VIDEO: Brevard Special Olympics’ Gage, Snodgrass and Taback Honored As Hall of Famers
By By Maria Sonnenberg // May 11, 2016
Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame
ABOVE VIDEO: No other organization distills the essence of sports as well as Special Olympics, a perfect union of coaches and other dedicated volunteers with athletes with intellectual disabilities.
2016 CHALLENGER INDUCTEES
No Other Organization Distills
the Essence of Sports As Well As
Brevard Special Olympics
No other organization distills the essence of sports as well as Special Olympics, a perfect union of coaches and other dedicated volunteers with athletes with intellectual disabilities.
This is a group that is all about the courage, determination and hard work needed to excel in sports, strictly for the payback of the pure joy of excelling at a sport and playing a good game.
As examples, take Brevard Special Olympics athlete Clayton Gage, coach Tonya Snodgrass and volunteer Nancy Sigoloff Taback. Each in their own way have done the organization proud.
Thanks to team founder Snodgrass, the Brevard USC Special Olympics unified softball in 2014 and competed in the Special Olympics USA Games, one of the biggest sporting events in the United States with more than 16 different sports, 3,5000 participating athletes, 1,500 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and 80,000 spectators.
Not only did they compete, but they did very well, very well, indeed. The team advanced to the finals to win the gold medal 7-5 against a team from Pennsylvania.
The Brevard Board of County Commissioners recognized the team, particularly head coach Tonya Snodgrass, for her efforts in using sports to break down barriers between athletes with disabilities and the rest of the community.
Snodgrass has never hesitated to go out of her way to help a Special Olympics athlete realize his/her dream.
At one point, the Melbourne resident drove 30 miles each way to Titusville because an athlete wanted to participate in tennis.
“The athlete she trained was selected to attend the World Games in Minnesota,” said Cindy Dropeski, who nominated Snodgrass for the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
“Tonya also traveled to Minnesota to watch her athlete compete.”
Snodgrass attended training to be certified in 12 sports offered by Special Olympics Florida. She made international and national contributions by attending the World Games as a unified partner for the first golf competition. She was named the head golf coach for Team Florida in 2006.
This pillar of Brevard’s Special Olympics program was named Statewide Coach of the Year in 1993.
Snodgrass’ association with Special Olympics began modestly enough when she was tapped as a last-minute chaperone for the Brevard team during the State Summer Games in 1988.
During that supposedly temporary gig, Snodgrass immediately realized the importance of the games and has remained a shining light with Brevard Special Olympics for almost three decades.
NANCY SIGOLOFF TABACK
When Special Olympics volunteer Nancy Sigoloff Taback first arrived in Florida in 1978 she already had a decade of service with Special Olympics serving as the Northeast Regional Director for Missouri Special Olympics before she accepted a position as senior recreation supervisor with Brevard Parks and Recreation Department in Titusville.
Taback created and coached Madison Middle School’s first Special Olympics basketball team. Two of her athletes became skilled enough to make the mainstream junior varsity team at Astronaut High School.
For more than 30 years, Taback has coached a variety of Special Olympics sports, including basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming and track and field.
Florida Special Olympics selected Taback as the Volunteer of the year in 1982 and Special Olympics, Inc., honored her by naming her Spark Plug of the Year in 1983.
Taback once told her friends that she could never marry anyone who didn’t embrace Special Olympics with the same fervor as she did.
Fortunately, she found that kindred spirit in Monte, the love of her life, who supports Special Olympics with the same enthusiasm and devotion as Nancy. Their children, Rachel and Michael, are the next generation of Tabacks involved with Special Olympics.
The doctors years ago recommended to Clayton Gage’s parents that they should institutionalize their autistic son.
Fortunately, Clayton’s parents paid no attention to these specialists, instead seeking help from a University of South Florida professor who suggested positive reinforcement and operant condition for behavior modification.
It wasn’t easy, but years of resolve, therapy and tough love paid off.
Clayton became his own man, with a driver’s license, a high school diploma and a job at Busch Gardens. He also started playing softball with Special Olympics in Tampa as a member of the Hillsborough County Slugger softball team in 1992.
“Clayton is a dedicated athlete, always working hard at practice and giving 100 percent on competition days,” said Clayton’s Tampa coach, Laurie Chmielewski.
“He was always willing to help other athletes work on their skills and he was always respectful to the coaches.”
In 1997, Clayton moved to Brevard County to work with Brevard Achievement Center. He worked hard and diligently, saving to realize in 2005 that most American of dreams, the purchase of his own home.
The very independent Clayton continues playing softball, volleyball, bowling, basketball, surfing and swimming with Special Olympics, but he is also involved with the Aktion Club, a Kiwanis community service.
A highlight of Clayton’s career was his participating in the softball team that took the gold medal at the 2014 Special Olympics National Games.
Thanks to Snodgrass, Taback and Gage and others involved with Special Olympics, this very special group continues to daily shatter the stereotypes, empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to excel both on the field and in life.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
CLICK HERE to see all the members of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.