More than 400 athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators attend 2011 Special Olympics Michigan Cycling Finals. Special Olympics a family affair for Cycling Finals Tournament director and Chrysler Group employee Joel Smith and stepdaughter Lindsay Ruprecht
Thirty years ago, when a neighbor whose child had Down syndrome asked Chrysler Group employee Joel Smith to become a volunteer coach for Special Olympics Michigan, he could not imagine the impact his commitment would have on his future.
Over the years, Smith’s volunteerism has led him to being honored with Volunteer of the Year in 1995, Area Director Emeritus for Area 23 (Wayne County) in 1996, Coach of the Year for Area 23 and Coach of the Year for Michigan in 1998.
On Saturday, Smith, 60, the Tournament director for the 2011 Special Olympics Michigan Cycling Finals, joined more than 200 athletes, coaches and volunteers at Chrysler Group’s Chelsea Proving Grounds for the Cycling Finals.
“Special Olympics athletes compete in such a meaningful manner. What we get from them as volunteers is far more than what we give to them,” said Smith. “Athletes who are now adults will come up to me and say ‘we appreciate what you did.’ I’m very proud of Chrysler Group hosting the Special Olympics this year.”
Smith, who was inducted into the Special Olympics Michigan Hall of Fame in 2009, is also very proud of one athlete in particular, his stepdaughter Lindsay Ruprecht.
In her tenth year of cycling, her favorite sport, Lindsay, 29, competed Saturday in the 250-meter and 500-meter three-wheel events winning a silver and bronze medal, respectively. She won two gold medals for those events last year. In addition to cycling, Lindsay has competed in floor hockey, basketball, bowling and snowshoeing.
The Cycling Finals is not only one of eight state-level competitions held annually for Special Olympics Michigan athletes; it is also one of many employee volunteerism activities that Chrysler Group supports annually.
“This was the first time the competition was held at our Chelsea Proving Grounds and Chrysler Group was honored to host the Special Olympics Michigan athletes and their families during this event,” said Byron Kearney, VP of Scientific Labs and Proving Grounds, Chrysler Group LLC.
In the picture above: Lindsay Ruprecht joins her parents Joel and Barbara Smith at the Special Olympics Michigan State Cycling Finals at Chrysler Group’s Chelsea Proving Grounds on September 10, 2011. Joel is a Chrysler Group employee and tournament director for the Special Olympics Michigan.