While many of the top athletes in sports received recognition at the 25th annual ESPY Awards Wednesday night before a national television audience, a Flowery Branch athlete picked up her ESPY in a quiet presentation a day earlier.
Katy Wilson, daughter of Jerry and Jeanne Wilson, was one of 27 Special Olympic athletes across the nation to earn an honorary ESPY.
This year marked the first time ESPN has awarded the honorary ESPYs, according to Tara Baker, director of marketing and communications for North America Special Olympics. She said the honorary ESPYs for Wilson and the 26 other Special Olympic athletes and teams were connected to a presentation during the televised ceremony recognizing Eunice Kennedy Shriver as the winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Shriver, who died in 2009, was the founder of Special Olympics. Her son, Tim, accepted the award for his mother.
EPSN spokesman Jay Jay Nesheim wrote in an email to The Times Wednesday afternoon that the network “coordinated the program with the Special Olympics directly and worked with local chapters to honor the athletes.”
Katy, 37, has been participating in Special Olympics since she was 6 years old. She started with track and field. Now, she participates in the Special Olympic bowling as well as artistic and rhythmic gymnastics.
“I am so glad that I got the award,” she said. “I felt so proud of myself and all my achievements. I was about to cry. It touched my heart. I was surprised.”
She said she enjoys Special Olympics because “I get stronger.”
“Being with my teammates and winning medals makes me proud,” she said. “I want people to see me for who I am and what I can do. Special Olympics gives us that chance.”
Like her daughter, Jeanne Wilson said she was also thrilled and a little emotional when she heard that Katy was receiving an honorary ESPY.
“I was so emotional I had to call them back,” she said. “She has the real deal. She has a quite large ESPY with the globe on top, a trophy with silver and chrome and etchings and all that.”
Katy has served as a Sergeant Shriver International Global Messenger for Special Olympics and met Eunice Kennedy Shriver many times, according to her mom.
“She’s been participating for more than 30 years,” Jeanne Wilson added. “She goes out and spreads the word about Special Olympics and advocates for young people with disabilities.”
Katy Wilson won two Special Olympics World Games gold medals in artistic gymnastics in 1999. She has spoken at the White House twice as a representative for Special Olympics, during terms of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.