Coach Jill Stidever has won the 2014 BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award after helping children learn to swim.
Stidever has spent nearly 60 years helping thousands of children with special needs.
Colleagues, parents, and some of the children she has inspired described the 77-year-old as "one-in-a million".
Her work has helped in changing the perception of disabled sport and encouraging people to see disability swimmers as athletes.
"For my team, husband and all the rest who supported me, thank you very much," said Jill Stidever.
"I had a seven-year-old boy win a race last weekend and he made a little speech thanking us for the medal.
"I have got tears and it was that that was particularly special. It was also special that parents have trusted their children to me over the last few years. I'm not the most conventional but I work new ways to help them. Thank you to all those who have supported me," she added.
Stidiver, who lives near Hinckley in Leicestershire, works 40 hours a week coaching, raising funds and organising. And some of the children she has helped have gone on to swim at the Paralympics.
Graeme Chilvers, who works at Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and is one of the people who nominated Stidever, said: "She gets parents involved, she gets Paralympians involved. She inspires people. The difference this is making is incalculable."
Jill Codling, whose son Levi is coached by Stidever, said: "She has changed my son's life. I was told he would never be able to swim but and he is now competing in the Nationals.
"Jill has empowered him and he is capable of anything," added Codling.
After winning the BBC East Midlands Unsung Hero award for 2014, Jill's husband Mick said: "She loves doing what she does.
"She will treasure this award as she will see it as a boost to all her swimmers, coaches and families alike, and a reflection on the joy of seeing a severely disabled person with a smile on their face as they succeed in achieving something very special - and it may not be just swimming - for the very first time."