Jefferson Award Winner: Rick Wilson - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Jefferson Award Winner: Rick Wilson

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Every Saturday in the fall, a Janesville bowling alley is filled with Special Olympics athletes.

Rick Wilson has been leading the troupes for more than a decade.

He's June's Jefferson Award Winner.

For the past 13 years Rick has been the head coach for the Janesville Special Olympics bowling team.

"The whole idea of Special Olympics is that we want everybody, no matter how limited their ability is, to have a chance to compete and to be an athlete just like anyone else," he says.

That means athletes of all ages, from 8-years-old through their 70's, including Rick's 29-year-old son, Christopher.

"My son Christopher is the joy of my life. My wife and I are so blessed to have him."

Chris has been Rick's motivation to stay involved with Special Olympics.

"I get a lot of fulfillment out of it, to see their faces when they bowl, to see them improve, it's quite a joy," says Rick.

The team meets every Saturday from August through December at Black Bridge Bowl in Janesville.

They compete against other area Special Olympics bowlers, for the chance to move on to regional and state tournaments.

When Rick began coaching the program back in 2000, there were 40 bowlers.

Now, there are 120 and he's coached eight state champions.

Agency manager Ed Hale says, "He's just an awesome individual. He's grown our program tremendously over the past few years. He's just always there. He not only does the bowling coaching, but he's helping out all the time with the other sports, wherever and whenever he can."

"If you've ever been at a Special Olympics competition and you've seen how happy the athletes are when they win an award, it just tears your heart to see that," says Rick.

"I'm proud of my father. He is a special person to be with," says Rick's son Christopher.

Rick's endless dedication to his athletes is what makes him June's Jefferson Award Winner.

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