Without a doubt, Mickey Boutilier counts as one of the founders of the Special Olympics movement. With my mother and a handful of others, he had the pioneering spirit and the fearless resolve necessary to create something the world had never seen and couldn’t possibly understand. But he understood and he saw. So he created. And millions who don’t even know his name are imbued with his spirit.
Personally, he was funny, tough, smart, determined and underneath it all, a tender man. For those of us who knew him, we were lucky to know a man larger than life, filled with personality, a lover of life. We are poorer without him.
With winter games on the horizon, I will dedicate them to him. Some thought winter sports too much for our athletes. Not Mickey. Never. He was a leader. He made things happen.
Rest in peace Mickey Boutilier.
Editor’s Note: The video embedded below captures Mickey and a handful of the founding leaders of the Special Olympics Movement talking with Tim Shriver about their memories and experiences.
Below is a full statement from Special Olympics Maine:
SPECIAL OLYMPICS MAINE MOURNS THE PASSING OF FOUNDER AND FORMER CEO MICKEY BOUTILIER
It is with sadness that Special Olympics Maine announces the passing of Founder and former CEO Mickey Boutilier.
Melvin “Mickey” D. Boutilier passed away on December 24th after a brief illness with family members by his side. Boutilier was a Teacher, volunteer, Veteran, and good Samaritan but was best known for his leadership in Special Olympics. He served as Executive Director and then CEO of Special Olympics Maine for more than 35 years. He also devoted his summers to working at Camp Waban, Maine’s first day camp for children with Intellectual Disabilities. Waban was where he developed his love for the people he worked with and motivated him to become a Special Education Teacher.
In 1968 he learned about a national event taking place at Soldiers Field in Chicago that would offer “Olympic style” sports competition to people with Intellectual Disabilities. Liking the idea he took a group of Special Education students from Maine to compete in this first ever Special Olympics event, which was started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and sponsored by the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation. In 1969 he was named by the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation the Executive Director of Special Olympics Maine, a volunteer position he held for the first 8 years organizing events with a small annual grant. The first Special Olympic event in Maine was held in Portland in the summer of 1969. During the early years the program served 900 athletes and upon his retirement in 2002 it was serving upwards of 2500.
Boutilier was known throughout the country for his leadership in Special Olympics and the program in Maine was used as a model for other states. He awarded the highest award presented by Special Olympics, Inc, The Angel Award. He was close with Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and spent a great deal of time working with her (and others) further developing the worldwide program.
Mickey was a legend in the world of Special Olympics and he devoted his entire life to improving the lives of people with Intellectual Disabilities. Per his request there will be no visitation and a private family service. A celebration of his life will take place at a later date at his beloved Camp Tall Pines in Poland, a camp owned and operated by Special Olympics Maine.