Special Olympics Montana Summer Games management saw little turnover in 3 years

2014-05-16T00:15:00Z 2014-05-16T15:10:13Z Special Olympics Montana Summer Games management saw little turnover in 3 yearsBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

They might include just a few simple ingredients — bread, meat, cheese, pickles, maybe a little mayo or mustard — but there’s an awful lot that goes into the sandwiches served to athletes at the Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games.

Somebody’s got to find and provide those ingredients, many of them coming from different vendors. Somebody else has to make sure they’re delivered. Others have to put the sandwiches all together and others still will serve them.

And, if it all works according to plan, you’ll never see how much work and coordination goes into a single sandwich.

The food at the State Summer Games — held for the third and final year in Billings from Tuesday through Friday and which will draw more than 1,000 athletes and thousands of others to town — is just one of the many duties performed behind the scenes by the 120-plus volunteer members of the games management team.

“They’ve given hundreds of thousands of hours of their time, talent and treasure,” said Bob Norbie, SOMT president and CEO. “It’s a real privilege. There are myriad details and there is so much minutia that occurs behind the scenes in order to prepare for the arrival of athletes, their coaches and their families. Consequently, because there is so much that goes on behind the scenes, they truly are unsung heroes.”

The team is made up of volunteers from around Billings who are in charge of just about every aspect of organizing and running the games during their three-year stay in town, duties that range from making sure the venues are set up to awards presentations, from general operations to opening and closing ceremonies.

Games co-chair and Best Western Clocktower Inn owner Steve Wahrlich said the management team started meeting in the summer of 2011 and that there’s been very little turnover — three to five of the roughly 120 people have left the team — since the GMT formed.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have all of these people stay with us,” he said. “Those people are responsible to develop and coordinate everything and perform the multiple, multiple tasks that ultimately makes the games go.”

As competition co-director, Trent Hooper is one of those people on the management team. Since the games came to Billings, he and Chad Miller have been in charge of securing and dealing with venues for the dozen Olympic-type Summer Games events, recruiting venue directors, overseeing competitions and creating an Olympic atmosphere at those competitions.

Nearly 30 people work directly under their supervision, with hundreds of volunteers below that group.

“It pyramids down,” Hooper said. “Some events have 100 volunteers, some have 15 or 20.”

Hooper said people have commented on how well the games have run and on the effect of the management team’s continuity on that success. He said that that’s in large part because almost everybody has honored their three-year commitment to the games.

“I believe in sticking by that,” he said. “But also, it’s been really rewarding for me. I’ve been able to involve a lot of people and I see the way that it’s been great for them, but it’s been just as great for me.”

Rick McCann, games co-chair and First Interstate BancSystem vice president, said he’s watched the GMT go from a group of people with little or no connection to each other to a cohesive, experienced group working toward the common goal of a smooth-running games.

“If you get the right people in the right place it’s amazing what you can do and we’ve got that,” he said. “Nobody has made a commitment that they couldn’t fulfill.”

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