The 2022 Spirit of Special Olympics Indiana Volunteer of the Year award winner is the late Jan Wilson, from Steuben County.

Presented during the annual state conference, the Spirit of Special Olympics Indiana awards recognize the athletes, coaches, volunteers, families and Law Enforcement Torch Run officers who have gone above and beyond in their contributions to the Special Olympics movement. Area management teams submit nominations and the winners are selected by Special Olympics Indiana’s board of directors.

Jan’s husband, Mark, and her granddaughter Zora Ryan accepted Jan’s award during the state conference.

The following details were submitted in Jan’s nomination letter from Area 3:

“Jan began coaching in 1974 and through the years, she coached various sports including: swimming, track and field, bowling, downhill skiing, and basketball. She later became the director for Steuben County bringing opportunities for all to the area. Throughout her career as a coach, Jan touched the lives of hundreds of athletes ranging in ages from elementary school to older adults. She was a champion of special needs youth and made it her mission to focus on their abilities instead of their disabilities.

“Jan was passionate about education, serving 32 years with the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County. Jan had a true love for her students, often providing hugs and encouragement when they were having a bad day. Her classes included fun learning activities so that students remained engaged and interested in the content.

“As a coach, this person touched the lives of hundreds of athletes, from elementary school students to older adults. She was a champion of special needs youth and put the focus on people’s abilities instead of their disabilities.

“Jan felt that Special Olympics gave athletes socialization skills and camaraderie that each athlete can treasure for years to come. She loved taking the athletes to the state games. Locally, Jan was most known for sporting her Special Olympics skirt made of T-shirts from past games.

“Although Jan passed away in December 2021, her spirit and love of Special Olympics lives on through the volunteers, parents and athletes who competed by her side for 47 years. In fact, at her funeral over 20 former and current Special Olympians stood up to be recognized as her athletes. Jan was an inspirational coach who always encouraged her athletes to not only do their best as they competed, but also to actively root for their teammates. She may be gone from our lives physically, but she will never be forgotten.”