By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON —
Linda Krikie, the coach of the Special Olympics team, the Jefferson County Jets, recently received the 2011 Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Coach of the Year award.
Krikie created the JC Jets team, who play basketball and track and field so far, because state funding was cut from the Mt. Vernon organization. The team began competing in late August 2010, Krikie said.
She said she was very surprised to receive the award, which was announced May 6 at the track and field competition her athletes competed in.
“It was wonderful to receive the award, but I always say that I couldn’t do it without the help I have,” Krikie said. “They deserve a pat on the back as much as anyone.”
She said the reception held June 10 where she received the award was lovely. She said she attended with her son, Manny McClellan, her adopted son, Justin Pitchford, volunteer Patty Hill and Brian Jennings, a volunteer from the Mt. Vernon Fire Department. She said all the police officers who participated in this year’s Torch Run were also present.
Krikie thanked her athletes, parents, sponsors and volunteers for their help, cooperation and enthusiasm throughout this year.
The JC Jets team has nearly 50 members after starting out with 13, Krikie said, and has male and female athletes between the ages of 19 and 47.
Krikie said her favorite accomplishment this year was to take the team to the state basketball competition and come back with the gold.
In addition, she said she was touched by the accomplishments of one of the members of her team.
“A blind man, Craig Humphrey, played softball for the first time with a beeper ball,” she said. “You should have seen the first time. It was just amazing.”
Krikie said next year, the JC Jets are looking forward to starting a swim team and possibly a volleyball team, but competing in the sports events for Special Olympics is not the only thing the team does.
She said this year, the team has taken a trip to watch a Southern Illinois Miners game, and they look forward to taking a camping trip and seeing the tractor pull in Mt. Vernon.
“Some of this is things they’ve never been able to do before,” Krikie said. “I’m trying to keep something every month for them to do.”
Krikie said since the team’s inception, people and businesses have “come out of the woodwork” to support the team with sponsorships and volunteering.
“It’s been nice,” she said, adding that the team is always looking for more sponsors and volunteers as it expands in members.
She said the support and the help of the community has been overwhelming.
“We are happily growing,” she said. “The team is about building confidence, trust and friendship. It’s a big thing for some of these guys.”