Becky Derwort's unwavering commitment to the Special Olympics programs has earned her the most prestigious award given by the state SO organization.
As the longtime area director for Northern Gila Special Olympics, Derwort was named the recipient of the Mary P. Lees Meritorious Service Award. She received the award at the culmination of the annual SO Arizona Leadership Conference held Nov. 18 at the San Marcos Resort in Chandler.
The announcement caught her by surprise but she was able to maintain her composure ... at least until the next day.
"It all hit me and I started to cry," she said.
Derwort was nominated for the service award by Jane Bonn, Terri LeGassie and Anne Spencer.
In their nomination letter they wrote, "The name of Becky Derwort has become synonymous with Special Olympics in Payson.
"Through sport, she has mastered the art of building self esteem and good sportsmanship while challenging athletes to strive to reach their greatest potential."
Derwort has built an outstanding reputation as a coach and motivator of athletes, but she's also a darn good administrator and manipulator of her precious minutes.
"She can efficiently whip through an advisory meeting but takes time out of her busy schedule to solve problems, encourage, advise, console and communicate with coaches, other volunteers and care givers," the nomination letter read.
While she admits to being overwhelmed by the award, Derwort in her usual display of modesty said success of the program is a tribute to the support of the community.
"The civic organizations, people who make financial contributions, volunteers and the wonderful families do so much ... I work with very nice people," she said.
Derwort was first attracted to the Special Olympics program in 1978 when her roommate talked her into serving as a volunteer at a track meet in Globe.
In those early years, the northern Gila County program was in its struggling infancy and there was plenty of work to be done, Derwort said.
Since then, she and other volunteers have been able to mold the program into one that is now considered one of the best in rural Arizona.
One of the greatest achievements in building the quality program was that Derwort and her staff were able to help adult athletes find productive work in the community.
"Today, 31 percent are employed in visible positions by Payson's three largest employers Safeway, Bashas' and Wal-Mart," the nomination letter reads.
Bonn, LeGassie and Spencer credit Derwort with convincing businesses to support the program and help provide employment opportunities.
Derwort's commitment to find gainful employment for her charges goes hand in hand with the vision of Special Olympics. It reads: "To help bring all persons with developmental disabilities into the larger society under conditions whereby they are accepted, respected and given the chance to become useful and productive citizens."
When Derwort is not toiling as an administrator, soliciting funds or finding jobs, her time is spent coaching SO teams.
In the past, she's coached a myriad of sports including aquatics, bowling, figure skating, cross county skiing, downhill skiing, basketball, gymnastics and track and field.
In addition to her volunteer work, Derwort holds down a full-time teaching position at Payson High School.
With such a busy schedule that also includes being a wife and mother, she's been asked if she considering stepping aside any time soon?
"I don't see myself quitting but there are some frustrations in not having enough time to do everything I want to do," she said.