An individual who is a wheelchair-bound athlete has never won the Special Olympics Iowa Athlete of the Year Award. That all changed in 2015.
Wheelchair athlete Danny McDonald was named the 2015 Special Olympic Iowa Athlete of the Year on Thursday, becoming the first wheelchair athlete to win the award.
McDonald has participated in the Special Olympics for more than 30 years. McDonald was awarded the athlete of the year award for showing the spirit of a true winner and his willingness to help others while giving his best effort and showing true sportsmanship.
“Danny was always the first to shake your hand before and after every competition,” said reader Pam Wagner during the announcement of athlete of the year. “He always has the mentally of a winner, which is why he deserves this award.”
Even though McDonald could not say how overjoyed he felt, he could definitely show it.
When McDonald heard his name for the award, he showed his appreciation in his facial expression.
“I noticed he perked up quite a bit when he heard the news,” said McDonald's coach, Trudy Messer. “He is very deserving of this award and just a very neat guy.”
Athlete of the year was not the only award McDonald earned this year. He claimed gold at the state competition in bocce ball.
“It was the first time Danny was allowed to compete in bocce ball, and he claimed gold,” Messer said.
McDonald also participated in bowling, bocce ball, track and challenge day.
“Danny definitely looks forward to the summer games and the Special Olympics as a whole,” Messer said. “The Special Olympics is definitely his niche.”
McDonald also competed in the 2006 Special Olympic National Games, or MATP. He participated in ping pong, basketball, tennis, soccer, volleyball and much more.
“It was such a fun experience for Danny,” Messer said.