Social entrepreneur Mary Davis, chief executive of Special Olympics International, is to receive a special recognition award at this year’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year (EoY) award ceremony on Thursday evening.
The Mayo native – who served as chief executive of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland, the first time the event was staged outside the US – has been selected to receive the award due to “her relentless hard work and dedication” to making “positive change happen throughout the world”, said Roger Wallace, EY partner lead for the awards.
As current chief executive of the international Special Olympics organisation, Ms Davis leads a team of more than 200 professionals “who are addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation for people with intellectual disabilities”, EY said in a statement.
The theme of this awards, now in their 25th year, is “changemakers” and Mr Wallace said Ms Davis is “in every way a changemaker for people with intellectual disability”.
He said: “Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland – the biggest sporting event to take place in the world that year. These games changed the lives of the thousands of Special Olympics athletes involved, their families and the volunteers who supported them.
“The legacy of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games lives on in the hundreds of community-based Special Olympics clubs throughout Ireland that provide sporting opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities every week.”
Commenting on the award, Ms Davis said she was honoured to receive it and “humbled to be listed among its prior recipients”, which include former president Mary Robinson, Fr Peter McVerry and GlenDimplex founder Martin Naughton.
“The athletes of Special Olympics are changing the world every day to be more inclusive, to foster acceptance and to recognise difference,” Ms Davis said. “They are the true leaders and, therefore, I celebrate this award with the six million athletes in our movement. They inspire me every day.”
Taking place on Thursday evening in Powerscourt Hotel in Co Wicklow, this year’s EoY awards are the first to be conducted in person since the start of the pandemic.
Some 25 finalists have been selected to compete across three categories – emerging, established and international – at this year’s event, the culmination of a year-long programme of events. An overall winner will also be selected from among the three category winners.
Last year’s overall winner was Brian O’Sullivan, chief executive and founder of Zeus Packaging, one of the largest privately owned packaging companies in the world.