Michael Leon, a Special Olympics Tri-Valley athlete and Global Messenger, was presented with the Richard L. Van Kirk Outstanding Outreach Achievement Award on Thursday for his work in advancing the Special Olympics movement.
Michael, a Global Messenger since 2015, speaks to a number community groups, churches and schools about living with autism and type-1 diabetes. The 20-year-old’s duties this past year included serving as the Master of Ceremonies at Tri-Valley’s Regional Spring Games and a speech at Haddon Elementary School in Pacoima for Respect Week.
This past year, he competed in basketball and soccer, as well as Team Wellness – a health and wellness program designed to provide athletes a healthier, more active lifestyle.
Kim Villa, a program specialist for Special Olympics Tri-Valley, said his involvement as an athlete “has given him the confidence to do things he never imagined possible.”
“Michael is extremely aware of the responsibility that goes with being a Global Messenger,” she said. “When speaking to groups, he never fails to mention that he represents many other individuals with intellectual disabilities who just want to be respected and treated like others on and off the playing field.”
Away from Special Olympics Southern California events, he does data entry at Vaughn Learning Center and works in the preschool classroom. He also volunteers twice a week in Children’s Ministry at Montrose Church and every summer spends a week as a counselor at Vacation Bible School.
Presented annually since 2001, the award is named after Special Olympics Southern California’s first president.