American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP) to Host 2023 ASPIRE Awards Sunday, October 22

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First Legally-Blind Division I Athlete Aaron Golub to Headline as Special Guest Speaker

Atlanta, September 12, 2023– The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Inc. (AAASP) will honor 43 key people and organizations on October 22nd for their outstanding contributions to support student athletes with physical disabilities to get “off the sidelines and into the game.”

The Fifth Annual ASPIRE Awards Celebration, emceed by actor, writer and television personality Patrick Cusick with special guest speaker, Aaron Golub, the first ever, legally-blind Division 1 Athlete representing Tulane will be held Sunday, October 22nd at Maggiano’s Little Italy, 3368 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia.

Adapted Sports Programs in Recreation and Education (ASPIRE) Award recognizes the significant contributions of these individuals and organizations that have been central to the mission of making adapted sports programming available nationwide. Through these programs, student athletes with physical disabilities across the country reap the physical, social, emotional, and academic benefits of competitive athletics resulting in personal and social empowerment. AAASP received a record 59 nominations for the awards this year.


The nominees for this year’s ASPIRE Awards are listed below, by award nomination:

ELI WOLFF AWARD FOR ADVOCACY NOMINATIONS

  • Belinda Cook, DeKalb Silver Streaks, DeKalb County Schools
  • GAEL (Georgia Association of Educational Leaders), Robert “Buddy” Costley, Executive Director; Zabrina Cannady, President
  • Ed Shaddix, Athletic Director (Retired), Gwinnett Heat, Gwinnett County Public Schools

COACH OF THE YEAR (VARSITY) NOMINATIONS

  • Jeremy Downing, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools
  • Stephen Roberson, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools
  • Bryan Watts, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools
  • Dr. Nicholas Griffin, West Georgia Wolverines, Troup County Schools

COACH OF THE YEAR (JUNIOR VARSITY) NOMINATIONS

  • Len Boudreaux, Gwinnett Heat, Gwinnett County Public Schools
  • Lynette Swanson, Gwinnett Heat, Gwinnett County Public Schools
  • Kelly Richburg, Muscogee Lions, Muscogee County School District
  • John Bolles, Muscogee Lions, Muscogee County School District

OUTSTANDING PROGRAM AWARD (COMMUNITY-BASED) NOMINATIONS

  • Lachi Music, Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities (RAMPD), New York, New York
  • Miracle League of the Okefenokee, Ware County Recreation Department, Waycross, GA
  • The Viscardi Center’s Alumni Wheelchair Basketball Coaches, Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center, Albertson, New York
  • Ed Armstrong, Quality Living Inc., Omaha, NE

OUTSTANDING PROGRAM AWARD (SCHOOL-BASED) NOMINATIONS

  • Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools
    *Also honoring Dr. Sheila Cook, Area Coordinator; Trina Smith, Director of Special Education; Coach Sebastian Tillman
  • Georgia Storm, Griffin RESA (Led by Henry Co. Schools)
    *Also honoring Kelli Smith, Athletic Director, Henry Co. Schools

GAIL HENDRICK AWARD FOR VOLUNTEERISM NOMINATIONS

  • Mark Christmas, BOD Member, Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools
  • Marcia Payton-Edwards, Principal, Michelle Obama STEM School, Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools
  • Samuel Gonzalez, Sign Language Interpreter, Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools
  • Benito Alejandro, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools
  • Tomas Guardia, DeKalb Silver Streaks, DeKalb County Schools
  • Jeff Jones, Gwinnett Heat, Gwinnett County Public Schools
  • Bobby Ryals, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools
  • Noraa Smothers, DeKalb Silver Streaks, DeKalb County Schools

SENIOR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINATIONS

  • Tadaisia Hillman, Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools
  • Abby Simmons, West Georgia Wolverines, Troup County Schools

LESLIE SWEATMAN OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR NOMINATIONS

  • Aron Young, AAASP League
  • Willie Long, AAASP League
  • Donald Jacobs, AAASP League

MEDIA “HERO” AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Michael Leverett, Disability Connections, Macon, GA, Houston Sharks
  • Jon Nelson, Game Correspondent & Program Host, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB)

MOST IMPROVED ATHLETE AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Kamari “Tank” Griffin, West GA Wolverines, Troup County Schools
  • Paul Hart, Muscogee Lions, Muscogee County School District
  • King James McMurry, DeKalb Silver Streaks, DeKalb County Schools
  • Joe Patterson, DeKalb Silver Streaks, DeKalb County Schools
  • Gary Woodruff, Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools

POWER CHAIR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Caleb Merriken, Muscogee Lions, Muscogee County School District
  • Ca’ron Harris, Houston Sharks, Houston Co. Schools

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Josh Cruz, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools
  • Dominique Epps, Muscogee Lions, Muscogee County School District
  • Austin Thompson, West GA Wolverines, Troup County Schools

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Taylor Nation, West GA Wolverines, Troup County Schools
  • Laila Kindness, Houston Sharks, Houston Co. Schools

MALE SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINATION

  • Anthony Cuti, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools

FEMALE SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • McCarty McGraw, Muscogee Lions, Muscogee County School District
  • Kila-Ray Brown, Clayton Eagles, Clayton County Public Schools
  • Ashlyn Stevens, Houston Sharks, Houston County Schools

FOUNDERS’ AWARD FOR CAREER ACHIEVEMENT OR EXTRAORDINARY SERVICE

  • Robyn Hootselle, AAASP Adapted Sports Director-GA
  • Michelle Masters, Executive Director of Adm. Services, Peach County Schools, GA
  • Billy Mitchell, Senior Creative Director, MLT Creative, Tucker, GA
  • Matt Albert, Art Director, MLT Creative, Tucker, GA

Thank you to the following 2023 AAASP ASPIRE Awards Sponsors: Georgia Department of Education, FlagHouse, the Georgia High School Association, MLT Creative, and the AAASP Board of Directors.

Plan to join us for the event at Maggiano’s Little Italy – at 5:30 pm – to celebrate the nominees and winners with us! Individual tickets are only $40 and includes an amazing, family-style dinner at the event! (Family and team packages available as well.) Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/AdaptedSports and RSVP for the event at: https://adaptedsports.org/aaasp-aspire-awards/.

The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is a not-for-profit association dedicated to developing interscholastic adapted sports programs in partnership with national, state, and local educational agencies. It represents a standardized approach to extracurricular adapted team sports and has developed one of the nation’s most comprehensive school-based athletic programs for students with physical disabilities attending elementary, middle, and high school. For more information, please visit our website at https://adaptedsports.org or join our conversations on Twitter at: @AdaptedSports.

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Contacts:
Terri Grunduski, Grunduski Group – terri@grunduskigroup.com 404-226-7497
Donna Feazell, Grunduski Group – donna@grunduskigroup.com 404-290-1929

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