By Traci Chapman
Jerry Stewart is one of those people who always wants to help others – a man who makes friends easily, who wants to make a difference in others’ lives, he is someone who personifies the best of that group of individuals known as Special Athletes.
Because of those traits – and so many more, officials say – it was easy to make the selection of the 2022 Boomer Sooner Area Special Athlete of the Year.
Jerry Stewart was just a natural, state Special Olympics of Oklahoma officials said. In addition to consistently participating in gaming events, he is a strong presence as a cheerleader of sorts, always supporting his teammates and other athletes, no matter what the sport or how they perform.
“That’s just how Jerry is, who Jerry is,” said Maj. Matt Fairchild with Yukon Police Department. “He’s so upbeat, so positive, so caring about people – and it’s an inspiration.”
But Fairchild himself is someone who is no stranger to Special Olympics. He became involved with the organization in 1996 and began a long-held tradition of “mill sitting” to raise funds for the cause. He, with other officers, would spend as long as seven days on top of the Yukon Mill to raise funds to help Special Olympics.
It’s the kind of dedication that makes for an Oklahoma State Special Olympics Volunteer of the Year, said Paige Martin with SOOK. Just Monday Fairchild learned he was that state volunteer of the year. He will be celebrated during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics’ summer games, held in Stillwater in May.
“It’s really been about just raising awareness for Special Olympics, how great it is and the quality of life it gives to people,” Fairchild said Monday. “It really is what motivates people, including Jerry.”
The reach of people like Fairchild show – and, In fact, Stewart said, his best friend is the person who inspires him. The two have known each other for more than 18 years and through Fairchild’s long involvement with Special Olympics, the two forged a bond – something that goes far beyond the games themselves.
“He’s my best friend, he takes me out to dinner, he’s always there – you couldn’t ask for a better buddy than that,” Stewart said. “I’m very happy I have a friend like that.”
Fairchild feels the same affection for Stewart and his wife, Tina. He served as best man at the couple’s wedding; the major also is the unified partner for both of them during Special Olympics contests.
“My whole family has gotten to know Jerry and Tina, including my wife and daughters and even my niece,” Fairchild said. “I consider him one of my best friends now.”