leslie-nixon_sheldon-porter_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Ron Hatchett, a 25-year-old, Miami Gardens resident, was named the Miami Dolphins Special Teams Chevy Volunteer of the Year, beating out thousands of other contenders.

As the grand-prize winner, Hatchett will head to New York City next week on an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the NFL Draft. He will get to stand at the podium and announce the Dolphins’ fourth-round draft pick in front of a nationwide television audience.

“It’s an exciting and wonderful day,” the U.S. Virgin Island native said moments after learning he’d won the big honor during a ceremony at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday. “All I could do is smile.”

The hometown football team implemented the Special Teams program a year ago to better serve South Florida communities and families in need, said Leslie Nixon, Manager of Volunteer Programs.

To date, the Miami Dolphins is the only pro sports company with such a program. Volunteers help out at charitable efforts in the tri-county area.

More than 3,000 volunteers participated in the program, giving nearly 43,000 hours of community service.

Among them was Hatchett, who joined the program only in October, racked up 320 community service hours, volunteering for everything from feeding the hungry to health clinics to youth camps and he even spent many hours helping out at the Volunteer office.

Wherever there was a need, Hatchett was there, said Nixon, who described Hatchett’s determination as amazing, considering he had no transportation of his own to get to and from any of the assignments. When he wasn’t on the city bus, others helped him to get to the assignments by giving him a ride.

That commitment gave him an edge over other volunteers with more service hours.

Two other top volunteers received big awards. Sheldon Porter, of Palm Beach, won Chevy's Most Driven Volunteer Award for completing 661 hours of community service. Porter lost his son in 2010 and began volunteering as a means of coping with the loss. His wife recently suffered a heart attack but she was occasionally able to accompany him at some events.

Porter received a Special Teams hat autographed by NFL Hall of Famer and former Dolphins player Larry Little and $1,000 to donate to the charity of his choice.

Andy Weisenborn, a cancer survivor of Sunrise, received the Volunteer Captain/Quarterback of the Year Award. He completed 416 community service hours and received a Special Teams hat autographed by NFL Hall of Famer and former Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino and $1000 to donate to the charity of his choice.

Hatchett said he did not volunteer to win a prize.  The stilt walker and performer suffered an injury while performing and found himself out of work. He often worked at the stadium and when he recuperated he returned to inform his superiors that he was ready to be back on the job. That was when he learned of the Special Teams Volunteer Program. No work was available for him so he immersed himself in volunteer work, catching public transportation all around town, just as if he were going to a 9-5 job.

“I made up my mind to treat the volunteer work as a job,” said Hatchett, who is fluent in Spanish and is knowledgeable in computer software.

Hatchett, who has relatives in New York, said he always dreamed of  being on television in the Big Apple as a performer but would be just as happy to make his television debut at the 2011 NFL Draft beginning at noon Saturday, April 30, on ESPN.

For more information on the Special Teams Volunteer Program, call 305-943-7900 or visit miamidolphins.com/

Daphne Taylor may be reached at daphnetaylor_49@hotmail.com.