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Aspire Awards celebrate accomplishments

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Holly Forville receives the Don Collins award from her father, Don Collins, during Wednesday’s celebration at Breck Auditorium.
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Wendy Keppel, a staff member at Loper Elementary School, receives a hug from Principal Brent Baker while accepting the Support Staff award.
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Ciara Dunham, a student at Hendricks Elementary School in Shelbyville, receives the Bear Strong award during Wednesday’s Aspire Awards ceremony at Breck Auditorium at Shelbyville High School.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

When Ty Johnson competed in Shelbyvillle High School athletics, one of his favorite moments was sporting “Shelbyville” across his chest.

The former soccer player and kicker on the football team was unable to attend Wednesday’s Aspire Awards ceremony at Breck Auditorium as one of the honorees, but he made sure to express his gratitude from a distance for the help he received in starting the Champions Together program in Shelbyville.

“Every athlete deserves the chance to compete and show the passion they have for their sport and community,” he wrote in an e-mail to Director of Special Education Andy Hensley. “This is the mission that drove me that helped build Champions Together at the high school.”

Johnson, who was unable to attend due to an internship he’s completing in Colorado as a student at DePauw University, was one of two people honored with the Hal and Sam Gambrel award. The award, which was also given to Troy Johnson, a former longtime high school teacher who helped Ty start Champions Together, was one of seven handed out to students and faculty members.

Troy Johnson, in a quote read by Hensley, said he enjoyed supporting a program that helped students build relationships.

“These connections can be carried into other areas of our students’ lives,” he wrote. “This program is so important for our community because it creates a culture of inclusion. Our students can find joy in experiencing things that so many of us take for granted, such as playing on a team, building friendships and making great memories with our school family and friends.”

The evening was an opportunity for Shelbyville Central Schools to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of local students with disabilities.

A combined 27 students and 16 SCS employees were honored.

The corporation also handed out the Hal and Sam Gambrel award, named after the father and son who, along with Hal’s wife, Linda, successfully fought the Indiana High School Athletic Association to allow Sam to participate in IHSAA-sponsored events.

The final award of the evening, the Don Collins award, went to Collins’ daughter, Holly Forville, who volunteers her time at the ARC of Shelby County.

“Anytime I’ve been at an event that Don’s been working, Holly is always there, a lot of times behind the scenes,” Hensley said. “That’s an important part of what goes on.”

SCS also handed out the Bear Strong award, recognizing special education students who show they aren’t afraid to take risks, leave their comfort zone and take on new challenges while showing courage; the Dream Chaser award, which went to special education students who made long-term goals for themselves; and the Unified Leadership award, which was given to pairs of students – one disabled, the other non-disabled – who have provided meaningful friendships to one another.

Staff members were recognized with the Super Support Staff award, which went to employees who implement the practice of supporting students with disabilities to learn; and the Educator award, which went to teachers who create instructional opportunities that provide the necessary structure that provides a learning environment.