Last week, I had the pleasure of spending EKS Day with several “pioneers” of the Special Olympics movement, including Monty Castevens of Special Olympics Florida; Dennis Alldridge of Special Olympics Wisconsin; Mike Quinn, the former Executive Director of Special Olympics New Hampshire; Bobby Doyle of Special Olympics Arkansas; Emmanuel Bourgeois, former CEO of Special Olympics Louisiana; Bob Rickard of Special Olympics Ohio; Dave Kerchner of Special Olympics Kentucky; and Mickey Boutilier of Special Olympics Maine.
Each of these men worked closely with my mother to establish Special Olympics across the U.S. It felt like a family reunion of sorts as I reminisced with these leaders who have known me ever since I was a young boy. With more than 30 years each of experience with Special Olympics, they have seen our movement grow and change. Many of them joined our movement while working in institutions or as gym teachers. They were inspired by my mother’s vision for Camp Shriver and by what our Games could do to empower people with disabilities, and they wanted to make it a reality.
A common theme in our conversation was how Special Olympics has grown, embraced new innovations and continually adapted to the most pressing needs of people with intellectual disabilities. But as these men illustrate, the one thing that has never changed is that we have always been a movement of leaders.
Today, as we look to new generations to carry forward the legacy of these pioneers, I think they would all join me in saying don’t follow the leader, be the leader!