Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Lovin' Award Winners Announced!

We have announced our Fourth Annual Lovin' Award Winners! The award recognizes young visionaries who are committed to and involved in programs that foster respect, inclusion, and personal connections between people ...with and without differences.

One national winner and four regional winners from around the country were selected from students ages eight to 18 for their involvement with Special Olympics and other organizations that are designed to create more accepting communities.

Our national Lovin' Award recipient is Maggie Leppert, 17, of Belle Meade N.J. Maggie was nominated for her profound commitment to social justice and inclusion, exemplified through her work as the founder of her schools' Project UNIFY and for her role as an advocate of acceptance and dignity for her peers with intellectual disabilities. Project UNIFY is an education and sports based program focused on increasing athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities.
Maggie Leppert (rt) and Ethan
Maggie is also recognized as a respected counselor at Camp Shriver, an outdoor sports camp created to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. She has been assigned the most challenging athletes because of her exceptional gift for communicating with individuals with intellectual disabilities. For Leppert, spending time with the special education students isn't service; it's genuine friendship. She enjoys supporting them in Special Olympics competitions, just as they support her by coming to her theater performances. Leppert's passion for helping others motivated her to learn sign language and to choose a career as a behavior therapist. 

Maggie (rt) and Andrew

Maggie & fellow volunteer at "Spread the Word" pledge table

As the national award winner, Ms. Leppert will receive an engraved plaque, certificates for a one year supply of Lovin' Scoopful ice cream, a $100 gift card, the opportunity to compose multiple blog postings throughout the year, a letter of commendation from Maria Shriver, and a $500 donation for her chosen nonprofit organization.

The regional winners are: 

Christopher Yao, 17, of Jericho, N.Y., was nominated for his dedication to helping children in developing countries who could not afford cleft surgeries, post-treatments, and therapies. Christopher began Kids Change the World, a nonprofit organization to leverage the power of motivated young individuals to change the world for causes they cared about. To date, his charity has funded approximately 70 cleft surgeries for children in developing countries. More information regarding kids change the world can be found at

Christopher Yao
Michaela Morris, 17, of Seabrook Beach, N.H., was nominated for her dedication to Special Olympics New Hampshire (SONH), where she served as an assistant for their swim team and has volunteered as a timer at various swim and track and field meets. Always pushing to increase her involvement with Special Olympics, Michaela is working with staff members at SONH to establish a Young Athletes Program in her town this coming fall.
Michaela Morris (rt) and friend
Taylor Swarers, 17, of Orange, Texas, was nominated for her many years of involvement with Project Unify Meet in the Middle Club, an initiative encouraging typically developing and special needs middle school students to develop greater understanding of and appreciation for each other. Taylor has attended conferences with Special Olympics, became certified as an aquatics coach, participated in Unified Track meets and Unified Bocce Tournaments, and been a fan in the stands for our Special Olympics athletes. She has donated her time and energy to promote inclusion and respect for those without a voice.
Taylor Swarers and training athletes
Lindsey Erin Mendelsberg, 17, of Aurora, Colo., was nominated for her commitment to foster respect, dignity, and friendship between those with and without disabilities. She is Co-President of the GHS Project UNIFY Club, Global Messenger for Special Olympics CO and representative to Washington D.C., and an organizer of Spread the Word campaigns. Lindsey participates in UNIFIED basketball and track and wants to begin a UNIFIED volleyball team.
Lindsey Mendelsberg and friends
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.

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. For more information about the national and regional winners, visit

Thank you to all that nominated someone! We will soon begin accepting early nominations for our 2015 Lovin' Awards.  Visit our Facebook page ( for details in upcoming weeks. 

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