Here are the champions who have dedicated themselves to building a world of inclusion and acceptance.
Jennifer Averette, Monroe County
Jennifer Averette became part of Special Olympics 32 years ago, participating in several sports, including cycling, bocce, cheerleading, flag football, and swimming. But her passion and greatest contribution to Special Olympics Florida has been in stand up paddle.
Her commitment to the sport and her participation in outside SUP events attracted the attention of professional paddlers, who worked with Special Olympics to make stand up paddle a sanctioned Special Olympics sport. When the sport debuted at the 2018 USA Games, Jennifer was there as a competitor. For the 2022 Games, she served as the stand up paddle Athlete Technical Director.
Jennifer is an Athlete Leader and Health Messenger. During the pandemic, she used her culinary degree to share healthy recipes via social media. Her goal, she says, is to “help all athletes become healthier and better.”
Jonathan Doring, Palm Beach County
Jonathan Doring has been involved in Special Olympics for more than 30 years, participating in golf, tennis, softball, and bocce. A determined competitor and elite tennis player, he has been to three USA Games, two World Games and won more than 100 medals.
He’s served as a World Games official, a Special Olympics Global Messenger, and a member of the Athlete Leadership Council. In 2015, while working as a tennis referee at the World Games, Jonathan wrote a blog that was published on ESPN’s website.
He has been inducted into the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame, was the 2016 Special Olympics Florida Athlete of the Year, and, in 2002 ran with the Olympic Torch before the games in Salt Lake City. He is currently studying cyber security at Palm Beach State College.
Robert Jackson, Gadsden County
Robert Jackson is a Special Olympics Florida original. We were founded in 1972, the same year Robert began competing. He was 13 years old at the time, and the first event he was part of was tug-of-war.
Now, 50 years later, Robert still competes in bowling, basketball, and athletics (track and field). During his time as a Special Olympics Florida athlete, he has collected a basket full of medals and awards. In 1987, Robert went to what was then called the “International Games,” competing in the 200-meter run.
Robert’s commitment to Special Olympics Florida and his five decades of participation make him an inspiration to other athletes. Each day he demonstrates that inclusion is a lifetime mission.
Mary Adamson, Lake County
Mary Adamson has spent her life as a teacher, coach, and mentor to people with intellectual disabilities. A coach for 41 years, she has been certified in 11 different sports and has coached twice at the World Games and twice at the USA Games.
A teacher, she served as a Special Olympics Florida county coordinator or co-coordinator for 30 years in Osceola and Lake counties – all while being a full-time school employee. Retirement hasn’t slowed her down. She conducts sports training for coaches and officials, serves as a Unified partner for bocce and bowling, handles committee assignments, and volunteers when needed.
Mary is driven by a simple mission: ensure our athletes – and all people with intellectual disabilities – receive the same opportunities as everyone else.
Melba Jacobs, Leon County
Melba Jacobs began volunteering with Special Olympics Florida in 1983 and became Volunteer County Director in 2004.
During her time with the organization, she’s also been a coach – certified in 13 sports – Area Director, consultant for Little Elites and Young Athletes, trainer, and committee member. She has coached at three USA Games.
When Melba became Volunteer County Director in 2002, only one school in Leon County participated in Special Olympics Florida programs. During her tenure, that number ballooned to 19 schools, with nine of those becoming Unified Champion Schools.
She oversaw similar growth in community-based programs to ensure athletes transitioning out of schools could continue to participate. The community-based programs now offer 13 different sports and serve more than 100 athletes.
Apryle Nickson, Orange County
Apryle Nickson spent 25 years as a Special Olympics Florida swimming coach in Orange County.
A former Special Olympics North America Coach of the Year, Apryle coached in two Special Olympics World Games and served as the swimming Competition Director in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
And though swimming is her area of expertise, Apryle has stepped up whenever needed, coaching several other sports, including cycling, bowling, and basketball. An effective fundraiser and champion of our Young Athletes program, Apryle sets no limits on her athletes, believing they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.
Roy Peters, Orange County
Roy, a retired special education teacher, has volunteered with Special Olympics Florida for 30 years, sharing his knowledge of sports and his organizational skills.
He has twice served as a coach at the Special Olympics World Games and, for more than 25 years, has been the Lead Track & Field Coordinator for the Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games.
Roy began volunteering with Special Olympics Florida as a basketball coach, serving as a role model and teacher for his athletes. He ultimately helped manage the Southeast Region State Basketball Tournament, offering quality competitions for more than 200 teams.
In 2022, Roy served as a Competition Director at the Special Olympics USA Games.
He is a passionate supporter of his athletes, instilling in them a sense of pride, sportsmanship, and determination.