By Lt. Christine Zoucha, AA/PIO
Deuel Vocational Institution
Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) was recently recognized by the Special Olympics of Northern California (SONC) for the institution’s generous contribution of $37,000 in 2017.
In attendance for the presentations were Undersecretary Diana Toche, Chief of External Affairs Albert Rivas, Warden Robert Burton, Chief Deputy Warden Kathryn Kesterson, SONC CEO David Solo, SONC Development Director Katie Ostrom, Special Olympics athletes Joynell Armer and Jock Mayers, as well as 80 DVI staff members who have volunteered, raised money or participated in the events.
“In 2004 Tracy PD invited DVI staff to participate in their first Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). At the inception of the LETR between the Tracy PD and DVI, only a handful of runners participated in the two-mile run, raising approximately $700 for the Special Olympics. … What started in 2004 with only handful of staff participating from DVI, raising $700, has grown today with over 100-plus staff participants and raised $3,500,00 (total in) annual contributions to the Special Olympics. The LETR participants include the Crisis Response Team, The Modesto Running Group, staff, family, friends, Officers from DVI, Tracy PD, Modesto PD have run the DVI leg in full uniform,” said CDW Kesterson. “As the Chief Deputy Warden, I am proud of all our staff at DVI who contribute to the continued success for the Special Olympic Athletes.”
Undersecretary Toche was the event’s keynote speaker.
“I applaud all the athletes for inspiring us with your talents and commitment to train hard and compete in Special Olympic events,” said Undersecretary Toche. “CDCR has been engaged in Special Olympics for many years, but it was five years ago that we made a significant pledge to get involved in an even more meaningful way. I’m pleased to share that we have come a long way with our engagement and collaboration, and it’s been a rewarding experience.”
DVI’s SONC Committee is CDW Katheryn Kesterson, CRM Martina Virrey, Capt. Rudy Marquez, George Paul, Sgt. Sabrina Harris, Sgt. Homer Shamoeil and Damara Drapeau.
DVI would like to recognize the following staff for their tireless support and overwhelming volunteerism to the SONC.
Sgt. Homer Shamoeil has been involved with Special Olympics since 2006. DVI Crisis Response Team began running the torch with Correctional Sgt. S. Harris to the Tracy Police Department. “As the years went on the Torch Run participation grew at DVI. We had friend and families join the fun with us. Over the years our team began looking at other fundraiser ideas to help with sending more athletes to the games without making it a financial burden on them. Our team at DVI began to put together other events like the 5K Gladiator Challenge, Golf Tournament and participation in the Polar Plunge. The Special Olympics athletes motivate everyone around them. Their determination, motivation, dedication and courage is a beautiful sight. There are days where I am too tired to train and come up with excuses not to. Then I watch a video I had made of the athletes and I get motivated to push through the tiredness. Every year the athletes thank us for the fundraisers and contributions, but the real heroes are the athletes showing us everything is possible,” he said.
Damara Drapeau, Material & Stores Supervisor I has supported the Special Olympics prior to her employment with CDCR. Her sister Denay has participated in SONC as a Special Olympics athlete for 10 years. She joined the DVI LETR Planning committee in 2014 because she wanted to give back and do something positive. “I have helped with the Torch Run, the inaugural 5k Mud Run, the Golf Tournament and attended the International LETR Conference to bring back Planning resources for Team DVI,” she said.
Martina Virrey, Community Resources Manager, joined the DVI LETR Planning Committee in 2008. She handles logistics, financial records, marketing, and maintains the overall strategic plan for DVI’s LETR Campaign. SONC is changing the lives of its athletes and that has inspired her to go above and beyond for this cause. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it when she hears our athletes tell their story.
Capt. George Paul has been volunteering in a multitude of programs his entire adult life and with the SONC for the past seven years. He has participated in the torch run for several years, the mud run since its inception and last year he co-organized the inaugural DVI Gladiator Golf Tournament. He foresees more events in the future. “I want to put a smile on a face and hopefully give confidence to those that may have never known that feeling. I would love to see a SONC bowl-a-thon where the athletes can pair with law enforcement on teams. Sponsorship would come in the form of a monetary donation for every pin knocked down by each team. The team with the highest pin count, second and third counts, would receive trophies and or ribbons and of course bragging rights for an entire year until the next bowl-a-thon. This type of event would foster a tremendous outpouring of support,” he said.
Capt. Rudy Marquez has been volunteering for the last couple of years. “I guess what really opened my eyes is when I volunteered for disability society and chaperoned an event. It was the day on the farm and to see their faces was priceless. What I take for granted they work hard every day to accomplish the same things in life, and they don’t let nothing get them down they are always happy. So, to be able to help a Special Olympian participate in an event, allowing them to have fun and enjoy themselves, is rewarding in itself,” he said.
Sgt. Sabrina Harris is often described as the heart and soul of the DVI team. She ran her very first torch run in 2004, and since that year she has participated in the LETR every year to date. DVI was invited to participate with local Tracy PD and they met up with them and did a two-mile loop back to the PD parking lot. “That year was pretty awesome. I met the very first Special Olympic athletes and it put a fire in me to not only want to help support this great organization but to also to achieve more for myself. The athletes inspired me to push harder and I began her own fitness and running journey shortly after that first year. Over the next two years, 2005 and 2006, DVI joined with Tracy PD annually for the torch run. In 2007, DVI decided to start their own leg and run the torch to Tracy PD which is a five-mile run or bike ride to hand off the torch. For many years DVI’s group consisted of about six to 10 runners. Sometimes we would get up to 15 to participate and we would raise about $500 to $700 total in donations,” she said. “The last three years, DVI participation has grown to over 100 runners, and bikers and support staff participating in our leg. DVI was presented with our very own inscribed torch for 2017 earnings exceeding $7,500. Along with the Torch Run, we have participated in numerous Tip-a-Cop events in Tracy and Manteca over the years and the past three years we have partnered with Texas Road House in Tracy for the largest Tip-a-Cops to date. We have served at Chilis, Red Robin, Buffalo Wild Wings, and a few other places over the years. We have added the Polar Plunge, and also a 5k obstacle mud run, and now a golf tournament as well. We have a huge support staff that has helped out over the years and then your core people that time and again always come through. The athletes and their families are the heroes here. I feel lucky to be able to participate and support such an amazing group of people and they are why I do as much as I can for the Special Olympics.”