Special Olympics New York Announces 2024 Coach of the Year Nominees

Nine Coaches Nominated from Throughout New York State

Albany, NY – Special Olympics New York is thrilled to announce the finalists for the 2024 Coach of the Year Award. The winner will be announced at Special Olympics New York’s State Winter Games in Syracuse at Opening Ceremonies on Friday, February 23.

“Special Olympics New York coaches are the lifeblood of our organization,” said President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “Our coaches—who are all volunteers—are the true heroes of Special Olympics. They inspire athletes to be the best version of themselves and empower them to find the champion within. Congratulations to all this year’s deserving nominees.”

Each of the nine finalists were nominated by staff from their regional offices and selected by a committee of voters. The nominees are as follows:

Michael Churchill, Capital Region: Named 2023 Coach of the Year in his home region, Michael Churchill has been an outstanding partner to our organization for almost 20 years. In addition to coaching, he’s also a sport director and clinician in basketball. When asked if Michael helps at events beyond his coaching duties, local staff replied, “Too many to count!”

Tom Adams, Genesee Region: When it comes to recruitment, leadership, and motivation, few do it better than Tom Adams. Despite leading one of the largest training clubs in his region, Tom is always willing to welcome new athletes and coaches to his teams. Furthermore, he organizes teambuilding activities outside competition, such as pool parties, picnics, and fantasy football leagues.

Amber Mott, Central Region: Coach, sport director, clinician, volunteer coordinator, fundraiser—you name it, Amber Mott has done it. Despite coaching three sports for a training club that’s always expanding, Amber still finds time to volunteer and fundraise. This is her second consecutive nomination.

Nancy Bellini, Hudson Valley Region: Nancy Bellini has coached an astonishing 10 sports in her region, taking her athletes all the way to the world stage in Japan and China. Furthermore, Nancy’s commitment extends into her family, since her husband and daughter are also Special Olympics NY coaches. Local staff said Nancy and her family “live Special Olympics every single waking hour.” This marks her second consecutive nomination.

Ellen Schuster, Long Island Region: With more than 20 years of experience coaching swimming, softball, golf, and floor hockey, Ellen is a mainstay of Special Olympics NY in Long Island, attending almost all local events in the region, even when she’s not coaching at them. Additionally, she serves as sport director, head of delegation, volunteer, and Athlete Leadership coordinator. This is her third consecutive nomination, which is the most among our nominees.

Ed Sullivan, North Country Region: Described as “a constant pillar for our athletes,” Ed Sullivan is one of the North Country’s most dedicated coaches. With almost 20 years of experience coaching track & field, bowling, cross country skiing, snowshoe, bocce, and swimming, Ed easily connects with athletes, volunteers, and fellow coaches. In the words of our staff, “Ed gets along with everyone and makes it so fun!”

Marilyn Best, New York City Region: The New York City Region simply wouldn’t be the same without Marilyn Best. Coaching six sports for almost 20 years, Marilyn has led her teams from the local level all the way up to 2022’s USA Games in Orlando. Outside coaching, she also volunteers, fundraises, and, in the words of our staff, “consistently puts the needs of our athletes above her own.” This is Marilyn’s second consecutive nomination.

Karli Buday, Southern Tier Region: “Karli Buday is a true ambassador for Special Olympics New York.” That’s how local staff described her, and we couldn’t agree more. As the founder of not one, but three new training clubs, she’s done an amazing job building communities in her region. But that’s not all—Karli also serves the Southern Tier as a fundraiser, volunteer, area coordinator, and more. This is her second consecutive nomination.

Kevin Anderson, Western Region: As a golf, swimming, and bocce coach at the local, regional, and national level for more than 10 years, Kevin Anderson is a mainstay in the Western Region. Outside of coaching, Kevin also serves as a clinician, event director, and member of the Statewide Coaches Committee. This is his second consecutive nomination.

Members of the media interested in interviewing our nominees can contact Casey Vattimo at cvattimo@nyso.org for more information.