Special Olympics Michigan Inducts Three New Hall of Fame Members

by Brad Lake

Special Olympics Michigan was honored to induct new members into its Hall of Fame on Saturday, November 4 at Treetops Resort in Gaylord. The 2017 Hall of Fame inductees class consists of three incredibly devoted SOMI volunteers: Sheila Gafney, Val Suszko and Dave Pruder.

Sheila Gafney, 2017 SOMI Hall of Fame inductee

Sheila Gafney

Sheila Gafney has been a transformative leader and embodies the mission of Special Olympics. She is constantly empowering athletes and has dedicated years to helping athletes chase their dreams. Sheila is an adaptive physical education teacher and volunteers for Special Olympics when she is not working at the school.

One of her athletes said this of Sheila: "She tells me I am a leader and I can do anything I put my mind to. Just keep trying."

Sheila was the head coach for the Special Olympics USA volleyball team from Area 13 (Genesee and Lapeer Counties) that won gold at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles. Sheila sees each athlete as an individual bursting with potential, ready to make their mark on the world. That passion and devotion to education and growth is why Sheila is so important to the Special Olympics family. Her life-long devotion to her athletes is evident when you see their interaction with her and the love they show towards her.

Val Suszko, 2017 SOMI Hall of Fame inductee

Val Suszko

Val Suszko has been involved with Special Olympics Michigan at the local, area and state level for over 30 years.

Locally, Val is the Special Education Athletic Coordinator for Holt Public Schools and coordinates all activities district-wide for students in elementary, middle school, and high school. She has shown incredible dedication to providing athletes of all ages opportunities to compete and reach their potential as individuals. She has been an exceptional organizer and fundraiser – helping maintain and bring new programs to students throughout the state. She has inspired so many people to get involved and follow their dreams through her incredible dedication.

Dave Pruder, 2017 SOMI Hall of Fame inductee

Dave Pruder

Dave Pruder has been involved in the local Special Olympics program since the late 1980s. He started as a chaperone for State Summer Games around 1987. From there, Dave's involvement blossomed. Dave became the lead track coach and began to organize local track and field meets. He was instrumental in the creation of "league" play and involving multiple areas in an event.

Dave has helped athletes compete at the local, state, national and international levels with appearances at World Games in Ireland, Korea, and Los Angeles. Dave has also been selected to coach athletes in the 2018 USA Games in Seattle.

Dave is another leader within Special Olympics who has dedicated so much of his life to forging a tie between the community and the Special Olympics mission. His understanding of the importance of community and unity among those in it has helped him leave his mark on the lives of countless athletes.

Special Olympics Michigan would like to thank all three inductees for their life-long commitment to the program.