"Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do," asked Amy Van Dyken; a six-time Olympic Gold Medal swimmer who was paralyzed from the waist down as the result of an ATV accident in 2014.

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Van Dyken delivered an impassioned, funny and, most of all, inspiring speech to the attendees of the 23rd Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming Awards and Recognition Breakfast on Wednesday morning.

Various community members gathered to honor not only Van Dyken, who is truly an American hero, but also local heroes like Rocky and Lisa Eades, Brad and Jan Cundy, and a Natrona County High School senior named Julie Dysart, who was named the 2021-22 Central Wyoming Youth of the Year.

Dysart shared a story about how she felt when she learned that the man she thought was her dad actually wasn't. Dysart said she turned to the Boys & Girls Club and, through the staff, found the father figures she so desperately sought as a young woman.

Dysart won the Ruth R. Elbogen Education Award, totaling $7,500. She will continue to represent Wyoming in a state competition held next February.

Lakota Smith, who was named runner-up, was awarded a $3,500 education award as well. Both students perfectly encapsulate everything that the Boys & Girls Club represents: honor, strength, perseverance and, above all, heart.

That heart was on display in spades at the breakfast on Wednesday morning.

According to a press release from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming, "The annual Breakfast is a culmination of the Club’s annual giving campaign. Preliminary dollars raised for the “Forward Together for our Kids” campaign total just over $510,200.00. The funds will support Academic Success, Good Character & Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles, in addition to, financial literacy, Cowboy Ethics, and the Club’s overall $3.9 million annual budget. The organization serves nearly 8,000 kids at 11 sites in four counties, with its newest Club site now open in Riverton."

If anybody has worked hard for children, and their parents, it is Rocky and Lisa Eades. The Eades family was devastated when their son, Jason, was diagnosed with cancer at a very young age. When Jason passed, the Eades were faced with a decision - they could let that tragic event destroy them, or they could use it to help change the world for the better. They chose the latter and the Jason's Friends Foundation was created shortly thereafter. In the 25 years it has been in operation, the non-profit has provided more than $6 million in assistance to Wyoming families.

In addition to Rocky and Lisa, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming also honored Brad and Jan Cundy. The couple was presented with the Mick & Susie McMurry Cowboy Try Award "for their grit and tenacity in creating a flourishing company, all the while giving back to the community."

The Cundy's lost their son to suicide in 2011 and "channeled their grief into advocacy and improving access to mental health care for Wyoming's citizens."

Each person honored at the Awards Breakfast on that day have chosen to take the circumstances in their lives and use them for good. They have taken tragedy and turned it into triumph. They are heroes, in every sense of the word, and Wyoming is lucky to have them.

attachment-Lakota Smith
attachment-Julie Dysart
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Photos Courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming
Photos Courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming
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