The Morales family sponsors a spirit award that was presented to Nicholas Hensley. Aly Smith (left), Nicholas Hensley, Zuhally Smith and Mike Smith.

Photo courtesy of Judy Moore

“Nicholas is an inspiration to others,” said Judy Moore, coach at the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center. “He displays good sportsmanship, courage and perseverance.” During the opening ceremonies at the recent area Special Olympics at Jesuit High School, Nicholas Hensley was awarded the Zenay Morales Courage Award.

This award is given annually in memory of Zenay Morales, a Special Olympics athlete. Since 2001, the award has been presented to a Special Olympics competitor who exemplifies the true spirit and courage of a Special Olympics athlete. Nicholas’ mother, Sandra Hensley, says that her son is very competitive and loves to win. “He likes getting out there, being active and social,” she said. “He just has a blast.”

Hensley has been an athlete in the Tennis For Fun program at the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center for 16 years. According to his coach, Rosanna Chiaramonte, he has competed in basketball, tennis, swimming, bowling, cycling, soccer and track and field. “He has a very great spirit despite not being in good health,” said Chiaramonte.

He has a condition called Trisomy 11-18. His mother said that when he was 5 months old the doctors told her that he wouldn’t live to be half her age. He is now 34 and is the oldest person known to have this condition. He was recently in the hospital for pneumonia. “Despite all that, he is always cheerful and is always smiling,” said Chiaramonte. “He just makes your day.”

“No matter what, he never gives up, he keeps on trying,” said Hensley. “We are very proud of him.”

Tennis For Fun is a free tennis clinic for special needs people. For more information, you can visit their website at

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.