‘It’ll change your heart.’ Mississippi parks director honored for work outside job, named 2024 Special Olympics Coach of the Year

Published 6:01 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

Rick Daughtry has a lot on his plate as the City of Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Director. But on Monday, he was honored for the work he chooses to do in his downtime after being named 2024 Special Olympics Coach of the Year in Mississippi.

“I would like to personally thank Rick. He does a great job with the parks and rec, but he also does a great job with the Special Olympics,” Alderman Alex Monsour said before presenting Daughtry with a resolution and plaque in honor of his service. “It takes a real special person to do that, because it’s time consuming and he puts the effort in with the children.”

Daughtry received the designation from the state Special Olympics Committee and was awarded the Coach of the Year title during the Special Olympics Summer Games opening ceremony at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi May 10.

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Daughtry took 41 athletes to Biloxi this year, where the team won 27 gold medals, 28 silver medals, 17 bronze medals and had four fourth-place finishes. 

Daughtry said it is the athletes themselves who make what he does worthy of the word “special.”

“I’ve said it and I’ll always say it, if you have never been to a Special Olympics event, or tried to help, you’re missing out,” he said. “You would not believe the camaraderie between athletes that are trying as hard as they can, and it’ll change your heart, I promise you.”

Daughtry said coaching the athletes in the Special Olympics also teaches the coaches about what the participants overcome in order to achieve their goals.

“It’s amazing what these people can do,” he said. “Don’t treat them like they have a disability, because they’ll tell you, ‘Treat me normal.’ If you see them. If you know them. Congratulate them, because they work hard. This was because of my athletes; it wasn’t because of me.”