Joni Burnett – Special Olympics Coach

Joni Burnett has been involved with the Special Olympics since 1992. For 24 years, she has coached volleyball, softball, and basketball, in addition to volunteering at fundraisers every chance she gets, including Publix can drives, Publix Torches, the IMG 5K, local law enforcement Torch Runs, and the monthly Special Olympics dances and dinners. Between all these events, she still makes it a priority to take her teams to the ESPN Wide World of Sports to participate in State Games every year.

Her coaching doesn’t stop off the field. She is involved in her athletes’ everyday lives, helping to plan and attend their birthday parties, taking them to the Special Needs Proms after helping to outfit them with dresses, suits, and all the necessary accessories, and accompanying them to Rays, Lightning, and Bucs games.

Joni isn’t the only one in her family giving her time and effort to the athletes. Her daughter Juliana got involved just months after her birth-at 7 months, she was coaching softball with Joni. Juliana attended practices and events with her mother throughout her life. When she was 10 years old, she became an official certified volunteer and started to help coach the athletes and to assist at practices and fundraisers. After hours of dedication and hard work, Juliana then became a certified coach in basketball with her own team to coach and a Unified Partner on the Unified volleyball team. She also has been a chaperone at state games for years.

Joni Burnett and Juliana Hinkle.