Pam Dew can't help but be involved in enriching the lives of people with special needs. After retiring as coordinator of Newton County Special Olympics for the past 23 years, Dew simply decided to start another nonprofit, this time aimed at adults with special needs.
For her longtime and continuing commitment to making Newton County a better place, Dew was named the 2011 Hometown Hero Tuesday by The Covington News and General Mills.
"This was just such an honor for all of the years I put in. I truly don't believe I'm a hero in any way," Dew said Tuesday. "It's so funny, I said that to LaTrelle Cawthon (the new Special Olympics coordinator), but she said, ‘You're my hero, because that's what I model myself after.' That's what this is all about, teaching the younger people things like this."
Dew's passion has always been working with special needs athletes from her first experience with adaptive physical education at Purdue University. That passion hasn't faded to this day, as she now runs the Newton Masters Special Olympics program for special needs athletes over the age of 22.
"In the past several years, many of the students whom I have worked with over my teaching time have lost their Medicaid waivers as adults, which allowed them to centers and workshops," Dew said. "So because of that, many of them are staying at home every day, so many of their parents are having to give up their jobs to stay at home and be caregivers for their special needs adult children because there are no opportunities for them."
Dew said 26 adults are currently in the program, which is in its infancy and in need of volunteers and donations. To learn more about the program and how to help, email Dew at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (404) 791-3032.
"That's the whole purpose of this award, to honor folks like yourself, Pam, that really attest to the value of hard work and go about doing their things," said The News' General Manager T. Pat Cavanaugh. "A lot of people don't recognize what they do and they don't ask for it. That's what makes them even more special and that's why we enjoy doing it. You're a great recipient."
"It was a humbling experience to review all of the contributions of the extremely worthy candidates for this award. All of them are so well deserving of this recognition," said Orric Browning with General Mills. "They are all truly winners and so is our community thanks to their heroic efforts."