Spirit of Special Olympics Indiana: 2018 ‘Michael Furnish’ Athlete of the Year
The Spirit of Special Olympics Indiana Awards are presented annually at our State Conference, recognizing the athletes, coaches, volunteers, families, and LETR officers who have gone above and beyond in their contributions and commitment to the Special Olympics movement over the course of the past year or more. Nominations for each category are submitted by our Area Management Teams before Area winners are selected, and from that list, Special Olympics Indiana’s Board of Directors chooses the state award winners each year.
Special Olympics Indiana is pleased to announce that Katie Baumgartle, from Jeffersonville, is our 2018 Spirit of Special Olympics Athlete of the Year!
Named in honor of the former Special Olympics Indiana President & CEO, the ‘Michael Furnish’ Athlete of the Year Award recognizes the accomplishments, both on and off the playing field, of an athlete who embodies the Spirit of Special Olympics through hard work, determination, and a positive attitude.
Katie, a Team Indiana swimmer who earned two silver medals at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, has earned that distinction for her many achievements as an athlete, a fundraiser, and a student.
A member of the Clark-Floyd Counties program since 2010, Katie was introduced to Special Olympics through a non-competitive swim class when she was in first grade, before she was old enough for full participation. Katie’s parents, Brian and Kimberly, enrolled her in the class on the advice of an occupational therapist to help develop her motor skills. It didn’t take long for her to embrace the sport, and her love for swimming has only grown in the years since.
Katie has enjoyed considerable success as an athlete and she takes great pride in the dozens of medals and ribbons that adorn her room. But her success hasn’t come easily—she regularly trains for 10 to 12 hours per week during peak season and swims with her county program on a weekly basis for most of the year, constantly working to perfect her strokes and better her times. She frequently travels to compete in swim meets throughout southern Indiana and Kentucky, and she has participated in a premier swimming sports camp where she worked to hone her skills with professional coaches and trainers.
Outside of Special Olympics competition, Katie is a member of both her high school’s Junior Varsity swim team and a competitive travel swim team. She has also been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities through her school, including Honor Society, Theater, Choir, Key Club, and Best Buddies. She and her family are actively involved as volunteers at the area Polar Plunge each winter, and she readily accepted the responsibility of raising money through the Plane Pull Challenge to support Team Indiana’s journey to Seattle.
Katie’s positivity and enthusiasm have made an impact on everyone involved in the Clark-Floyd Counties program, and she is always eager to do better and to help her teammates learn and improve as well.
Through Special Olympics, Katie has developed the confidence to reach far beyond her comfort zone and to achieve her dreams both inside the pool and out, carrying on in the vision of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, honoring the legacy of Mr. Furnish, and making all of us very proud.