SONC Honors the 2020 Volunteers of the Year

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Special Olympics Northern California (SONC) is proud to recognize an outstanding group of individuals and corporations as our 2020 Volunteers of the Year. The Volunteers of the Year were selected after a lengthy nomination process and exemplify the dedication and love of the more than 28,000 volunteers who support SONC annually. Although 2020 was a much different year, our volunteers stepped up in a variety of new ways and we are thankful for their gifts of passion, time, energy and resources.

The 2020 Volunteers of the Year were announced during the Summer Games @ Home Opening Ceremony on June 27.

Congratulations and thank you to the 2020 Volunteers of the Year!


Coach Sherry Gaddam with award

Coach of the Year

Sherry Gaddam

Stanislaus County

From her nomination:

"She has gone above and beyond her duties as a volunteer coach by checking in with athletes regularly by phone calls and zoom meetings during the pandemic, having monthly coaches meetings via zoom to keep everyone informed, and making sure the coaches all know that she is thinking of them and making sure they are OK.  She also recruits new athletes, keeps families informed, and handles the paperwork and makes sure everyone is up to date on renewals."

From Sherry:

"EVERYONE has limitations.  Don’t let others tell you what your limitations are . . . only YOU know what those are.  Don’t let others dictate what you can or cannot do.  If you don’t try, you will never know."


Melissa Ford Cox with award

Healthy Athletes Volunteer of the Year

Melissa Ford Cox

Alameda County

From her nomination:

"She has gone above and beyond in her role. She has built meaningful relationships with the athletes, and many of them remember health and nutrition tips that she's shared throughout the year."

From Melissa:

"Thank you athletes, coaches, and staff for this amazing award. It means so much to me. Your dedication, can-do attitude and joy for life inspires me every week."


Officer Jodi Williams with award

LETR Volunteer of the Year

Jodi Williams

Santa Clara County

From her nomination:

"The traditional ways in which she knew how to support Special Olympics (Tip-A-Cops, etc.) changed this last year, but that didn't stop her. She adapted. She was proactive in staying involved and even brought fundraising ideas to SONC staff."

From Officer Williams:

"For me, being a Special Olympics coach and LETR volunteer is the light in the darkness that often surrounds law enforcement. It reminds me of the reasons many of us became officers, to make an impact in society and protect our most vulnerable citizens."


Supervisor Susan Ellenberg with award

Philanthropy Volunteer of the Year

Supervisor Susan Ellenberg

Santa Clara County

From her nomination:

"This year she suggested funding SONC on a more permanent basis. She recognized the need to have ongoing support to not just grow the program, but maintain it, and increase the quality of services delivered."

From Supervisor Ellenberg:

"I am honored to be included among an exceptional group of awardees who are advocates and cheerleaders for athletes who inspire and encourage us. Special Olympic athletes demonstrate determination and enthusiasm for their games in ways in which we would all do well to emulate in our approach to life."


Nithila Poongovan with award

Rookie Volunteer of the Year

Nithila Poongovan

Santa Clara County

From her nomination:

"Nithila is an amazing leader, who is always going above and beyond for her peers with intellectual disabilities in her school, her community, and through Special Olympics. We are so lucky to have her a part of our community!"

From Nithila:

"I'm so incredibly honored to be receiving this award! It's our job as community members to help everyone feel like a part of the community. Every person here is helping play that role by supporting incredible organizations like Special Olympics!"


Alivia Gok

Schools Volunteer of the Year

Alivia Gok

Sacramento County

From her nomination:

"Alivia is a huge supporter of Special Olympics, and is a tireless advocate for inclusion in all aspects of her community. She says yes to every opportunity that grows and improves inclusive programming on her campus."

From Alivia:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Mahatma Gandhi


Eric Wilfrid with award

Sports Volunteer of the Year

Eric Wilfrid

Santa Clara County

From his nomination:

"Eric has been one of the most visible people during this pandemic, giving constant encouragement and hope to the athletes.  Because of his forward thinking, he was able to get the athletes engaged and keep them connected to their friends and volunteers."

From Eric:

"My favorite part of Special Olympics is the community of athletes, families, volunteers, and staff. We come together to build skills through practice and competition, and when we do that we also build community, supporting each other and simply having fun being together. I’m glad to have played a role in bringing that community together online during COVID, honored to be recognized with this award, and I’m so excited to get back on the field very soon!"


Youth Volunteer of the Year

Citlali Gallo

Contra Costa County

From her nomination:

"She is an amazing Youth and a champion for Special Olympics and the Unified Champion School program at her high school, as well as at the National Level with Special Olympics North America as a Youth Ambassador."

From Citlali:

"Thank you for this award. I love representing the inclusion revolution."


Flyers Energy with award

Corporate Philanthropy Partner of the Year

Flyers Energy

From SONC:

"Despite the interruption to in-person programs last year, Flyers continued to support SONC in virtual programming that kept athletes across Northern California fit, healthy, and connected, in preparation for returning to in-person activity. We are grateful for Flyers Energy’s dedication to our mission, and applaud their employees for jumping into Lake Tahoe every winter at the Polar Plunge, hosting the annual Flyers Fall Classic Golf Invitational, and volunteering at the Bocce venue at the SONC Summer Games every year."

From Flyers Energy:

"For 25 years, Flyers Energy has supported Special Olympics Northern California and their mission through our annual Flyers Fall Classic Golf Tournament along with volunteering at Summer Games and even Plunging in Lake Tahoe. We are honored and humbled to receive this award and be recognized as the Corporate Philanthropy Partner of the year for 2020. We are excited for our continued partnership with Special Olympics Northern California and cannot wait to be back on the fields with the amazing and talented athletes soon!"



2020 Volunteer of the Year Nominees:

Andrea Fuentes, Andy Cho, Brian Wentzel, Chris Gonzales, Chris Weber, Chuck Galvan, Cindy Lamm, Cindy Verrill, Linda and Dave Clements, Daime Hoornaert, Debi Fox, Debra Acosta Perez, Doug Deaver, Eric Endow, Greg Keenan, Heather Bond, In-Shape Fitness Team: Tom, Condy, Jaime, Josh, Rachelle, Keri, and Kris; Jackie Wheeler, Jessie & Arthur Espinosa Family, John Caramucci, John Drenth, John Hohmann, Josh Milton, Katherine O'Brien, Kay King, KC Kindelt , Leslie Francavilla, Lisa Tomasello, Maria Falcone, Mark Tackett , Matt Avery, Maureen Tom, Megan , Nancy Goodin, Paul Matlack, Raley's, Robert Bell Wilkins, Roman Gonzalez , Roman Villanueva, Ryan Dillard, Sasha Mills, Stephanie Salonga , Suzy Andrade, Tim Gleeson, Tom Novello, Tracy Rivkin



Learn about SONC Volunteer Opportunities