The Carson City/Gardnerville/Minden Special Olympic program lost more than a volunteer and coach on Saturday when sports training director Brad Lauderbaugh unexpectedly passed away at the age of 34.
It also lost a great friend.
"He was always there for Special Olympics," said Pam Glass, the ski coach for Carson City athletes during the Special Olympic Winter Games, which concluded on Thursday at Spooner Lake Ski Area. "If he wasn't coaching a sport and we needed transportation, he was always available. If there were ever an athlete sick or in the hospital, he would go out of his way to visit."
Although he was not coaching a winter sport this season, most of the athletes and coaches participating in the Winter Games were familiar with Lauderbaugh. Lauderbaugh, a past area training director, served as the Carson City area softball and track and field coach and he also assisted with basketball, floor hockey and equestrian sports.
"The Special Olympians are all bummed, just like the coaches - it's been a shock to us all," Glass said.
Robin Griffiths, the Nordic competition director, said the entire three-day competition was dedicated to the memory of Lauderbaugh.
Lauderbaugh, who became involved with Special Olympics when his brother Brent started participating in the program, was also famous among Special Olympians for hosting parties, including an annual Halloween bash complete with a "Haunted House." It was his treatment of the Special Olympians as his peers which made him so popular.
"He was their friend - if they needed a ride, he was there for them," said Rena Tobin, a Special Olympic ski coach from Minden. "He's going to be a hard person to replace in our hearts."
Carson City's Arran Glass, who was the gold medalist in the three-kilometer cross country race, was coached by Lauderbaugh in the sports of softball and track.
"I've known him for nine years and he was a great coach," Glass said.
Lauderbaugh's brother, Barron, is also involved in the Special Olympics as Carson's powerlifting coach.
"The Special Olympics were a priority part of Brad's life," Barron said of his brother's association with the program.
A memorial service for Brad is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday at Empire Elementary School. Memorial contributions may be made to: Carson City Special Olympics, PO Box 315, Carson City, NV 89702.