WHITEFISH — With Special Olympics Montana getting under way, one father-son duo from Whitefish that has captured respective coach and player of the year awards couldn't be more excited.
"Through Special Olympics it's giving me encouragement to do other things like to figure out how to keep a job and work in the community," said 2022 SOMT Distinguished Service Athlete of the Year, Kyler Morrison.
Since he was 11 years old Kyler has been a huge part of Special Olympics, both as an advocate and an athlete. Now, he’s ready to compete at the statewide level for golf and track and field events.
"About the end of May we're going to go down and do the same things we did here but for the whole state," said an excited Kyler. "The whole state is going to be there."
When it comes to the Whitefish Thunder adult team that they founded in 2011, Kyler’s father Kent knows it couldn’t have come to be without the Whitefish Rotary Club.
"Kyler had this vision that we should have a Whitefish adult team for those who graduate from Whitefish high school who didn't have anywhere to go," said 2022 SOMT Distinguished Service Coach of the Year, Kent Morrison. "So we approached Whitefish rotary, and presented to them the idea of beginning the Whitefish Thunder adult team and they jumped in and funded us some startup money."
In 2022 the dynamic duo of Kyler and Kent received the respective SOMT distinguished service awards for both athlete and coach of the year, but Kent knows the program much bigger than just a few individuals.
"To be singled out is an honor, but I know it also represents the hard work of many, many other people who probably do far more than I do," said a grateful Kent. "And I've just been fortunate, and Kyler has been fortunate to be in this position."
While participating in Special Olympics for over 20 years now, arguably the biggest achievement for Kyler came in 2011 when he spearheaded the passing of a statewide resolution to establish the second week of May as an appreciation week for individuals with developmental disabilities.
"I think as much as the athletic participation is his passion, so is to be an advocate for the mission of inclusion for Special Olympics," said Kent. "And that's really what we're about, is trying to bring our athletes into normal community life and seen us productive individuals that contribute positive things to the community."
The statewide special Olympics will take place in Bozeman from May 17-19.