Photo By, ravell call , Deseret News
Shelley Vermason helps a student with special needs as she participates in the Young Athletes program at Whittier Elementary School in West Valley City, Thursday, May 2, 2013. The program, sponsored by Special Olympics, provides inclusion-based play for children of all abilities.

SALT LAKE CITY — Like a lot of athletes, Michelle "Shelley" Raynes has found better health, support during tough times and life-long friendships through her participation in athletics.

And after 28 years of competing in 16 different sports and winning 240 medals with the Special Olympics, Raynes was recognized not just for her contributions on the field, but also her advocacy off the field. The 41-year-old was overcome with emotion when she spoke about how participating in Special Olympics athletics programs has enriched her life during Thursday night's 2013 Hall of Fame Banquet at the Salt Lake Sheraton.

She and the other athletes who participated in the program were the highlight of an event that raises money for local programs while thanking sponsors and community members who support the mission of Utah Special Olympics.

"I like all sports," Raynes said. "It gives me energy, strength and helps me makes friends."

Special Olympics was especially helpful to her when she lost her parents, who also coached many of her teams, in 2011. Her sister, Mel, took over those coaching duties while her other eight siblings cheer her efforts.

"She lost her world at that point," Mel said. "It was a really rough 10 months, but she just kept smiling and going to practice. She is an anchor for our family and the best example to us of perseverance and confidence."

Other athlete participants in Thursday's event were Chase Codder, who started the evening by reciting the Special Olympics' athlete's code: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Doreen Harmon, matriarch of the Harmon family and Harmons Grocery, was also inducted into the Utah Special Olympics Hall of Fame as a program builder. Harmon said she first got involved when she volunteered to house "a couple of athletes from Tooele."

She enjoyed it so much, she said, "it's just part of our family now." The Larry H. Miller Charities were given the Janet Q. Lawson Inspire Greatness Award. It's an honor given to a community organization that impacts Special Olympics programs and athletes.

The Utah High School Activities Association was honored as the Community Partner of the Year for becoming the sixth state association to offer opportunities for disabled athletes to participate in combined athletics under the Unified Sports programs. This school year, the UHSAA sponsored soccer, and it will offer track and field in the spring.

The Family of the Year was the Cole family — Kerry, ChiKay and Treven. The family has been deeply involved in Special Olympics programs and also in advocating for support among lawmakers.

Another highlight was when 8-year-old Brianna Heim made her way to the podium in a pink dress accented by some of her swimming medals to encourage support of auction items that fund various programs.

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