President’s Corner: April

Dear Supporters,

As we wrapped up National Volunteer Month and Volunteer Appreciation Week in April, I wanted to take this opportunity to address the more than 6,300 people who volunteer in some way throughout the year to say Thank You! Without these volunteers, we could not provide our athletes with the programs they deserve. While most of our volunteers are event-based and focused on creating high-quality competitions and incredible event experiences, we have a range of volunteers who take on roles that require a considerable time investment. Our coaches commit to planning and conducting their sports season, which includes overseeing practices and coaching during competitions. Our Games and state championship competition management teams plan yearly to ensure athletes have the best competition experiences. Volunteers are vital in delivering flag football, soccer, and basketball league play.

In our community-based Area Programs, we rely on dedicated leadership volunteers who invest countless hours to plan for and manage all aspects of providing year-round sports training and competition for their athletes. Remember, it isn’t just one sport. For example, Special Olympics Howard County offers twenty-three sports, St. Mary’s County offers seventeen sports, Carroll County offers thirteen sports, and so on. The point is that these volunteers are doing incredible work to ensure that their athletes can access a wide range of sports. I want to take this opportunity to recognize the following Area Program Leaders who serve as Area Director, Assistant Director, or Finance Director.

Allegany County: Dottie Turner; Anne Arundel: Katy Schieman and Carol Camacho; Baltimore City: Bob Signor; Baltimore County: Joyce Powell and Michelle Taltys; Calvert County: Melanie McManus and Tracey Barrick; Caroll County: Laurie Brewer; Cecil County: Connie Mueller-Thym, Annemarie Hamilton, and Gabby Coutz; Charles County: John Nolan and Dottie Ferrell; Frederick County: Ruth Vickers, Anna Eyler, and Shannon Strong; Garrett County: Donna Holt; Harford County, Nancy Schmidt and Mark Reisner; Howard County: Bob Baker, Marilyn Miceli, and Sarah Swiger; Kent County: Pam Kuster and Jack Brosius; Lower Shore: Jen Hill; Montgomery County: Shelly Bogasky, Rachel Maryn, Tina Connolly, and John Bogasky; Prince George’s County: Scott Geist and Trish Miles; St. Mary’s County Jeff Hagan, Scott Mewhinney, and Kirk Degler; Upper Shore: Sharon Myrick; and Washington County: Carolyn Roney.

Recent examples of impactful volunteer leadership include the Anne Arundel County Spring Games at the Y of Pasadena on April 20th and the Naval Academy on April 28th. Katie Sheiman and Carol Camacho worked with their Area Management team, the Annapolis Jaycees, and Naval Academy midshipmen to host 200 athletes who competed in swimming, bocce, and track and field. These Games served as a qualifying event for the Summer Games. Bob Baker and Marilyn Miceli worked with their leadership team to host the Special Olympics Howard County Inspiration Walk on Saturday, April 26th. The event raised over $75,000, and the funds are still coming as they track toward their $100,000 goal. That team also plans to host their Over The Edge event in September. On May 4th, Charles County will host its Area Spring Games thanks to efforts by John Nolan, Dottie Ferrell, and its volunteer team. On April 4th, Jeff Hagen and his team hosted their St. Mary’s Spring Games at St. Mary’s Ryken HS. We will have an additional Spring Games competition hosted by Prince George County on May 2nd, Baltimore City on May 7, 8, and 9, and Montgomery County on May 19th with their swim competition on May 11th. All of these competitions are organized locally with support from these leadership volunteers.

The commitment and willingness to engage extend beyond the field of play. Bob Baker, his wife Peggy, and their daughter/athlete, Stephanie, attended our Special Olympics Maryland All-Staff meeting on May 4th, where they provided an in-depth overview of Prader-Willi Syndrome. Stephanie, Bob, and Peggy educated us on the unique nature of Prader-Willi Syndrome, the daily challenges, and the ways that they work as a family to ensure a high quality of life.

I am grateful for these leadership volunteers who commit long hours where the priceless payout is, knowing that they have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of our athletes. I am fortunate to work in an environment where people volunteer with the singular focus of using sports to enhance the quality of life for our athletes. When Mrs. Shriver started Special Olympics in 1968, she pledged that this new organization, Special Olympics, would offer people with intellectual disabilities everywhere “the chance to play, the chance to compete and the chance to grow.” She also knew we would rely heavily on volunteers to deliver the mission, which remains true today. Without volunteers, we would have no program. So, thank you…thank you, leadership volunteers, thank you, coaches, thank you competition and event organizers, thank you, league volunteers, thank you game officials, and thank you to our day-of-event volunteers. You all are helping build interactive, inclusive communities of dignity and respect. You represent the absolute best of Maryland. Thank you to everyone who volunteers for Special Olympics Maryland…thank you for showing up for our athletes!

Experience Inclusion,

Jim

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