From Laura’s coach, Sean Smuts:
I received an email from our state director of Champions Together (The IHSAA side of Unified Sports), Lee Lonzo stating that this award was coming out and they would like Unified Sports coaches to consider nominating an athlete from their program that met certain criteria, including being part of a Unified Program or Special Olympics Athlete. After careful consideration, I came to the decision that Laura Elliott was a great candidate for this honor.
I wrote her nomination and filled out the appropriate forms to formally nominate Laura. Some time passed and I received an email from Larry Kissinger and shortly after from Lee Lonzo and Jeff Mohler (from Special Olympics) congratulating Laura and informing me that she was a finalist in the category of Girls Special Olympics Athlete of the Year (a premier award). Since her honor was announced, Laura has been more excited and was able to share with her teammates the great honor that was given to her. The Unified RedHawks surrounded her with love and shared with her their deepest congratulations and heartfelt support for her. I very much look forward to accompanying her on May 5th to this event!
The IndyStar Sports Awards recognizes and honors the top athletic accomplishments in Indiana High School Sports. This event is hosted by the IndyStar and will take place May 5, 2019 at Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University. The show features various awards, contests and a special appearance from Danica Patrick. The red carpet will open at 6 p.m. and the awards show begins promptly at 7 p.m.
From Mr. Smuts’ nomination of Laura:
There are several team members that care about others, but Laura Elliott has taken that care to a new level, where she loves and wants to give all regardless of what it takes. She exhibits a concern and love that time and time again is truly selfless.
Laura has been working with our City Council to see that a park that is inclusive is put in Goshen. She had done research and noticed that other cities had parks where anyone could play regardless of their ability level. Laura wanted to make sure that everyone in our city had a chance and a place where they could go and be accepted for who they are and not have to ask “Can I play too?” Laura spent many hours outside of school and in school working on this dream.
The dream became a reality in December when it was announced that the Goshen Parks and Recreation Department was moving forward with the idea that Laura had brought to them, and that the city was set to break ground for the inclusive park in spring of 2019. Her hard work paved the way for her to receive the Ralph W. Braun Spirit of Ability Award. The award is presented to people who emulate the qualities that the Braun Ability founder, Ralph Braun, displayed: Selflessness, compassion, and an unwavering dedication to do what is right for people in the disability community.
Laura will give everything and more in the track meets we hold throughout the season, and is instrumental in cheering on her teammates when she is not performing an event. She does anything that the coaches ask of her without complaint or reservation. She also reminds us if we forget to do something such as the “team cheer” where we highlight different students for the great things we see them doing in practice. She will not let us leave practice without doing the cheers because, as she says “we need to remember the good things people do, not the bad.”
Laura also participates in Special Olympics of Elkhart County. She embodies their mission and also serves as an amazing ambassador of what Special Olympics can do for you. She is the first to talk about how amazing the program is and the first to volunteer for anything.
Congratulations to you, Laura! Well done!!