“Whenever I think of her entering a room, the first thing she always looks for is who needs help.” -Joe Hart, After Opps Director

There are some common words that come up when Opportunity Knocks program directors speak about Maddie Gancer, the recipient of the 2015 Brian Jones Warrior of the Year Award.

“She has really grown into the role of a leader in our programs,” said After Opps Director Joe Hart.

“She has showed a lot of growth in maturity and realizing her potential,” said OK Executive Director Michael Carmody. “She is taking on more of a leadership role.”

“She has really stepped up in all sorts of activities and taken on a leadership role,” said Health & Wellness Director Jeni Pierce.

This growth and leadership that Maddie has demonstrated throughout the past year are the primary reasons she was named Warrior of the Year.

IMG_5127According to Hart, Maddie chooses Peer-Led Programming almost every time it is offered, a program in which participants plan and lead themed activities for their peers. Maddie has a personal interest in health and wellness, so she planned a Healthy Snacks program, which was so impressive it led to the creation of a new After Opps role: Warrior Snack Captain (WSC). AS WSC, Maddie would sit down with Pierce and plan, prepare, and learn about the health benefits of all the nutritious snacks offered at the beginning of each After Opps program day.

“We have been able to see how the Peer-Led Program has impacted her leadership skills,” said Pierce. “She has become this strong leader within the organization after she has gone through the program. She’s a great example of how Warriors can take their interests, develop them in Peer-Led, and start to take on new roles here.“

Along with helping grow the Peer-Led and Health & Wellness components of OK programs, her leadership has shown through daily, even in instances where she is not a direct activity leader. She holds staff accountable and helps them stay on top of attendance and stay on schedule. “She has helped me communicate better with people,” said Carmody. “She keeps me honest. If I’m messing up or going in a bad way, she’ll be the first to say ‘hey, you shouldn’t do that.’”

maddie and lenaMaddie also helps her fellow Warriors whenever she can. “Whenever I think of her entering a room, the first thing she always looks for is who needs help,” said Hart. “She has done an amazing job of making new and younger Warriors feel comfortable and she’s always willing to assist any Warrior who might need a little bit of extra help in any activity. She provides a lot of positive energy and motivation for them.”

Her presence and positive impact on OK over the past year has been clear and profound. “She has helped make Opportunity Knocks a better place,” said Carmody. She helps get everybody involved. She is very compassionate and caring.

People that are sometimes left out of things, she finds ways to bring them in and show everyone else the ways you should treat people.”