An avid football volunteer and a multi-sport official were named recipients of this year’s Lifetime Sport Achievement Awards during Red Deer Community Sport Awards banquet at Sheraton Red Deer Hotel on Friday.
For the first time since 1959 when the awards were established, there were two winners of this prestigious award.
Ken Van Loon, 67, was hailed for his volunteer efforts in football, while Greg Atkinson, 59, was praised for his officiating in areas of football, swimming and basketball.
Van Loon has done a number of sports endeavors over the years — coaching Grade 9 boys basketball as well as the Junior Raiders football team, refereeing basketball and football, plus officiating as well. He also was instrumental in starting three football leagues in Central Alberta.
Van Loon said he was surprised by the honour and said he would accept the award with great humility. He was glad to hear keynote speaker, 2008 Olympic gold medallist and wrestler Carol Huynh, because she achieved the epitomy of sport.
“But not everyone has to get there to enjoy it,” said Van Loon. “This is a great thing to recognize young people in sport. Nobody really plays for the awards but because they enjoy it.”
Van Loon said he enjoys volunteering in these areas because “I really love sports and it kept me busy.”
He’s volunteering as technical training director with the Central Alberta Football Officials Association. Atkinson, 59, said it was a huge honour to share the podium with a friend and fellow volunteer with the football officials association.
He’s been an active member of the amateur sports world of Red Deer for 30 years. Atkinson has officiated a number of football, basketball and swimming competitions. Atkinson was director of sports for the 2006 Alberta Summer Games.
He’s the president of the Alberta Sport Development Centre-Central region.
“I do this for the love of sports, especially in the development of athletes,” said Atkinson after receiving his award. “There’s lots of pride in seeing them develop at various levels.”
The Lifetime Sport Achievement Award was created in 1959 to recognize an outstanding sportsperson who has made a significant contribution towards developing and operating sport in Red Deer. The recipients are described as being positive sport role models, and they volunteer their time unselfishly.