Matthews, McKnight receive statewide Triumph of the Human Spirit Awards

From Staff Reports

Two Henry County residents have earned accolades for reaching new heights of success, and for helping other disabled athletes do the same.

Henry residents Harlon Matthews, left, and Errol McKnight. Special photo

Harlon Matthews and Errol “Big D” McKnight recently received Triumph of the Human Spirit Awards from BlazeSports America. The awards recognize individuals in Georgia who have made a significant impact through adaptive sports and recreation.

The awards were presented earlier this month at the Art and Angela Williams Theater at the Primerica Global Headquarters in Duluth.

Matthews is regarded as mentor and coach to many athletes, and an advocate for creating opportunities in adaptive sports in Georgia and across the nation. A therapeutic recreation specialist for Henry County Parks and Recreation, he began his adaptive sports career playing wheelchair basketball. At the end of the season for that sport, he tried his hand at wheelchair tennis, which soon became his passion. He is currently ranked in the United State’s Tennis Association’s Wheelchair Men’s A Division, and has even defeated some able-bodied players along the way.

Matthews serves as the chairman of the USTA’s Southern Wheelchair Tennis Committee, and has helped to create opportunities for children with disabilities to play wheelchair tennis. Under his leadership, the Georgia Grand Prix series has grown from two tournaments to five in less than 10 years, earning the event the 2012 US Tennis Association’s Georgia Wheel-chair Event of the Year Award.

Earlier this year, Matthews also received the Brad Parks Award for his contributions to wheelchair tennis. A long-time advocate for creating adaptive sport opportunities, a mentor and coach to many, his greatest source of joy, and a Triumph of the Human Spirit Award winner.

McKnight, a disabled Air Force veteran, was leading a sedentary lifestyle before being introduced to adaptive archery. He quickly discovered and developed a passion for it, thanks in part to his natural abilities in the sport. His determination and perseverance led him to a gold medal for archery in the 2015 Endeavor Games. McKnight has used his leadership skills to help his fellow veteran teammates improve, and enjoys sharing his knowledge of the sport with others.

Matthews and McKnight were among 20 recipients for the Triumph of the Human Spirit Awards. The nonprofit organization of the 1996 Paralympic Games, BlazeSports America offers programs and services to encourage lifelong health, build leadership skills, foster independence and inclusion, and promote an inclusive society.

BlazeSports America Executive Director Cynthia Frisina commended the award winners and all those who have excelled in the area of adaptive sports.

“This year’s BlazeSports Triumph of the Human Spirit Awards ceremony offered an extra special evening,” says Frisina. “We were honored to be in the company of so many athletes, coaches, volunteers, organizations, elected officials, veterans, families and friends who all contribute time, passion and commitment towards adaptive sport and recreation in Georgia.”

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