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COLUMN: A 'Special' honor

I?had the great pleasure this past weekend of being an honored guest at the Distinguished Service Awards presented by Special Olympics Minnesota.

I was the lucky recipient of the Outstanding Media Coverage Award. I was tremendously honored to receive the award. In my opinion, the one truely deserving of the media award was there to receive another award.

Corinne Schattschneider of Perham was honored as the 2008 Special Olympics Minnesota Outstanding Coach. We were two of 15 honorees.

The Distinguished Service Awards recognize Special Olympics Minnesota athletes, coaches, volunteers, sponsors and family members who demonstrate an incredible amount of support, enthusiasm and time commitment to the organization.

Schattschneider was responsible for starting the Special Olympics Minnesota program in the Perham area in 2002 and has been actively involved in all aspects of the program ever since. She currently serves as the head of delegation for the Perham team and other coaches have said she volunteers with unyielding passion, dedication and hard work.

Besides being the head of delegation and keeping the team running, Schattschneider is certified in all six of the team's sports, fundraises, keeps everyone informed, writes grants and promotes Special Olympics everywhere.

Schattschneider also organizes the Area 4 Basketball Tournament in Perham and attends almost all Perham area competitions. She served as head coach for the gymnastics team for Team Minnesota at the first ever Special Olympics National Games in Ames, Iowa in 2006, and in 2007, followed her son to Special Olympics World Games in China. For the past six years, Schattschneider has been willing to give not only her time and energy, but her knowledge, enthusiasm and support to the athletes of Special Olympics Minnesota.

"With the help of people like Corinne, Special Olympics Minnesota is able to bring communities together," said Dave Dorn, Special Olympics Minnesota president. "This award is our small way of recognizing Corrine's important contribution to the success of our programs."

Schattschneider was presented by one of her own athletes, Jeff Fritz, a Special Olympic Global Messenger.

Schattschneider is responsible for the majority of Special Olympic related items that appear in EOT?Illustrated. She regularly submits photos and event summaries, and she promotes upcoming events.

All I?do is put in what she gives to me.

I?try to get to a few of the local events when I'm available, and I'm happy to do it. Just as I was happy to receive this award in person at the DSA's, as they are called, at the Bloomington Hilton last weekend.

The people involved with Special Olympics are amazing and my wife and I?had a blast meeting some new people and hearing about some incredible people.

The energy at the banquet was palpable. The room was almost buzzing.

There was a smile on every face. From the Special Olympic administrators to the volunteers, award winners, family members and the athletes themselves.

Everyone was so grateful for the opportunities Special Olympics has given them. The athletes with special needs, whether they be physical or mental, cherished every event.

They were so appreciative of every opportunity to compete and participate. Of every volunteer and every coach that touched their lives.

That appreciation, and gratefulness isn't a one-way street.

The award winers ranged from donors, to fundraisers, to outstanding businesses. There were also volunteers, coaches and athletes honored.

Everyone involved with Special Olympics has a similar thing to say. Being involved has changed their life. They love working with the athletes. They love helping them achieve their goals. And they learn so much from the Special Olympians about perseverance, dedication, patience and unconditional love.

As part of my acceptance, I?was asked questions on stage by Ben Von Haaren, a Global Messenger from Red Wing. He asked why I?cover Special Olympics?

Why shouldn't I? These athletes are working hard to participate and compete around the region, around the state, and even around the world, while representing our community. They have achieved success, and deserve to be recognized.

Even if they hadn't had that much success, they should still be seen in the same way we look at the other athletes we follow, or even idolize.

These Special Olympians are truely the athletes worth idolizing, not the million dollar-pampered pro's we worship on T.V. They give 110 percent, they cheer for their competitor as hard as they do for a teammate, they love what they are doing, and they cherish every moment they are able to participate with friends, family and the many great volunteers.

The moto for Special Olympics Minnesota is, 'Be A Fan'.

Everyone should be a fan. Get out and watch these athletes. Meet them. Get to know them. Volunteer to help them.

I?dare you to not be impressed or inspired. I?dare you to not, 'Be A Fan'.