December 9, 2002
|‘Spirit of Woodinville’ recipient honored|
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Writer
Louis Mendoza volunteers his time offering encouragement to special needs athletes. During his off-hours, he helps them become better at their sport while rooting for them the entire way.
For those going out for track in the spring, Mendoza shows them how to stay in the lane and where the finish line is. He records their track time and coaches them in basic instruction.
In the fall, he assists the athletes who participate in bowling.
“Special Olympics Bowling doesn’t allow bumpers during competition,” Mendoza explained. “The athletes practice shooting the ball straight down the alley and some are not used to that particular motion. It was a joy to watch them develop that skill.”
The athletes going out for track have an ultimate goal to participate in the one-day Special Olympics regional event and they can count on Mendoza, among a whole host of others, to cheer them on.
For those athletes who qualify in the regional event, they go on to the State Tournament held each year at Fort Lewis.
“It’s quite a big to-do at Fort Lewis,” said Mendoza, and added that the emphasis of the Games does not focus on winning. “The emphasis is on exercise, going out and being a part of a team, experience, competition and having fun.”
Mendoza became interested in helping adults and children who have special needs when he attended the Special Olympics Games in Southern California many years ago.
“I was very impressed with all that was going on, and with the attitude, not just with the athletes but with the parents, coaches and everyone involved in the program. It was a very supportive environment.”
Some time after moving to Washington state, Mendoza took a position at Woodmoor Elementary School that allowed him the opportunity to work with special needs students.
His classroom position soon evolved into a volunteer position at Woodinville Parks and Recreation.
As his students trained for the Special Olympics in Woodinville’s Specialized Recreation program, Mendoza extended his support by becoming involved with the program too.
“Every athlete I’ve seen who has come out to be a part of the (Specialized Recreation) program has in some way exceeded their expectations. I took the opportunity when it came up to be a part of that.”
Understanding the needs of the athletes, Mendoza not only earned their trust, but also made connections with their parents.
He became instrumental in helping the Woodinville Parks and Recreation Special Olympics program get back on its feet after a yearlong hiatus and gave the program’s coordinator, Cole Caplan, tips on ways to assist a participant with particular needs. Mendoza also looked for ways to make the program better, such as suggesting a pizza party at the end of the first season or taking photos of the athletes for keepsakes to give to parents.
“Louis has energy, good ideas and he brings a positive spin to our program,” said Caplan. “His experience, knowledge and background are invaluable.”
The City of Woodinville took notice of Mendoza’s invaluable service and selected him for the distinct honor of being named the first recipient of the ‘Spirit of Woodinville’ award. His dedication to special needs athletes will be commemorated at the City Council meeting Monday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 pm.
At the awards ceremony, he will receive a Certificate of Recognition as a community leader who demonstrates character and commitment through acts of kindness, generosity and service.
Mendoza resides in Woodinville with his wife, Paula and daughters, Gena, 14, and Adrienne, 11. He said he volunteers his time because he wants to give back to the community and working with the special needs athletes seemed like a natural thing to do.
Reflecting back to that first Special Olympics Games in Southern California where he witnessed the supportive attitude among the participants and their families, Mendoza said, “I continue to see that today the attitude of the parents and the support they give to their own athletes on our team and to the athletes on the other team. Everybody’s rooting for everybody.”
It’s that supportive spirit that celebrates and honors Mendoza’s contribution to Woodinville.
Louis Mendoza recognized for his service to special needs athletes
Photo by Cole Caplan
Members of Woodinville’s track team: (front, l-r) David Nystrom, Melanie “Mel” Patterson, Molly Borchers, Matthew Totonelly. In the back row are coaches: Louis Mendoza and Greg Totonelly.