If you like smiling, you’ll love Betsy Schaffer of Great Falls. “I would describe myself as fantastic,” she said matter-of-factly.
But you don’t have to take her word for it. Everyone thinks Betsy is fantastic. She’s been a constant positive presence for Special Olympics in Great Falls and beyond, even competing in the 2018 USA Games in Seattle as part of Team Montana.
That’s just a small fraction of the many reasons she was named Special Olympics Montana’s 2020 Athlete of the Year. "I was ecstatic that I got athlete of the year,” she laughed. “It was a big surprise. It was pretty overwhelming and emotional.”
Special Olympics Montana CEO Rhonda McCarty surprised Betsy with the news at East Middle School, where she works as an administrative assistant. “Your sportsmanship, your courage, your willingness to help your teammates, your drive to be at your personal best all of the time," Rhonda explained to Betsy, "these are some of the many reasons why you are an exemplary choice for Athlete of the Year for Special Olympics Montana. Congratulations."
With tears in her eyes, Betsy and Rhonda hugged.
“How do you feel?” asked Rhonda.
“Pretty darn good!” Betsy replied.
A well-deserved honor, for a well-liked and dedicated athlete.
But the truth is, it’s been a tough year to be Athlete of the Year. Normally Betsy would be a key ambassador for Special Olympics, front and center at every statewide event. But with COVID-19 altering much of the schedule and moving much of the competitions to virtual or regional events, there have been fewer opportunities to see Betsy’s winning smile.
But Betsy doesn’t care about that. Through a tumultuous year, Betsy’s smile and attitude has never wavered. And that makes her the perfect choice for Athlete of the Year.
“Attitude is so important to me,” Betsy said. “Because my attitude changes everything.”
Betsy’s first SOMT games were in 2009, so the 2021 event will mark 13 years of competition. She plans to compete in golf and bocce.