Gahanna's Cathy Chester and Ashandra McLymont are among 20 finalists for the 2011 Jefferson Awards, which recognize those who have done extraordinary things in their communities without expecting a reward.

Gahanna's Cathy Chester and Ashandra McLymont are among 20 finalists for the 2011 Jefferson Awards, which recognize those who have done extraordinary things in their communities without expecting a reward.

Chester, 55, has been a coordinator and coach for Whitehall Special Olympics for 21 years.

McLymont, 33, is co-founder of Kya's Krusade, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization that provides support, education, and assistance to children with physical disabilities and to their families.

Chester said she's humbled to be recognized for her involvement with Whitehall Special Olympics, saying she isn't one to seek recognition.

"Years ago, when there was talk of ending the program when the original coordinators wanted to let it go, I just couldn't let that happen," she said. "So I volunteered to take over because I didn't want to let our kids down. It has always been about them. It feels great to have what I do with our athletes validated as a worthwhile, positive activity for the Whitehall community and the children who live there who are affected by a disability."

Growing up with a brother who has disabilities, Chester said, she has a heart for families who have been affected by disabilities.

"When I see the families happy, proud and excited for their children, it brings me joy," she said.

Chester first became involved with Whitehall Special Olympics as a coach in 1989, when she was hired as a special-education teacher in Whitehall schools.

"The program was very young at the time, and it just happened to be that the program was founded and run by one of the teachers I worked with in my building," Chester said. "In those days, we raised our funds selling popcorn and M&M's. I made it an annual math project for my students, and they were taught how to recognize and count money, use a calculator, roll coins, fill orders and just be able to communicate with others."

When the original coordinators moved on, Chester stepped in to continue the program.

"I have never expected a thank-you, but I feel so blessed that I have been able to be a part of these kids' lives," she said. "They have no idea that I feel that I am getting the better end of the deal by being connected to them through Special Olympics. They just make me smile. I just absolutely love being with the kids that I work with."

McLymont serves as CFO and program director for Kya's Krusade, a comprehensive resource center that serves children and families affected by physical disabilities, specializing in arthrogryposis (a rare congenital disorder characterized by multiple joint contractures) and other less- publicized physical disabilities.

The organization helps those families through its website, kyraskrusade.org, and by providing resource information, art therapy and financial assistance.A mission of Kya's Krusade is to offer education and assistance for children, from diagnosis through age 18.

"We strive to form a diverse community network and provide opportunities to enable equal access to all available informational, emotional, medical and financial sources of support," the organization's website states.

Kya's Krusade was organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes about four years ago.

No fees are required to become part of Kyra's Krusade community, through either the utilization of its services or resource network.

Its philosophical and operational approach stems from the belief in the power of collective collaboration from family, medical and social communities to bring about optimal growth, development and greater accessibility to resource options for the children and families it serves, according to its website.

ThisWeek was unable to reach McLymont for further comment.

ThisWeek Community Media is a sponsor of the Jefferson Awards that are presented by WBNS-10TV and the Nationwide On Your Side Volunteer Network.

The national Jefferson Awards were created in 1972 by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Sen. Robert Taft Jr. to highlight the works of unsung heroes.