Presented to one or more volunteers each year for extraordinary service at the local or Divisional level.
Nominations for the 2014 ACA National Awards will be available online in June.
2013 - Kelly Gossett
In addition to running New Mexico Kayak Instruction, where
hundreds of able bodied adults and children are taught kayaking each year,
Kelly Gossett also founded Kayak New Mexico, Inc 501(c)(3) that teaches
adaptive paddling to adults and children with autism spectrum disorders,
Healing Veterans and others with physical or developmental disabilities. The
program strives to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional well‐being of each
participant through adaptive kayak instruction and inclusion in broader
community events. Adaptive paddling students go on to enjoy outings to
local lakes and easy rivers with a paddling community he founded for all former
students, as well as inclusion in community service projects (such as river‐cleanups),
participation in local, state, and federal outreach programs (such as National
Get Outdoors Day), and kayak support for open‐water triathlons throughout New Mexico. By providing kayak
support to swimmers, many feel as though they've "saved someone's
life" thereby adding depth and meaning to each individual's purpose in
life. His adaptive paddling program has grown to include as many as 9
free classes a week for Albuquerque Public Schools' Adaptive Aquatics Physical
Education programs. Annually, more than 250 special needs kids participate
in the adaptive kayaking program at no cost to the school district or
families. Kelly also teaches kayaking at Camp Enchantment, a camp
for kids with cancer, the MDA New Mexico Camp, a camp for kids who suffer from
muscular dystrophy, and Beyond Limits Wheelchair Sports Camp, a camp for kids
in wheel chairs. He also represents Albuquerque residents on the Metropolitan
Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, co-founded the New Mexico Outdoors
Coalition, was appointed by the Secretary of Interior to co-author a management
plan for the Middle Rio Grande with emphasis on conservation, recreation and
2012 - Jimmy Blakeney
Jimmy has a lifetime of experience as a waterman and educator. He is a certified ACA SUP Instructor Trainer, former US Natinal Champion whitewater kayaker, lifelong ocean surfer and holds a master's degree in education. His unique background provides students with worldclass instruction, tons of fun and the motivation to develop and maintain an active lifestyle. Jimmy now focuses his attention on training and certifying SUP Instructors when not busy with his day job as Product & Marketing Manager fro BIC Sport Paddle Surf. Jimmy also hosts an instructional series on SUP TV on YouTube. He has volunteered countless hours on the SUP curriculum development for the intor, surf and whitewater programs and worked with the ACA to sponsor the new Essentials of SUP instructional DVD that was released this year.
2011 - Lyman Goodnight
Lyman, "Lee", gives up several weekends a year to train adults as instructors in Canoe and Girl Scouts as paddlers in both kayaking and canoeing. He has become an essential part of the Aquatics Program for Girl Scouts of Gateway Council. He is also involved with the boy scouts; yet he does not have children or grandchildren of his own currently participating in either organization. On one of his recent river trips with Girl Scouts, he even helped a kayaker on the river that was in major need of medical attention. His commitment to paddling safe is passed on to the girls whom remember this in their future years. He also makes the learning for the children fun and enjoyable. Many return for following sessions to advance their skills. He covers topics that may not be of large concern in FL, such as hypothermia, but reiterates to the girls to remember this if they paddle outside of our state or during a cold time of year in FL, even though that is brief. Not only does he teach them the safety, he gets them to think safe. This is a difficult thing to do with pre-teens and teens. He is an asset to ACA on both the child and adult level, as both an Instructor Trainer and an Instructor. He modifies in instructing methods accordingly. He has volunteered for well over a decade and has given an uncountable number of hours to both programs.
2010 - Doug Davis
Doug had a long distinguished career with the U.S. Army and was formerly with the NYPD in the South Bronx. His love of the outdoors and a desire to work with young people in a more positive way lead to a career in outdoor recreation. Doug is presently certified as a Leave No Trace Master Educator, Wilderness First Responder with the Wilderness Medical Institute, and an instructor with the American Canoe Association. As a Board Member, he helped bring the National Paddlesports Conference to Louisville, KY. In addition to working at his store, he volunteers his time with the Louisville Red Cross chapter teaching CPR and Wilderness First Aid courses, and enjoys hanging out with his fellow club members in the Viking Canoe Club.
2009 - Bruce Tomes
As a very active member of the Missouri River Valley Paddlers based out of Nebraska, Bruce represented the ACA during an in-stream flow study with the USDA.
2008 - Elizabeth O'Connor
Elizabeth O'Connor - Dayton has been working and playing in and around boats of all types for most of her life. Although her business is centered on providing skills training for sea kayak, river kayak and canoe, she has had a passion for competitive racing. In the early 2000's she competed at the National level, winning the Woman's Sea Kayak marathon championship five years running. In her fifth race she won both Sea Kayak Marathon and ICF Marathon on consecutive days. In 2003 she was the top scorer on the US Team to the ICF Marathon Worlds Championship in Valladolid, Spain. Later she began to focus on sprint racing, mainly through the NY State Games, where she captained the US Team for three years running. Today she continues to race for fun and coaches paddlers interested in improving their competitive skills. Elizabeth brings these same high standards to skills training where she is certified as ACA Open Water Coastal Instructor (L4) and as a River Kayak Instructor (L2). Whether teaching a novice or an advanced paddler her company has the tools and the experience to get students off on the right foot and help them overcome most every difficulty as they advance as paddlers. "We relish the opportunity to bring the beginner from entry to advanced level, and are happy to work with the experienced paddler who wishes to hone their skills." More recently Elizabeth has been certified as an Instructor Trainer by the American Canoe Association for Coastal Kayak for levels I - IV. In addition to the interesting challeng of developing and certifying new Instructors, she also enjoys training and assessing padders and trip leaders for clubs and shops. She also has the ACA Adaptive Paddling Endorsement to train paddlers with disabilities. Elizabeth has a strong motivation to give back to the sport that has given her so much. She has served as the Divisional Instructional Facilitator for the Atlantic Division of the ACA for most of the last decade. As part of the position she also serves on the Safety Education and Instrucion Council of the ACA - the body responsible for curriculum development on the national level. Starting in 2005 she organized the annual Long Island Paddlesport Symposium a free to the public training symposium geared to provide new paddlers with basic skills and safe practices.
2008 - Phil Rhorer
Two Rivers, Wisconsin is a kayaker's town thanks to the tireless advocacy of local businessman and kayaker Phil Rohrer. Phil helped create several local paddling clubs that held a wide variety of formal and informal events throught the year.
2007 - Bill Micks
Since the 1950's, the Rappahannock River has floated Micks' boat. Fredericksburg's first river outfitter, river safety advocate and conservationist looks back over a lifetime on the Rappahannock. Bill Micks took his first paddling trip on the Rappahannock River with the Boy Scouts in 1958. It was a life-changing moment, says Micks, who lived up the hill from the river at the time, off College Avenue. His boyhood paddling trips with George Brumble, a local veterinarian and Scout leader, led to a lifelong love of the Rappahannock, decades of service to Friends of the Rappahannock, and a business that has catered to river-lovers for 40 years. The two-day paddling and camping trip "stuck with me," says Micks, 64, a retired school teacher and co-owner of the Virginia Outdoor Center on Fall Hill Avenue. Soon, he was a physical education teacher and coach in Stafford County--his day job for the next 31 years. But he couldn't shake a connection with the river. "When I got out of college, that was what I wanted to do," he says. In the summer of 1972, he borrowed $1,000, bought three Grumman canoes, paddles, life jackets and started teaching American Red Cross canoeing classes."I kept that equipment in the backyard on Powhatan Street," he recalls. At the time, a local boat dealer was selling canoes, but no one was renting them. Micks saw a business opportunity, forming Rappahannock Canoe Rentals. "The spinoff from that was [that] I thought people might be interested in river trips," he says. So he began offering them that year, becoming the area's first outfitter.The following season, he bought another couple of canoes, and the business slowly began to grow. He ran the business after his school day, on evenings and weekends. In 1975, Micks incorporated the company, and married his wife, Denise, a teacher and Spotsylvania County native. Bill has been associated with the Great Rappahannock Whitewter Canoe Race (GRWCR) since it began 32 years ago. Kirk Havens, past president of the American Canoe Association and director of the Coastal Watersheds Program at the College of William & Mary, hasn't missed one. The race typically raises about $1,000 a year for local swift water rescue programs. "Bill is probably the primary reason that our entire clan of Havens paddlers come back to the Rappahannock River every year," Havens said. "It became a family reunion for us, largely due to the generous, welcoming nature of Bill Micks." And Micks had a role in bringing the ACA, the nation's largest paddling organization, from Springfield to Fredericksburg in 2008, Havens said. The organization "had a number of different suitors" all over the country. When it considered locating in the city, one of its first contacts was Micks. The organization sponsors some of the competitions that are part of the race here, and sanctions competitions and educational and safety programs around the country. "He had a relationship with [city officials] and the community, and that here was a place that should be the home of the ACA." Havens added, "Our first impression of Fredericksburg was Bill Micks, and the city couldn't have done any better." Date published: 7/8/2012 By Rusty Dennen of the FreeLanceStar.
2006 - Joe Sharp
Joe worked for several years as the Information Technology staff person for the ACA National Office. Joe currently maintains the Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver (WWOCD) Racing website and keeps it up to date with the latest race calendar and rule updates.
2005 - Nancy Thornton
A long time ACA volunteer from Michigan, Nancy assited with the Quiet Water Symposium for many years. She taught water safety courses and clinics to numerous individuals.
2005 - Leslie White
Leslie served on the ACA Board of Directors where she offered her expertise in risk management for nonprofits. She also worked as the Director of Risk Management Services at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center and currently serves as a risk management consultant for associations. She is enjoys both skiing and kayaking.
2004 - Jeffrey Heath
2003 - Scott Greifenberger
Scotty has been involved with the ACA, USACK, the ICF and several New York paddling clubs for many years. He has focused on flatwater sprint racing. In addition, we was the Camp Director at ACA Lake Sebago and continues to serve on the Lake Sebago Board.
2003 - Eve Mancuso
2002 - Sam Fowlkes
Sam has been involved in paddlesport for 35 years. His connection with the American Canoe Association began in 1977 when he certified as an ACA Whitewater Kayak Instructor while working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center as a guide and instructor. He has been an ACA Whitewater Canoe Instructor Trainer since 1981. He is presently an Instructor Trainer Educator in Swiftwater Rescue and Whitewater Canoe for the ACA. For the last 10 years his focus has been on swiftwater rescue instruction and instructor training. Sam's interests lie in making rescue techniques adaptable and relevant to paddlers. Sam has also been on the teaching faculty of Western Carolina University for the past eleven years schooling students in water-based sports education. Sam's other ACA leadership positions include: 12 years as Dixie Division Divisional Instruction Facilitator, 4 years as SEIC Vice Chair (1996-2000). He served as Chair of the Safety, Education and Instruction Council from 2004-2007 and is a 5-year member of the Board of Directors of the ACA. In addition to receiving the Excellence in Instruction Award in 2005, he was a recipient of the ACA Joe Pena Volunteer of the Year Award in 2002.Sam is also a Rescue 3 International Instructor Trainer, a WMI WFR and a NC EMT-B. Sam gives special attention to providing a multi-level educational experience. Providing professional level training for colleges, universities, agencies, outfitters, summer camps and clubs for 30 years.
2000 - Dave Mason
Dave Mason is a past commodore of the ACA who has been a member for over 30 years. This guy bleeds ACA through and through and always finds a way to lighten the mood. Getting started: My parents sent me off to a summer camp, Camp High Rocks, where I fell in love with canoeing. When I graduated from high school, my father bought me my first canoe. That was a big mistake. I chose Sewanee because it was located in the Tennessee mountains near good white water.
Reaction to induction into the American Canoe Association Paddlesport Hall of Fame: "I was honored and flattered. I was honored that the 'higher ups' had noticed the years of training, racing and instructing that I'd done, along with serving on the boards of all the national governing bodies. To now have my name alongside some of the 'who's who' in the U.S. paddling world is very moving."
1999 - Marcia Borden
Marcia has volunteered for the ACA at all levels. She has been extremely involved with the Delaware Valley Division as well as a wide range of paddling clubs throughout Pennsylvania and New York.
1998 - Ed Schultz
Ed Schultz was the Treasurer for the ACA's Dixie Division for many years and a canoe instructor. He is also a long-time member of the Georgia Canoeing Association, which is an ACA Paddle America Club.
1997 - Sigrid Pilgrim
An avid paddler of canoe and kayaks for three decades, Sigrid's main interest is to provide information about paddlesport to the public to participate safely and to engage paddlers in becoming stewards for the environment. "Sig” has been a lifelong advocate for paddling instruction and safety, a state and national paddling community leader, and one of the founders of the current incarnation of the Illinois Paddling Council. Sig Pilgrim was present at the rebirth of the Illinois Paddling Council as an advocacy organization on Oct.1, 1995 at the statewide "Gathering at the Confluence" near Channahon. She held the follow-up meeting a month or so later in the basement of her Evanston home. That meeting formally established the IPC as the statewide advocacy Council it is today. In the mid 1990's Sig served three years on the board of American Canoe Association. From 1995 to 1998 she edited and published "Pole and Paddle”, the ACA's Midwest Division newsletter. The national organization recognized Sig's work with its "Outstanding ACA Division Volunteer Award” in 1997 and its "Presidents Award for Outstanding Service to ACA on a National Level” in 2004. Sig was instrumental in producing the 1997 Safety on the Water Conference at the College of DuPage. She was an active member of Chicago Whitewater Association and for fourteen years organized and taught the club's Evanston pool sessions. She was certified as a kayak instructor and organized and participated in the first Adaptive Paddling workshop in the Chicago area for people with disabilities. Sig's untiring energy and unparalleled event production skills spearheaded the creation and success of "Paddling in the Park” for twelve years. The regional paddlesports festival was held in Palatine and featured local retailers, clubs and low cost paddling skills instruction. For more than 15 years, Sig's service as a board member, and her marketing talents, have helped the IPC promote the growth and membership of the Illinois Paddling Council, and its efforts to promote safety, access, communication, competition and conservation. Sig's lengthy record of leadership in paddling clubs and state and national advocacy organizations, her promotion of paddling safety, and service as an instructor and river conservationist is truly inspiring. The Illinois Paddling Council is pleased to recognize Sigrid Pilgrim's decades of service with its "Lifetime Achievement Award”.