Ep. 206: Lots to Cheer About for Special Olympics Michigan 2023!


Consumers' podcast graphic with picture of guest Tim Hileman from Special Olympics Michigan.

On this week’s episode of Money, I’m Home, Lynne is joined by Special Olympics Michigan’s President and CEO Tim Hileman to bring us up to speed on what’s happening with this important organization.



0:00:06.8 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money, I’m Home, welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. Thanks so much for joining us from finance to fitness, we have it all. And I’ll tell you, we have such a wonderful partnership with Special Olympics Michigan. And I think it’s about time that we check in with Tim Hileman. He is our President, CEO of the Michigan Special Olympics, and I’ll tell you what, you have hit the ground running. 2023 is a big year, because there’s lots going on Tim. Tell us what’s been going on, number one, how did you make it through the year with COVID and all of that, I know you guys are still doing games and still having a great time but what are you looking forward to?

0:00:44.1 Tim Hileman (TH): Yeah, well, thanks Lynne. It’s really exciting to kind of kick off 2023 and get ready for our State Winter Games, which is happening starting on January 31st and going to February 3rd, it’ll be our first state winter games in three years. And so, I know our athletes are super excited about that, and I know our staff and community members are. But it really started the transition, let’s say from COVID and kind of the full return to Special Olympics with a return to State Summer Games last year. We were able to host the first special Olympics international event in five years in the city of Detroit, and then we’ve had one-off individual state events, so everything’s been kind of building and building to the start of 2023, and we couldn’t be more excited for the future of Special Olympics Michigan and for all of our athletes.

0:01:35.7 LJJ: The campus that you are building is absolutely so special, and it’s one of a kind across the entire globe. Tell us what’s going on with that and what do you need for the big games coming up?

0:01:49.3 TH: The building has been wonderful, and just the amount of interaction and activity that happens, one of the hardest parts about my job now Lynne is going home at night because there’s so much fun things happening. You come to a building and there could be a fitness class happening, there could be a Special Olympics Michigan basketball practice happening, but then we have other great partner organizations, there’s nine other non-profit organizations in the building that they have great programs and services. So Autism Support of Kent County may be using the auditorium for their theater class or the Down syndrome Association, or Disability Advocate. So, it’s really been a great model of collaboration and community, and if you want to see what inclusion is all about, come to the building and you’re going to feel that.

0:02:35.8 LJJ: Well, I know, Tim, you constantly are showing people exactly what’s going on and helping people see the vision come to life. Consumers is so proud to be able to help. I know that we’re helping with the sponsorship of the auditorium and the track, which we’re very excited for, but also volunteers, how important are volunteers especially for what’s coming your way just in a couple of weeks?

0:03:00.9 TH: Yeah, so we don’t have Special Olympics without volunteers. Our two biggest components are our amazing athletes who are incredible, and our volunteers that help support, whether it’s coach events, which really give our athletes that platform. And we have a couple of really big events. As I mentioned, our winter games that are happening at Grand Traverse, but right here in Grand Rapids coming up in March at the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center. On March 17th and 18th, we are hosting both the Traditional and Unified Special Olympic state basketball tournaments in Grand Rapids and the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center is going to be one of the sites, and we’re going to need volunteers for morning through evening to help with lots of different activities from sitting at the tables and helping to keep track of scores, to wiping down the courts, to supporting the athletes in meal times, and so a lot of great opportunities for individuals to come and get involved. And the other thing is having groups come out and we have a program called Fans in The Stands and just cheering on the athletes and so many businesses and organizations love to do that. And again, there’s nothing like seeing that smile of the athlete who’s competing and being cheered on by community members.

0:04:17.6 LJJ: So, Tim explain, you just mentioned something, you said unified and traditional, what… Can you explain what that is?

0:04:23.8 TH: Yeah, absolutely. So, Special Olympic started, the movement, in 1968 for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and it’s still very much so, but 15 years ago, there was a program and Special Olympics kind of made this transition of using not only sports as a great empowerment, but a catalyst for change and creating inclusive communities. And so they started what was called Unified Sports, and Unified Sports are Special Olympics athletes, so though who have an intellectual disability paired up with someone who does not have an intellectual disability and they compete together, they train together, they work together. It’s an incredible program we have it here in Michigan through our schools, but also in communities, but what it really does is it starts breaking again down some of the barriers or stigmas, and it builds up relationships because you’re relying on one another.

0:05:16.9 TH: And then our goal is that it leaves… It doesn’t just stay on the field, it doesn’t stay on the courts, it goes on to the communities, so those individuals are invited to the birthday parties, they’re invited to hang out with friends afterwards or go to the movies, and so also it’s a wonderful thing. And so traditional… As we say for team sports is all Special Olympic athletes and Unifieds are those with or without disabilities and they can be in their own division and it’s awesome.

0:05:42.5 LJJ: Well, I can imagine that it’s just as important for those who aren’t considered traditional to be involved, and it sounds to me like it’s life-changing.

0:05:51.1 TH: Absolutely, we hear that so often from the Unified partners that said “Listen, I came in thinking that maybe I would help out or do something, and left with their life changed,” they left a different person because of that relationship and the grace and the love and support that the athletes provided in that group and so it really is, while it sounds a little bit cliche, it’s life-changing, whether you come to an event, you volunteer, you watch or especially you participate, and again, anyone can be a Unified partner.

0:06:25.1 LJJ: So, tell me a little bit about how people can volunteer. I know that always donations of even sports equipment, money, time is important. So how can people connect?

0:06:37.3 TH: Yeah, so one of the first ways is going to our website, somi.org, so www.S-O-M-I.org, and there’s a way to connect and there’s a volunteer tab and say, “Hey, I’m interested,” and you fill out a little bit of information and that’s kind for one day activities, events that will come to us. So if someone’s really interested and saying, hey, I want to be a coach, I want to learn more about being a Unified partner, our phone number is right on the website, and we’re able to connect to the local program. One of the great things about Special Olympics Michigan is that we’re in every county throughout the state of Michigan, we’re in every community. So there’s always an opportunity for someone to get involved and participate and back as what you said, Lynne, to the unified sports and inclusion Center, and this incredible partnership with Consumers Credit Union is there’s a lot of work happening on the outdoor fields that are going to happen in the spring time and work, and this incredible track and field element and outdoor sports, and we’re going to need volunteers, we’re going to need individuals to help support our athletes through this.

0:07:43.6 LJJ: Well and I think that brings up a good point, Tim. You know what, at Consumers, we actually will do a call out, and our members and our employees absolutely love to volunteer. So, if you’re listening and you are a part of a company, you can get a group together. It’s so much fun. Maybe make it a family activity too, it is really one of the highlights of what we do here at Consumers, and we can’t thank you enough for that partnership.

0:08:06.0 TH: Yeah, well, thanks and again, we’ve just been so thrilled and so thankful for that, and Consumers Credit Union was one of the first major partners to come on board and help make the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center a reality, and we’re so thankful for that. And that’s just been really exciting to see year after year, the growth and really, really community impact that it’s made.

0:08:27.2 LJJ: Well, Tim, thank you so much for all you’re doing in our community, and again, if you need any information, you’re going to be able to get it at our website at consumercu.org or at the SOMI website.

0:08:36.3 TH: Yep it’s www.S-O-M-I.org. Somi.org.

0:08:43.2 LJJ: Thank you to Tim. Hey everybody, thanks so much for listening. Thank you, Jake Esselink for your production skills, and if anybody has a topic you’d like to share, please send it my way, I’d love to hear it. I hope everybody has a fabulously week.


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