As Jonathan Shoup stood on stage at the Sheraton Lisle Naperville on May 15, he said into the microphone, “Thank you for activities and sports you guys produce for us handicapped people so that we can have fun and things to go to.”
Shoup, a Woodridge resident, was accepting an award from the South East Association for Special Parks And Recreation (SEASPAR) at its annual Believe & Achieve Recognition Banquet. He was one of four outstanding participants in SEASPAR’s programming for individuals with disabilitiesrecognized with special awards at the event. Community partners, staff, and volunteers were recognized as well.
Shoup received the Cultural Artist of the Year Award, which is presented to a participant in SEASPAR’s programming who recognizes the importance of cultural arts.
Shoup has been active in SEASPAR’s Actors Guild program for nearly a decade. During that time, he has played numerous roles in the plays and musicals that the program produces, most recently Prince Phillip in an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty that the group performed in May. Shoup is known to be witty, inventive, and respectful and encouraging toward his fellow actors in the program, regardless of their abilities.
Another participant, Melissa Engelhardt of La Grange Park, received the Athlete of the Year award, which is presented to a participant in SEASPAR’s athletics programming who displays a positive attitude, good sportsmanship, teamwork, knowledge of the game, and skill.
Engelhardt is a long-time participant in SEASPAR’s Special Olympics Volleyball and Swimming programs. As a core server on the Spartans Volleyball team and a fixture in 50-meter freestyle and backstroke Swimming events, Engelhardt is not only a talented athlete but also an outstanding team player. She amplifies the environment and those around her with her unwavering warmth and positivity.
Representing SEASPAR’s youth participants was Timothy (T.J.) Postmus of Downers Grove. Postmus received the Rising Star Award, which is presented to a participant in SEASPAR’s youth programming who has a positive attitude and positive interactions with their peers and staff.
At fourteen years old, Postmus has been participating in SEASPAR programs nearly his entire life. His favorite activities involve fitness and swimming. Postmus has progressed in his swim lessons to enter SEASPAR’s Special Olympics Developmental Swimming program, competing at practices and tournaments around northern Illinois. He uses assistive technology to verbalize, but he is most known around SEASPAR for having a smile that speaks volumes.
The final participant award of the night was a new recognition introduced this year, the Shining Star Award. Emilie Donaldson of Westmont was the recipient of this new award, which is presented to a participant in SEASPAR’s adult programming who has a positive attitude and positive interactions with their peers and staff.
Donaldson participates in countless SEASPAR programs, from the EAGLES Adult Day Program and Social Club to weekly programs and special events. She uses a wheelchair but never lets it stop her from cutting a rug at SEASPAR dances. Considered a friend to all, Donaldson is well known among staff and participants for her fun-loving attitude, kind words, and warm smiles.
In addition to recognizing outstanding participants, SEASPAR also presented its Community Partner of the Year award to Benet Academy of Lisle. Benet Academy is a Benedictine college preparatory high school whose mission is to provide a disciplined educational environment that fosters the ongoing religious, intellectual and social development of its students.
Benet Academy has provided a variety of resources to SEASPAR over many years, including hosting two of SEASPAR’s most popular adult events – the Boo Bash for Halloween and the Fun Fair in the winter. Not only does the school donate for expenses like a DJ and giveaways, but the students themselves provide a fun, welcoming, and inclusive environment for SEASPAR participants to enjoy.
Additional awards were presented to outstanding staff and volunteers, including Program Supervisor Mindy Jack of Villa Park, Program Supervisor Courtney Schmitt of Downers Grove, and volunteers Jim and Roxane Pappas of Naperville.
“The Believe & Achieve Recognition Banquet is one of the best days of the year for SEASPAR,” said Executive Director Matthew Corso. “We are always grateful for our staff, volunteers, community partners, and especially our participants, and it is such a pleasure to formally acknowledge the role that each of them has in making SEASPAR such an amazing organization.”