deserves the right to compete.  Gil really sees the power of Unified Sports and its impact on all students.  We wouldn’t be where we are without him and our growth in the next few years will be because of his leadership four years ago.  He is retiring this year and we can’t thank him enough for what he has done for SONC, Unified Sports and all the athletes.”

Rookie Volunteer of the Year

Lila Anchordoguy
Butte County
Roles: Coach and Advocate

From Her Nominations:

“Lila is a very busy girl. Being only 14, she has high school, sports, and raises 4-H sheep. She keeps her GPA very high, does well in sports, excels in 4-H, but makes time for Special Olympics almost every weekend. She cares for them deeply, and has a couple that really rely on seeing her smiling face every weekend. This is her first official year as a volunteer, but she has been helping for about four years. She has built personal relationships with many athletes and supports them wholeheartedly. Lila was offended and hurt by so many children at her school using the "r-word” that she even created a Special Needs Awareness Week at her school.  She (with help from a Chico State College student) brought in some equipment for her fellow classmates to use, to give them the experience of what it would be like if they had a disability. She also had guest speakers come in every morning during school assembly and talk to/share/educate the entire school.  They made posters and spread kindness. By the end of this very awesome week she said she really thought she got through to a lot of people, and made them realize through her kindness that everybody is a person, and deserves our respect.”

Youth Volunteer of the Year

Toni Melvin
Roles: GMT and Referee

From Her Nominations:

“Toni is a 16-year-old who will wake up at 5 a.m. without complaint to drive from Concord to San Jose to make a GMT reporting time of 6:30 a.m. She will do her homework in a car or plane going to San Diego to referee Special Olympics Southern California floor hockey. She has trained and supervised adult and youth volunteers since she was 12 years old. She's had the courage to step in and sing the National Anthem when a singer did not show and she has had the courage to have one-on-one discussions with adult basketball referees about their performance. Toni supports Special Olympics sports year round (basketball, track & field, softball, soccer, flag football and floor hockey).”

Healthy Athletes Volunteer of the Year

Chris Shelton
San Jose
Role: Clinical Director for Strong Minds

From His Nominations:

“A leader in his community, Chris Shelton provides stress reduction tools to the Special Olympics community by way of the Healthy Athletes-Strong Minds platform.  Adding his own unique twists, Chris teaches breath, posture and mind focus techniques which help athletes, coaches, families and caretakers decrease anxiety and improve focus. Chris and his wife, Parisa, were part of the Clinical Director Strong Minds pilot program, which kicked off June 2016.  Every year since then they have conducted clinics at SONC games in Davis and U.S. Games in Long Beach (2015) and Seattle. They have also conducted workshops at the SONC coaches and volunteer meeting, SONC staff meeting, and most recently, at a Box and Special Olympics conference.”

LETR Volunteer of the Year

Diana Maples
Castro Valley
Role: Law Enforcement Torch Run

From Her Nominations:

“Diana was in charge of Badges with Buckets for many years in the location of Castro Valley. For many years she advocated for the athletes and families to participate in this event. She understood the importance of inclusion and how we are all connecting and on the same team for one common goal: the athletes.”

Philanthropy Volunteer of the Year

Louise Smith

Roles: Volunteer & Fundraiser

From Her Nominations:

“During 2018, Louise was solely responsible for raising over $10,000 dollars for Yuba/Sutter/Colusa Special Olympics by getting sponsorships for the annual LaPorte Snowmobile Club "SnowFest." Each year the checks get larger and so do the sponsorships.  Over the 27+years, this event has raised at least $100,000 for our local program and Louise Smith is responsible for the majority of these funds. Louise does not stop with just the annual "SnowFest" as she also chairs the Snowmobile Club Sponsorship of the yearly Northeast Regional Softball Tournament in Yuba City.  When we need help she is only a phone call away. This outstanding lady is considered the No. 1 fan of the Yuba/Sutter/Colusa Special Olympics.”

2018 Nominees

Al Hernandez, Alesha Marie Blake, Alex Bender, Alex Reyes, Alisa Rosillo, Alyssa Desai, Amy Kolb-Tucker, Anisa Garrett, Anita Terrazas, Anjali Desai, April Adkins, Araceli Garcia, Ashlee Foulger , Beverly Olson, Brian Wentzel , Bridget Brown, Carley Resnik, Carlos  Garcia , Carlos Espinoza, Carol Davison, Carol Valdez, Carrie Blue, Cecilia Yarra, Chloe Stidger, Chrissie Costamanga, Christina Bodas, Coach Danny, Coach Jenn, Coach Roberts, Colleen Wilson, Crystal Sanchez, Crystal Standley, Cynthia Jones, Dan Fox, Danny Rodrigues, Darlene Emerton, Dean Rossen Logan, Debbie Donnahoe, Dee Doris Ewald Flynn, Dennis Manalo, Dewayne Young, Dirk Dino, Donna Hepp, Donna Hollis, Doug Lucken, Dwight Been, Elizabeth (Lizzie)  Sanford, Emily St. Denis, Emily Vrabel, Eric Riddell, Frank Slaton, Gerardo Hernandez, Harvey Rouleau, Heather Bond, Jackie Wheeler, Jackson Zabrick, James and Jean Welch, Janie Bucher, Jason Welsh, Jeff Roman, Jenn Wilson-Marchino, Jennifer Marks, Jim Fisher, Joanne Larkin, John Drenth, Johnny Tarantino, Josh Milton, Judy Goldberg, Judy Waller , Julian Boswell, Juliana St. Denis, Kara Concepcion, Katherine O’Brien, Kathi Barber, Kathleen Remner, Kayla Nakamoto, Kayla Strelo, Kenna Gavin, Keri & Kimi Canedo, Kerri Hansen, Kimberli Holm, Leslie Francavilla, Lori St. Denis, Lucas Fanelli, Mac Follmer, Marianna Warmee, Maureen Fuentes, Max Green, Meghan Hurley, Melinda Susian, Michelle Carmichael , Michelle Chan, Mike Gorton, Mike Holm, Mike Javier, Mike Rogers, Moammar Mohamed, Mona Desai, Monique Mingione, Nick Lampros, Nicole Edhamme, Pamela Espinoza, Pat Daly, Pat Moore, Patrick Garritts, Patti Helm Bassett, Rebecca St. Amand, Richard Buc, Rick Stoops, Robert Papp, Ronnie , Rose Coulter, Ryan Cooke, Sabina Salas, Sergeant Priscilla Silva, Sergio Castillo, Sharon Scudero, Shirley Surber, Sterling Bobbitt, Steve Ash, Suzanne Barlow, Suzanne Lerner, Suzy Kolb Andrade, Taylor Buckman, Thomas Handy, Tim O'Brian, Tom Novello, Tracy Rivkin, Trina Palmer, Troy Nickles, Vinita Saxena, Wayne Buckman, Whitney Evans, William “Bing” Westbrook

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