Kaylee Walter (Port Orchard, WA)

Kaylee WalterThe 2013 national Lovin' Award recipient is Kaylee Walter, 17, of Port Orchard, Wash. Walter was nominated by a fellow Special Olympics volunteer for her involvement in the program for the past six years, as well as for her work with the Washington State Youth Activation Committee for Special Olympics and Project Unify. Much of Walter's inspiration comes from her younger brother who has Down syndrome. In addition to her existing commitments with Special Olympics, Walter is working toward becoming a certified coach. She is an advocate and positive influence at her high school for inclusion of all students, and hopes to become a physical therapist for children with disabilities.

"I've been involved with the Special Olympics in my area since my little brother with Down syndrome joined the program. At first I started as simply volunteering, and then I got into Unified Sports, and now coaching and there isn't anything that I love more. This year I joined the State Youth Activation Committee, for Special Olympics and Project Unify, and we've done different events throughout the state. It's been such a rewarding experience and I've had the opportunity of a lifetime in meeting the most amazing people and athletes and they've changed my life in such a positive manner. I love the enthusiasm in any event related to Special Olympics and Project Unify. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for my athletes, and friends. We talk in Special Olympics and outside of it, and the friendships I've made with them mean so much to me. The athletes in my area and my little brother inspire me in all I do with the state committee and the area, and they have inspired me to become a physical therapist for children with disabilities. Throughout the schools, and outside of school I promote the "Spread the Word" campaign and talk to people about how the word makes them feel and why not to use it. I always have a smile on my face when I'm doing anything related to Special Olympics as it has become my life, and the hugs and enthusiasm, and words of kindness and encouragement shared with the programs I've been involved with are all a person needs to want to be involved. It's simply perfect." – Kaylee Walter

As the national award winner, Walter will receive an engraved plaque; certificates for a year supply of Lovin' Scoopful ice cream; a $100 gift card; a feature on the Lovin' Scoopful blog, Facebook and Twitter pages; a letter of commendation from Maria Shriver; the opportunity to compose multiple blog postings about her chosen nonprofit organization; and a $500 donation for her chosen nonprofit organization.


Madeline Sanford (Great Falls, MT)

Madeline SanfordMadeline Sanford, 14, of Great Falls, Mont., was nominated for her genuine passion for Special Olympics and her active involvement in Unified Sports programs since 2010. Sanford completed coach training and is a regular Unified Partner for the Great Falls Lions basketball team, State Summer and Winter Games, as well as an advocate for the Spread the Word to End the R-Word Campaign.

"My name is, Madeline Sanford and I'm a Unified Parter with Special Olympics of Montana. I do basketball, skiing, swimming and kayaking. I am honored that I can be a part of these kids' lives. I started in sixth grade and I haven't missed a game since. I'm in eighth grade now almost high school. Middle school can be hard for a fourteen year old girl. All the drama, its sucks. When I go to Special Olympics all the drama is gone. The kids make you so happy. When you are there you can't help but smile. Once I was having a really bad day. I didn't want to go to swimming but I went anyway. When I got to the swimming pool this little girl named Molly gave me a huge hug, just what I needed. Molly made my day and she didn't even know it. When Molly and I got in the pool, she started swimming and smiling. Her smile was contagious. This is why I love Special Olympics so much because everyone there has amazing smiles." – Madeline Sanford


Caroline Gould (Dallas, TX)

Caroline GouldCaroline Gould, 17, of Dallas, Texas, was nominated by a Texas Special Olympics staff member. Gould is the president of the Highland Park Special Olympics Club at the Highland Park Independent School District. In her role, Gould has planned and organized multiple Special Olympics programs both at school and in her community.

"Participating with Special Olympic athletes has opened my eyes. I now have such a different definition for perseverance and determination. There is nothing like seeing kids master sports and activities that may have initially been difficult for them. There is nothing like seeing joy flood their faces when they score, or make a good play. There is no better feeling than accomplishment by hard work, and that is what they learn and teach everyone by participating in Special Olympics. By seeing their hard work and accomplishments, I have been inspired to work harder in the things I love. I have also learned the importance of encouragement, which inspires the Special Olympians to work so hard. Their attitudes towards life have taught me more than I could imagine teaching them. This year specifically, I have gotten to know more of the Special Olympics athletes on a more personal level. Seeing them in the school hallway can transform my day from bad to good, just because of their passion for everything. I hope that I can continue to benefit by watching Special Olympians grow more, and I would love to be able to influence the athletes as well." – Caroline Gould


Michael "Mike" Murray II (Cayuga, NY)

Michael "Mike" Murray IIMichael "Mike" Murray II, 17, of Cayuga, New York, was nominated for his more than 600 hours of volunteer work for the organization. Murray started volunteering for Special Olympics with his parents at the young age of five. Special Olympic athletes inspire Murray to work through challenges in life and to always cross the finish line.

"I started volunteering at a young age with my Dad in the LETR. He took me to a state games and I was impressed to see what the Law Enforcement did with all the Special Olympics Athletes and I was hooked. It made me want to get involved. Now it's second nature to me. It's something I enjoy doing. I enjoy seeing the smiles and the camaraderie of the Special Olympic Athletes. I see what volunteering has done for my family as a whole. With the recent passing of two very close friends (I'm doing a benefit for one of the families and preparing for the 2nd) it hits home even more the overall importance of volunteering and helping others. As I become a high school senior next year and prepare for college, I hope to continue volunteering and pass this on to my kids some day." - Michael Murray II


Schaene Shatto (North Branford, CT)

Schaene ShattoSchaene Shatto, 18, of North Branford, Conn. was nominated by a Unified Sports Director. Shatto won a high school essay at the Michael's Cup Sports Banquet on the topic of helping those with intellectual disabilities. She is a senior at North Branford High School, where she is involved as a Unified Sports Partner for her school's volleyball team.

"My name is Schaene Shatto, and I am a senior at North Branford High School. Luckily for me, I have had the honor to participate in Unified Sports, which as forever impacted my past, present, and future. Unified Sports has impacted it in ways that I am forever grateful. It has not only allowed me to make the best of friends, but the best of memories... memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, whether it is all the laughs we've shared as a team, all the medals we have won, or simply all the proud smiles I have seen. If I could give anyone any type of advice for their high school career it would be to join Unified Sports and allow it to impact your life, because no matter who you are or what you know, it has a way of teaching you one thing or another. Through my work with athletes on and off the Unified Sports field, I have come to the realization regarding where I want my life to take me. I am attending Coastal Carolina University in the fall as a Special Education major. Although teaching athletes will eventually become my career it will always remain my hobby. With the high hopes of coaching a Unified Sports team of my own, I know it will only continue to teach me the life lessons I need to know. Unified Sports not only allows different types of students to come together and play one sport during one event, all throughout the year, it allows people to trust one another and look to one another... As North Branford always says, "Together We are One!" "– Schaene Shatto (excerpts from her winning essay)

The regional winners will each receive certificates for a two-month supply of Lovin' Scoopful ice cream; a feature on the Lovin' Scoopful blog, Facebook and Twitter pages; a letter of commendation from Maria Shriver; the opportunity to compose a blog posting about their chosen nonprofit; and a $250 donation for their chosen nonprofit organization. All of the Lovin' Award winners were selected by a panel of judges including Maria Shriver and Tim Shriver for exemplifying characteristics that promote human rights, inclusion, equality and leadership through education.

Previous Year's Winners: