Sarah Meents of Champaign was surprised to receive the Inspirational Participant Award from the Illinois Therapeutic Recreation Section of the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association at a recent awards ceremony in Chicago.
Sarah attended the Illinois Parks & Recreation Association’s awards ceremony with her parents, Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR) Director Dawn Schaefer, CUSR Athletics Coordinator Hannah Sheets and CUSR Adult Coordinator Jessica DeYoung. While they knew she was receiving the award, they told Sarah she was there to accept an award for CUSR. “I was surprised,” Sarah said. “I didn’t know it (the award) was for me until I heard Hannah and Jessica talking about me” on stage.
“I was shocked,” Sarah added. As she was going up on stage to accept the award, “I kept telling myself to say ‘Thank You’ and then I forgot to say it,” she said with a chuckle.
Sarah said her parents, Dick and Joyce Meents, are very proud of her receiving the award, which now sits on the fireplace mantel in her family’s home.
Sarah has participated in Special Olympics training and competition through CUSR since 1998. She currently competes in basketball, volleyball, powerlifting, bowling and softball.
Not only is Sarah involved with Special Olympics through CUSR, she also is active in fitness programs, community involvement programs and seasonal dances, said her nominators Hannah Sheets, CUSR Athletics Coordinator, and Jessica DeYoung, CUSR Adult Coordinator.
Sheets and DeYoung’s nomination letter for Sarah states in part:
“Sarah is always cheerful and ensures that everyone is being included and is supportive of her peers regardless of their abilities.
At CUSR dances, Sarah encourages participants who are shy to join her on the dance floor for her signature dance moves: the shopping cart and the weed whacker.
When it comes to powerlifting competition, Sarah is all business. She is the reigning female dead lift champion at the Special Olympics Illinois State Summer Games.
Not only does Sarah participate in CUSR programs, she also contributes ideas for fundraising for our CUSR Mustang Booster Club, which supports CUSR sport programs. The most recent idea Sarah brought the Booster Club was to hold the CUSR ‘Dollar Holler.’ This event raised funds that will be used to bolster CUSR’s Athlete Scholarship Fund.”
Sheets said Sarah was nominated because of all the things she does with CUSR, but also because she’s very involved in the Champaign-Urbana community. “She is a well-known and respected individual with the community. Sarah often shares how she was able to grow through CUSR’s programs by gaining confidence in herself, increasing her interactions with friends, and expanding her leisure interests.”
Sarah works part-time at CVS Pharmacy in Champaign and also volunteers weekly at the Salvation Army. She is an avid fan of all Fighting Illini sports and Parkland College volleyball, and she has participated in the Illinois Marathon 5K for the past few years.
Sarah not only takes a leadership role at CUSR programs but also with Special Olympics. She became a Special Olympics Global Messenger in 2003 and has given hundreds of speeches over the last 10 years. In 2013, Sarah joined the SOILL Board of Directors.
Sarah advocates for her fellow athletes in Central Illinois and also promotes CUSR Therapeutic Recreation programs through many appearances on local news programs and agency projects.