Special Olympics to honor local men

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Two local men will receive awards for their roles in the Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Connecticut will host its annual Hall of Fame Dinner on March 25 to recognize its extraordinary athletes, volunteers and sponsors. Among the honorees this year are John Keeley of Prospect and Jake Segla of Naugatuck.

Keeley, 61, will receive the Unsung Hero Award, which honors volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes for Special Olympics Connecticut with no expectation of recognition or reward.

Keeley said he became involved with the Special Olympics in 1995 when New Haven hosted the World Games. It’s the athletes, Keeley, said, that keeps him coming back to volunteer with the Special Olympics.

“The easy answer is the enthusiasm of all the athletes and their zest for everything: life, the sports. Everything they do is very rewarding,” Keeley said.

One of the main events Keeley is involved in is the Dream Ride, which brings motorcycles and classic cars from around America into Farmington. The event, which is in its 15th year, has raised over $3 million for the Special Olympics Connecticut since its inception.

“We end up getting 4,000 motorcyclists and cars and 10,000 people in Farmington for the event,” Keeley said.

Keeley said he’s honored to receive the Unsung Hero Award and will be accepting the award on behalf of his entire team who helps him with the events.

“I’m very flattered. It’s a very nice honor. It’s always great to be acknowledged,” Keeley said. “It was something unexpected and very appreciated.”

Segla, 28, will receive the Spirit of Life Award, which is given to athletes who exemplify the true spirit and meaning of the Special Olympics.

Segla’s mother Trudy Segla said her son has been an athlete with the Special Olympics since he was 9 years old and participates in every sport he can, from alpine skiing to swimming.

In addition to being an athlete, Jake Segla has served as a global messenger, or spokesperson, for Special Olympics Connecticut since 2013. As a global messenger, Jake Segla introduces athletes at events and meets with people.

Trudy Segla said the family was surprised when they learned Jake had won the Spirit of Life Award.

“We’re very proud of him,” she said.

The annual Hall of Fame Dinner will take place at 6 p.m. March 25 at the Aqua Turf Country Club in Plantsville. The cost is $25 per person or $250 for a table of ten. For more information, visit www.soct.org.