The Big 12 Conference has announced the 2012-13 Special Olympics Athletes of the Year. This year's winners are Bekah Henderson and Tommy Newbraugh.
Each season, two athletes are selected among the states in the Big 12 footprint for their outstanding participation in and advocation of Special Olympics. Henderson and Newbraugh will travel to Kansas City for the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship to receive commemorative rings in an on-court presentation during the championship contest.
Henderson has participated in Special Olympics Topeka Junior Blues for eight years. She competes in swimming, where she likes the butterfly and breaststroke. Outside the pool, she throws the shot put, competes in the long jump, runs sprints and is on the 4x100m relay team. She also enjoys playing softball in the summer and volleyball in the fall.
Henderson was selected from over 1,400 athletes as the "Most Inspirational Athlete" at the 2008 Special Olympics Kansas Summer Games. As a result, she had the honor of lighting the Olympic Cauldron at the 2009 Summer Games. She was one of the first athletes selected to train to become a Global Messenger in 2011, where she learned skills to help her represent Special Olympics and to speak publicly about the organization and activities related to Special Olympics.
She likes to use her creativity to make jewelry and greeting cards. She also likes music and dancing. Bekah enjoys traveling and hopes to someday represent Special Olympics Kansas at the national or world games.
Newbraugh has competed in Special Olympics since the mid-1960's. His favorite sport to both watch and play is basketball. Tommy and his family are WVU basketball season ticket holders and try to attend every men's and women's home game.
He has won hundreds of medals as a Special Olympics athlete and also participates in Stepping Stones, an organization in West Virginia that provides training and assistance to individuals with special needs.
Aside from basketball, Tommy enjoys playing and watching football and is a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition to basketball and football, he participates in various track and field events, including the 100 meters, 200 meters, javelin and 4 x 400m relay.
He has twice participated in the Polar Plunge and has worked at the Goodwill for 15 years. Tommy also enjoys attending plays and traveling with his family. One of his favorite memories was representing WVU with former Mountaineer football coach Don Nehlen during the coin toss of the Friends of Coal Bowl versus Marshall.