WEST HARTFORD — American Legion Hayes-Velhge Post 96 has awarded Kevin Smith, PGA golf professional, a Citation for Meritorious Service and Support of Special Olympics, according to an email from the organization. The award was presented July 22 at Rockledge Golf Club.
Describing Kevin Smith’s history of volunteering in support of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Past Post Commander Moe Fradette described how Smith began his volunteer work when he entered Sedgwick Middle School and how it continued through his time at Conard High School.
After receiving his degree from the University of Connecticut, Smith accepted a full time position with Rockledge Golf Club as an Assistant Golf Professional and, shortly thereafter, he realized that individuals with intellectual disabilities from West Hartford were playing their golf matches at a course in a neighboring town. He petitioned the local leaders and they agreed to start a golf program in West Hartford which continues to this day.
When former local coordinator of West Hartford Special Olympics, John Van Hare, approached the Rockledge staff looking for a new golf coach Smith stepped up immediately. When he took over the program in 2013 there were only seven athletes. Under his guidance the program now has over 30 athletes, including those from other local communities.
Since he began volunteering at the state level of the Special Olympics Smith has brought many of the athletes to charity and scramble events each year including the largest one which is the Labor Day Fall Classic.
Over the past five years his program has grown to the point where one of his Connecticut golfers was selected to play in the national level in the North American Golf Classic.
In 2019 Smith was selected to coach Special Olympics Team USA at the World Games in Dubai. Not only did he have coaching and supervisory duties of 26 athletes that went to those games, Smith was honored to be selected to caddy for a 45-year-old female athlete form Virginia who took home a silver medal.
Smith’s role within the West Hartford Special Olympics continues to grow. He recently accepted the role as the local coordinator for all of the West Hartford Special Olympics programs. He is now in charge of every aspect of the sports division, all the athletes, partners, and coaches.
In presenting the award Hayes-Velhage Post Commander Patrick Harrell said, “The keystone of our organization is ‘service.’ It is the foundation for the Four Pillars of our focus: to serve our nation, our Veterans, our community, and our youth.
The service that Kevin provides, and has continuously rendered since the 6th grade, in tightly woven into three of these pillars, as his drive and energy has contributed to the development of our youth and challenged citizens, the enrichment of ours and surrounding communities, and the betterment of our nation and way of life.
It is with great pleasure that we (members of the West Hartford Hayes-Velhage Post 96) bestow this award for Meritorious Service to Kevin, along with our nomination to our Legion Department for State recognition of this outstanding service, by this selfless American Citizen.”
Rich Crowe, head pro at Rockledge Golf, also spoke of his pride in watching Kevin grow in his profession and the work he continues to do for West Hartford Special Olympic players.
The American Legion Post 96 of West Hartford has been serving our Veterans and Community since 1922 and is open to all military veterans who have served honorably and military personnel currently on active duty. Further information is available at www.post96.org or by contacting the Post at: Hayes-Velhage Post 96, P.O. Box 370160, West Hartford, CT 06137-0160.