by Symantha Misale

Elizabeth Hall accepts the 2017 Rick VanderSloot Winter Sports Award at the State Winter Games.

After 15 years of competing and participating in various Special Olympics Michigan events, Oakland County athlete Elizabeth Hall was awarded the 2017 Rick VanderSloot Winter Sports Award during the Special Olympics Winter Games Opening Ceremonies at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme on Wednesday, February 1.

Elizabeth is currently the Oakland County Athlete Representative as well as holding other various positions, which include the collection and distribution of athletic uniforms for the many sports of the Huron Valley area.

Her coaches describe her as an inspiration to all, with a positive attitude and a willingness to help others improve their skills and build confidence in themselves.

"Elizabeth is a wonderful young woman who has always been a delight to coach," said Darlene Rutkowski, Area 15 Assistant Area Director, "She is enthusiastic about our Special Olympics programs."

Elizabeth is not only recognized for her teamwork and sportsmanship, but also her talents outside of athletics. She often sings the National Anthem at local Special Olympics Michigan Track and Field events, and is scheduled to sing again at the Special Olympics Regional Basketball tournament this year.

"I feel very blessed," said Elizabeth about winning the award, "being here, it's made me work hard."

In addition to receiving the award, Elizabeth was also dubbed an honorary Wertz Warrior while on stage, a compliment that lasts a lifetime. Wertz Warriors have donated more than $9.4 million since their involvement with Special Olympics Michigan, and now Elizabeth is one of them.

"It feels really good," said Elizabeth, "and I just want to thank them for all that they've done."

The Rick VanderSloot Winter Sports Award honors Special Olympics Michigan athletes who participate in the State Winter Games and has successfully participated in Area Winter Games, shown to be a true sportsman throughout his/her training and competition, and trained and competed with the knowledge and understand that, "nothing is impossible if I try."

The Rick VanderSloot Winter Sports Award is presented annually in memory of Rick VanderSloot. He was a member of the Schuss Mountain and Sugar Loaf Mountain Resort management staff, and had been involved with State Winter Games for a number of years before his unexpected passing. Rick helped maintain many of the State Winter Games outdoor events for the athletes to have an amazing experience.