Serge Michaud was wondering why the Yukon’s commissioner and media were present at the Special Olympics Yukon’s annual Christmas party at the Yukon Inn on Thursday.
Unbeknownst to Michaud, the executive director of Special Olympics Yukon, he was about to receive a prestigious award.
In recognition for all his years of service to the community, Michaud was presented the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by Commissioner of Yukon Doug Phillips.
It caught him off guard. He got a little choked up about it.
“Now I know why the commissioner is here,” said Michaud during his acceptance speech. “In 1989, when I started, my mom, my brother and another lady said, ‘We could use a hand with bowling.’ I didn’t know what I was getting into; I didn’t know it would become a lifelong career.
“I just love seeing you guys succeed and I love seeing you guys play and train in the sports you love. It brings joy to my heart.
“There’s no question that my brother is a big inspiration in my life. As much as it’s for him, it’s for the other 89 or 90 athletes that we have.”
Beginning in his native Quebec, Michaud has been working with Special Olympians for over 23 years. His brother Gaetan, who is a Special Olympian, helped encourage Serge to become a 10-pin bowling coach in the West Island Region of Special Olympics Quebec in 1989.
By 1993, Serge was head coach of the West Island Team, a position he served for four years.
Between 1995 and 1999 Serge held a seat on the Special Olympics Quebec board of directors and served as the provincial programs chair.
After twice attending national Games as an assistant coach, in 1998 Serge went to his first as a head coach, at the helm of Quebec’s athletics team.
During his time at the Quebec chapter, Serge helped expand a base of 700 athletes to more than 1,000.
Serge has served as executive director of Special Olympics Yukon since moving to the territory in 1999. Under his guidance, the organization has grown from 32 athletes and 20 volunteers to over 90 athletes and 60 volunteers.
The key to his success, says Serge, is never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
“I don’t like standing around, I like seeing things happen now,” said Michaud. “Tomorrow is where your dreams are, but today is where you start working on those dreams. I think our coaches and athletes share that philosophy.”
Serge also established a school program for children with intellectual disabilities in 2001.
Although he has done so much in the Yukon, his nomination wasn’t local. It came down from the very top: Special Olympics Canada.
“It’s an honour,” said Michaud, in an interview with the News. “For me, it’s all about the work we do. Like I said Thursday, putting smiles on people’s face is what I do and what I want to do. It’s been a passion of mine for 23 years and I look forward to another 23 years of providing sports opportunities to our athletes.
“You don’t do the work you do to get this kind of recognition. It’s nice.”
Thursday’s Christmas party was also a chance to underscore awards given to Special Olympics Yukon athletes at the Sports Yukon Awards Night three weeks ago.
Figure skater Michael Sumner was named Male Athlete of the Year at the awards ceremony.
Sumner will be representing Canada at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, early next year.
He made the national team after capturing gold in Level 1 at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in March.
Sumner was the first male Yukon figure skater to medal at a national Games and, consequently, will be the first male figure skater from the Yukon to compete at the World Winter Games.
“I’m feeling really well about this,” said Sumner. “I’m changing my routine to Pirates of the Caribbean, the Black Pearl.”
So far no nerves about the worlds have crept in: “All positive,” he said.
Figure skater Tennaigha Glada was named Female Athlete of the Year.
Ernest Chua won Most Improved Male Athlete of the Year for his cross-country skiing, bowling and figure skating.
Taylor Amundson was named Most Improved Female Athlete of the Year for her efforts in figure skating, swimming and bocce.
Figure skating coach Esther Chasse was given the Heather Miller Award of Excellence in Volunteering.
“She’s been a volunteer of ours for five or six years and she’s very dedicated to our athletes,” said Michaud. “She gets involved wherever she can outside of figure skating. She’s very much dedicated to our athletes, to their advancement, helping them out in sports that they love.”
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