By Michael Gelbwasser, Contributing Writer
Region – Ashley Connelly has competed in nine of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts’ 24 sports over the past 25 years, and swimming is his favorite one.
The organization recently gave Connelly a round of applause – out of the pool.
The Special Olympics of Massachusetts inducted 15 people and groups into its Hall of Fame Oct. 2 at the organization’s Marlborough headquarters.
Connelly was among three athletes in this year’s class.
“We’re swelling with pride, all of us. It’s just an incredible honor,” his father, Bill, said before the ceremony.
Special Olympics of Massachusetts has inducted 12 to 15 individuals and groups into its Hall of Fame every other year since 1996, Director of Volunteers Martha Dove said. The first class was inducted in 1995, the second in 1996, and then the current schedule was adopted.
Each class always includes three athletes, three coaches, three families and three volunteers, plus groups, Dove said. Nominees must be involved with Special Olympics for five years or more, and “done something above and beyond,” she explained.
The 15 newest honorees were among 54 nominated, Dove said.
“We have some athletes that have done coat drives in their community. We have volunteers that volunteer year-round. We have coaches that have started new programs,” she said.
This year’s class is united by “their commitment to Special Olympics,” Dove said. “They all have very busy lives outside of Special Olympics, but they don’t just show up for practice and then go home. They all give, and they truly believe in the mission,” she said.
Attleboro High School community service teacher Rebecca Richard said she supports Special Olympics because “I love the interaction that I have with students and athletes.”
Richard was inducted this year as a volunteer.
“I am so honored. But, really it’s an induction of all of the students that I’ve worked with,” she said before the ceremony.
Richard said she began volunteering with Special Olympics by coordinating Attleboro High’s largest School Day event 10 years ago.
“I’ve always liked planning events. So, I just thought of it as another event. And over the years, it’s just grown,” she said.
David Tynes, meanwhile, was inducted as a coach this year, although his involvement extends beyond that role.
Tynes “coordinates the Cambridge Program, allowing over 150 athletes an opportunity to participate in self-esteem and skill boosting activities,” according to the induction ceremony program. “His dedication to the mission has inspired many of his peers to go on to work in the recreation or special education fields. His legacy is indeterminable.”
Tynes said “the people I meet, the athletes, the friends that I make” are what he enjoys most about volunteering with Special Olympics.
The hall of fame induction is “the ultimate honor, because these are my peers and my friends and my family,” Tynes said.
The 2014 inductees are: athletes – Ashley Connelly, Bill O’Connell and Marc Segerman; coaches – Mike Cappello, David Tynes and Darren Fleurent; families – the Murrays (Rick, Kay, Doug, Jillian, Alyssa and Donnie), the Milletts (Mary, Matt, John, Tom and Rebekka) and the Stucchis (Tim, Debbie, Peter, Amy and Adam); volunteers – the Power Lifting Management team (Bill Bovaird, Lawrence Larsen Jr., Warren McGraw, Joanne Shear, Marci Toma, Lauren Toma and Lindsey Toma), Sue Borden and Rebecca Richard; law enforcement – Jim DiGianvittorio; fundraising partner – Bob’s Sea and Ski; and legend – Jim Brett.