Michael Vanarsdall from Shelby County is the 2022 Spirit of Special Olympics Indiana Athlete of the Year award winner.

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.

The following details were submitted in Michael’s nomination letter from Area 9:

“Michael Vanarsdall uses his love of Special Olympics to exemplify the spirit of skill, courage, sharing, and joy in his everyday life.

“Mike is one of the most caring people. At Summer Games in 2021, he participated on the Shelby County track and field team. The day was a scorcher. Mike encouraged his fellow teammates throughout the day and continued checking on them. He went above and beyond for one athlete who had multiple seizures due to the extreme heat. That athlete was extremely sad because he hadn’t had the chance to compete and try to win a medal. Mike took his very own medal from around his neck and presented it to the athlete, showing courage and the gift of sharing while making his teammate feel like a champion even though he did not get to compete. That was the sweetest gesture and the most heartfelt thing to do.

“Mike always the coaches out at volleyball. If coaches are concentrating on someone else, he will just jump in and help out by working with the other athletes to continue practicing. Even though Mike is hard on himself, he is always positive with everyone else!

“During a basketball tournament last season, Mike’s team was playing against a team who had an athlete that was trying so hard to make a basket. Mike’s team was up by a bunch. Every time this opponent would get the ball and try to score, Mike would rebound and give the ball back so he had more opportunities to make a bucket. This happened about 10 times until the athlete on the other team was able to score. Mike simply wanted the other player to feel good about himself and he didn’t care that he was helping the other team score. Mike’s sportsmanship and heart are awesome.

“Anyone who has met Mike probably has their own story about his willingness to always give and his drive to make Special Olympics continue to grow and be the best it can be. Mike has touched the hearts of many fellow athletes during his years as a participant, volunteer and coach. We are so proud to have Mike Vanarsdall as a part of Shelby County Special Olympics.”